For the Texas Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers, the opening of both sides' Big 12 schedule came with a seeming complete abandonment of defensive principles.
The Mountaineers somehow gave up 63 points to Baylor and still managed to come away with a 70-63 victory in the school's first game as a conference member. Quarterback Geno Smith threw for a whopping 656 yards and eight touchdowns, as the scores racked up for both sides on seemingly every possession.
While the scores were not so outrageous in the Longhorns' 41-36 victory over Oklahoma State, the defenses were barely any better. Texas continually missed easy tackles, which resulted in a closer-than-expected contest.
With both sides having epic defensive issues, this game should be fun to watch. For that reason, here's a look at everything you need to know about Saturday's Big 12 contest.
When: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX
Stream: Texas All-Access
Betting Line: Texas (-6.5), according to Vegas Insider
West Virginia Injuries (via USA Today)
RB Ryan Clarke, Leg, Questionable
RB Donovan Miles, Undisclosed, Questionable
RB Shawne Alston, Thigh, Questionable
Texas Injuries (via USA Today)
CB Adrian Phillips, Shoulder, Questionable
DT Desmond Jackson, Undisclosed, Questionable
DT Brandon Moore, Virus, Questionable
LB Jordan Hicks, Hip, Questionable
K Anthony Fera, Groin, Questionable
BCS/Top 25 Implications
For both teams, a victory would essentially lock up a ranking in the Top five-to-seven teams in the land and a position atop the Big 12 conference standings alongside Kansas State.
There is still a ton of games left on the docket to see whether either side has the chops to make a BCS championship run, but Texas and West Virginia are both contenders to play in a January bowl game.
Nonetheless, neither side has played an especially tasking schedule thus far. The Longhorns are coming off a narrow win in their first big test of the season against Oklahoma State in Stillwater and the Mountaineers gave up 63 points to Baylor last week.
Not only will this be both teams' first chance at a banner victory in 2012, it'll be an opportunity to prove that both sides are worthy of elite recognition.
What They're Saying
Coming off a game where his defense allowed an astounding 581 yards passing to Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, you would understand if West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was a little peeved.
Nonetheless, the second-year Mountaineers coach seemed to be looking at the positive in his Big 12 teleconference. While acknowledging the struggles against the pass, Holgorsen said his defense did an excellent job against the run and should be better against Texas this week.
Via Rivals' Keenan Cummings:
Defensively we played well against the run. They had over 40-some attempts and we held them to around two-yards per carry...Our pass defense was atrocious but to find a positive our run defense was really good.
Where Holgorsen seemingly wanted to focus on the positive, Texas head coach Mack Brown was markedly more negative about his team's defensive struggles. After struggling to tackle against Oklahoma State last week, Brown even hinted at some possible lineup changes.
Via the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton:
Poor tackling again plagued Texas in an escape at Oklahoma State. By Brown’s count, the Longhorns missed 12 tackles resulting in 109 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s obviously affecting us right now,” Brown said. “We’re going to have to look at playing different people. We have enough video of guys that continue to miss tackles.
“We’ll give up 70 this weekend if we don’t tackle better than we did Saturday night.”
West Virginia Player to Watch: QB Geno Smith
After the scintillating Heisman candidate's performance last week against Baylor, there is no other Mountaineers star worth recognition more than Smith.
Nevertheless, it hasn't been just last week. It would be easy to pick apart the competition, but what Smith has done this season has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Thus far, the West Virginia signal-caller has completed 141-of-169 passes (83.4 percent) for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns. The best part? He has yet to throw an interception.
Facing off against a questionable-at-best Texas defense, Saturday should be another huge game for Smith. The Longhorns allowed freshman Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh to throw for 301 yards on just 27 attempts and allowed a ton of yards after the catch to Cowboys receivers.
If Smith can get Texas into another shootout, it's highly unlikely that the opposition will be able to keep up.
Texas Player to Watch: QB David Ash
While Smith will undoubtedly come into Saturday's contest with most of the hype, Ash has been no slouch this season, either.
The sophomore has excelled with shorter and intermediate routes, completing 78 percent of his passes, while also throwing 10 touchdowns against just one interception.
That performance is a far cry from last season where Ash struggled mightily and was benched for Case McCoy.
Ash will have to continue his stellar play if Texas hopes to stay in the game. The Longhorns' defense has been flailing lately and goes against a Mountaineers offense that may be the nation's most explosive attack.
Without another brilliant passing day from Ash, Texas may wind up down two or three scores before even getting settled.
Key Matchup: West Virginia Front Seven vs. Texas Running Backs
To keep the Mountaineers' offense off the field, it's likely that the Longhorns will attempt to mix in heavy doses of the run game this week.
Though, like Holgorsen said, West Virginia excelled in run defense against Baylor, it will be facing a whole different animal against Texas.
Sophomores Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown provide an excellent two-headed attack for the Longhorns while both offering different skill sets.
Standing at 6'1" and weighing 230 pounds, Bergeron is a massive, grind-it-out back that can tire out even the best defense. Brown is by far the speedier of the two backs, averaging a strong 6.1 yards per carry in 2012.
For the Longhorns to come out on top, they will have to chew the clock and dictate the pace of the game. If Bergeron and Brown (and possibly freshman Johnathan Gray) give excellent performances, they might just be the co-MVPs of the contest.
If you enjoy old school football, this game is not for you. Expect high-flying passing attacks and porous defense to rule the roost on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Texas, we saw last week that there is no better offense in college football than West Virginia. Expect big scores and a thrilling finish, but one where the Mountaineers ultimately come out on top.
Score Prediction: West Virginia 52, Texas 45
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