Both TCU and West Virginia started the year on long winning streaks. Each will be trying to earn a victory for the first time in three games when they face off.
The Mountaineers' plummet has been especially startling. After riding an astonishingly potent passing attack to five straight wins, the team has been held to just 14 points in each of the last two contests, both of which have ended in blowout losses.
The Horned Frogs have also lost their past two games, although one was a narrow defeat in overtime to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were one of the teams that embarrassed the Mountaineers in the past two weeks.
Here is everything you need to know about this matchup.
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
When: Saturday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. ET
Listen: 103.3 ESPN (TCU), West Virginia Radio Affiliates
Betting Line: West Virginia -7 (according to Sports Book)
TCU Injury Report (via USA Today)
Stansly Maponga—junior defensive end is questionable with a foot injury.
Michael Thompson—sophomore center is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery.
Casey Pachall—junior quarterback is out for the season after leaving school.
Waymon James—junior running back is out for the season with a knee injury.
Danny Heiss—sophomore linebacker is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury.
Ross Forrest—senior defensive end is out for the season with a knee injury.
West Virginia Injury Report (via USA Today)
Shawne Alston—senior running back is questionable with a thigh injury.
Brodrick Jenkins—junior cornerback is questionable with a leg injury.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
Both of these teams can ill-afford another loss on their record if they hope to end the season as a ranked team. West Virginia has managed to stay in the BCS standings at No. 21 this week, while TCU has dropped out.
The team that loses will certainly not be featured in next week’s standings, and a fourth loss would likely be a fatal blow to TCU’s chances at being ranked in January.
What They’re Saying
ESPN Dallas’ David Ubben believes that TCU would greatly benefit from maturity and consistency. That comes with time, but unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, there is not much of that left this season:
The Frogs are young, and as such, you can expect inconsistency. Navigating a new league only exacerbates that. Saturday's game was a microcosm of those woes. TCU jumped out to a 14-0 lead, then was outscored by the reigning Big 12 champs 36-0 the rest of the way. Yikes.
The Sporting News’ Steve Greenberg is curious to see how the Mountaineers are able to deal with their recent struggles going forward:
Not many folks around the country are talking about WVU’s matchup with TCU, but we’re more than casually interested in seeing how the Mountaineers—off a bye week—respond to consecutive blowout losses. What’s left in this team’s tank?
TCU Player to Watch: Devonte Fields, Defensive End
The Horned Frogs will need to get constant pressure on Geno Smith in order to slow down the West Virginia offense, and Devonte Fields has proven this season that he can do just that. As a true freshman, he has 14 tackles for a loss, eight sacks and two forced fumbles.
These are remarkable statistics for such a young player, and his future is extremely bright. But TCU needs him to be on top of his game right now and continue playing at the same level he has been all year long.
West Virginia Player to Watch: Geno Smith, Quarterback
Geno Smith threw four or more touchdown passes in four of his first five games. In the only game he missed that mark, he still had three touchdown passes.
But he has been held to a lone TD pass in the last two games, and he threw his first two interceptions of the season two weeks ago against Kansas State. If the Mountaineers are going to bounce back this weekend, they will need Smith to lead the way.
Key Matchup: TCU Running Game vs. West Virginia Defense
The West Virginia defense has faced a significant amount of criticism this season, and it has deserved just about all of it. The team’s 39.9 points allowed per game ranks 118th in the nation.
If TCU can have success on the ground, it will not only help the Horned Frogs run up the score, but it will keep Geno Smith and the Mountaineers offense off the field. This will be necessary for TCU to win the game.
Key Storyline: Looking in the Mirror
Both teams are new to the Big 12. Both teams started the season extremely well. Both teams have struggled recently. Both teams have one last chance to remain relevant this season.
West Virginia and TCU are in extremely similar situations and will be equally desperate for a victory. This should make for a fantastic contest.
Who will win?
Prediction: West Virginia 48, TCU 42
In this back-and-forth game, the team that scores last will win, and that will be West Virginia.