The Big 12's two new teams will face off this weekend, but neither has been able to sustain the early success they've had in different conferences over the years.
West Virginia is coming off two straight losses to ranked teams, both in somewhat embarrassing fashion. After putting up huge point numbers over their first five wins of the season, the Mountaineers now have scored only 14 in their past two losses.
TCU is now without Casey Pachall, the starter at the beginning of the season, and has turned the reins over to Trevone Boykin. He's taken the team deep into games, but only has a 1-3 record as the starter at QB.
Both teams are fighting for their lives in the Big 12. Another conference loss for either would virtually end any shot at a premier bowl game, while a win would put the Mountaineers or the Horned Frogs at six wins and bowl-eligible.
With Hurricane Sandy doing devastation on the East Coast, it will be imperative to watch the weather reports heading up to this contest. There could be rain, snow and cold weather to deal with, which has to be an advantage for the home team.
Here's everything you need to know about this weekend's matchup in Morgantown.
When: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Mountaineer Field; Morgantown, West Virginia
Spread: West Virginia -7 (Bovada)
The Mountaineers will be a favorite despite their lack of point production over the past two games. TCU hasn't exactly lit the world on fire either; a 53-point game against Texas Tech highlights the offense with Boykin at the helm.
Geno Smith, Tayvon Austin, Stedman Bailey and the rest of this West Virginia offense will surely come out with something to prove.
It's going to be hard for TCU to travel on the road for the second consecutive week and knock off a team once inside the Top 10 of college football rankings. It's going to be a battle of offense this week, and that has to give the edge to West Virginia.
I like the Mountaineers to cover, but it could be a tight one if West Virginia falters at all on the offensive side of the ball.
Over/Under: 68 (Fox Odds)
This one is going to be a shootout, and the over/under reflects that to the letter.
Still, 68 might not be enough for these two offenses. The two teams have combined for 78 points a game so far, and that's including three stinkers for both teams in recent weeks.
We've seen what West Virginia is capable of on offense, and we've also seen that its defense is also just as consistent at not being able to tackle or stop the pass. The Mountaineers are 118th in the nation in points allowed, and haven't held a team under 21 points since defeating James Madison in Week 2.
With a big chip on its shoulder, West Virginia will come out firing on all cylinders. TCU is poised to put up some big numbers too, and I like the over in this one.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
— Stefan Stevenson (@FollowtheFrogs) November 1, 2012
West Virginia took itself out of the BCS championship picture after the loss to Texas Tech and further dampened its reputation after an embarrassing loss to Kansas State.
TCU has three conferences losses, but can still become bowl-eligible with an upset win in Morgantown. Both teams are in their inaugural season in the Big 12, and both are quickly finding out how difficult it is to win on a week-to-week basis in a big-time conference.
Needless to say, this game doesn't have major BCS implications, but both teams have been inside the Top 25 at some point this season, and West Virginia can start to salvage its season with a string of wins to close out the year.
The Cotton Bowl is still in sight for the Mountaineers, but it will all start this weekend against TCU. Any more letdowns will put Smith on the fast track towards thinking about the NFL draft, and not the end of his final collegiate season.
Key to TCU Win: Get timely stops
Kansas State and Texas Tech both forced Smith into mistakes that stalled drives. He wasn't the accurate passer against those two teams he had been during the Mountaineers' 5-0 start, and when West Virginia started stalling on drives, the defense couldn't stem the tide.
If TCU can force some early mistakes by Smith and this offense and continue to abuse West Virginia's defense the way other teams have this season, it has a shot to turn this game into a blowout by halftime.
West Virginia has had a quick trigger to abandon the running game when falling behind the past two weeks, so if TCU can get that early lead, it can start to pin the ears back in the passing game, and turn this into the type of game that Kansas State and Texas Tech did.
Key to West Virginia Win: Run the Ball Well
Andrew Buie and this Mountaineer running game have to control the pace and keep TCU off the field. Scoring early and often have been great traits of the offense so far, but when the defense is on the field it usually means the offense will be taking a kickoff rather soon.
To help dispel that, the Mountaineers need to make Buie the focus of the offense, much like they did against Texas. Geno Smith can then have even more time in the pocket, while the clock continues to run and the defense never touches the field.
It's too late into the season to suggest that West Virginia's defense has had a revival. A more likely suggestion would be to mask the clear weakness of this team by turning offensive possessions into grind-it-out type affairs, something it hasn't done very well yet.
TCU is hurting a bit with Boykin banged up, but these receivers and running backs will give West Virginia fits all afternoon. This game is going to be a shootout, much like most games have been involving these two teams.
At home, coming off the bye and playing in possibly frigid conditions, I have to give the edge to West Virginia. Hungry to prove two 14-point scoring outputs were a fluke, the Mountaineers also come out firing on all cylinders.
Look away if your point-shy in this one.
West Virginia 52, TCU 38
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