Week 6 – West Virginia at Texas
Texas QB David Ash
Texas QB David Ash
Posted Oct 3, 2012

Week 6 CFN Fearless Prediction – West Virginia at Texas

West Virginia (4-0) at Texas (4-0) Oct. 6, 7:00, FOX

Here's The Deal: You'll have to forgive anyone who doesn't quite think West Virginia and Texas are for real quite yet. This game might convert a few believers.

Geno Smith was the talk of the sports world after his brilliant 656-yard, eight touchdown passing day in the 70-63 win over Baylor, but what was lost in the shuffle was how it took that kind of an effort out of the West Virginia star to make up for the miserable game from a defense that was lit up for 700 yards including 581 and five touchdowns through the air. For all of the great things the Mountaineers have done offensively, this is still looking like a team begging to get tagged at some point by a team with some measure of talent. West Virginia had to work way too hard to get by mediocre Maryland and Baylor teams thanks to a pass defense that's giving up 433 yards and over three touchdowns a game vs. FBS teams. However, if it can come up with a win at Texas, few are going to quarrel with the specifics; West Virginia will be the real deal.

No one was expecting too much out of the Mountaineer defense, but Texas was supposed to have a brick wall to get through. The Longhorns have been way too inconsistent defensively and had major problems holding down Oklahoma State in a 41-36 win. However, there's a major question mark about Joe Bergeron's game-winning two-yard touchdown run in the final seconds – he fumbled. It was ruled that he was in even after replay, but that didn't stop Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy from grousing about the play well after the fact, and it didn't do anything to make Texas look like it's back to being it's old killer self.

The is the second step in a brutal three-game stretch for the Longhorns with Oklahoma coming up next, but then it's relatively smooth sailing until TCU and Kansas State to close out the regular season. For West Virginia, the tests don't stop for several weeks with road games against Texas Tech – can the two hit the 1,300 passing yard mark? – and Oklahoma State along with dates against TCU and Oklahoma. It could be a rocky road, but winning at Texas would be a huge statement for the Big 12 newbie.

The two programs have faced each other only once, a 7-6 Texas victory in 1956. There should be a wee bit more offensive pop this time around.

Why West Virginia Might Win: 18-of-27 for 301 yards with two scores and a pick. That's what Oklahoma State sophomore J.W. Walsh did last week against a Texas secondary with far, far more talent than Baylor's, but hasn't been as productive as expected. The Texas pass rush has been fine, but it's nothing Smith can't handle, and the pass defense is giving up way too many big plays. The Mountaineers are great at getting their speedy receivers behind the coverage, but they're also terrific in the open field on the move – the Longhorns have had a harder time with the latter. Smith won't get the big bombs on a regular basis like he's used to, but even one missed tackle should lead to a home run. There can't be any mistakes from a defense that had a few too many lapses against Wyoming, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.

Texas has been terrific at keeping the mistakes to a minimum, but West Virginia has been even better. Smith threw a pick against Marshall, and that's been it for the turnovers. Not only haven't the Mountaineers been giving the ball away, but they haven't even been close with no fumbles in the last three games and no lost fumbles on the season. The defense might be having its problems, but it's doing a decent job of taking the ball away with a pick in each of the first four games and three recovered fumbles including two against Maryland. In a game like this when every little error will probably lead to points, being on the positive side of the turnover margin could mean everything. However …

Why Texas Might Win: Again, Texas isn't exactly screwing up, either. The Longhorns lost a fumble in the opener against Wyoming, and that's been it, while a David Ash thrown pick last week against Oklahoma State was the first interception of the season. Committing just 19 penalties on the season with eight of them coming against Ole Miss, the team isn't screwing up and it's not likely to give the Mountaineers the errors needed to overcome all the problems they're going to have on defense.

The Baylor offense is the real deal, and Marshall and Maryland had to bomb away to try to keep up the pace in shootouts, but the West Virginia defense is making way too many mistakes in coverage, is taking wrong angles too many times, and is blowing too many coverages on a regular basis ranking 109th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Technically, the run defense has been great because the West Virginia pass rush has been terrific, but no one on the schedule so far has any semblance of a power running game. That's going to change against an offensive line that's paving the way for the devastating 1-2 punch of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and it's going to be a problem against a team that holds on to the ball for a long, long time.

While West Virginia can strike quickly and from anywhere on the field, time of possession is a big deal. Only two teams are hanging on to the ball less than Baylor, who lost the time battle last week by almost ten minutes. It'll be a different story against Texas, who ranks fifth in the nation keeping it for almost 34 minutes a game. Geno Smith isn't deadly from the bench.

What To Watch For: While Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin received most of the attention over the early part of the season, but it was junior Stedman Bailey who was every bit as unstoppable as Smith in the win over Baylor. The 5-10, 193-pounder took to the new offense perfectly and showed why he was one of the stars of the 2009 recruiting class with a whopping 17.8 yards per catch, but now he has taken things to a new level catching 13 passes for 303 yards and five scores last week. He made 13 grabs against James Madison and on the year already has ten touchdown grabs.

By statistical comparison, Texas sophomore Jaxon Shipley hasn't been in the same zip code as Bailey or Austin, but last week he was ultra-effective against Oklahoma State catching five passes for 82 yards and three scores. Quickly becoming David Ash's go-to target, considering the fun the Baylor receivers had last week, this should be Shipley's break out game.

What Will Happen: Texas will get hit by a few haymakers and could have major problems keeping Smith under wraps, but the offense will rumble at will. Don't be stunned if Bergeron and Brown combine for more than 200 rushing yards, but Smith will keep bombing and bombing some more. It will be a shootout, but Texas will flex a little more muscle.

CFN Prediction: Texas 45 … West Virginia 31
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Texas -6.5 O/U: 75
Must Watch Rating (5 – Master, 1 – Trouble with the Curve): 5