Week 11 - Texas at West Virginia

Posted Nov 6, 2013

Week 11 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Texas at West Virginia

Texas (6-2) at West Virginia (4-5) Nov. 9 7:00, FOX

Why You Should Give A Hoot: On October 6th of last year, all was right with the Mountaineer world.

West Virginia was officially the hot team after blowing up against Baylor and coming off a thrilling 48-45 win over Texas to start the season 5-0. Geno Smith was all but handed the Heisman, and the future looked bright on a nine-game winning streak highlighted by the Orange Bowl throttling of Clemson, but something went very, very wrong on the way to the Big 12 championship.

West Virginia was exposed for not being very good.

At the time, going crazy on Baylor was considered par for the course, but hanging 48 on Texas in Austin was special. Since then, the Mountaineers have gone 6-11 and are deep in the midst of a rebuilding project. On the plus side, the season might have turned around with a win at TCU last week. That, along with a semi-shocker over Oklahoma State a month ago, and there's still time to get bowling with winnable games against Kansas and Iowa State after hosting the Longhorns.

Texas is quietly on a roll, winning five straight since getting torched by BYU and Ole Miss. The defense has improved under coordinator Greg Robinson, who brought up the crazy notion that tackling might actually be a good idea. The D has hardly been up to normal Texas snuff, but the team is unbeaten in conference play with a tough final month to get through.

The talent is there, the athleticism is undeniable, and the confidence and swagger appear to be returning. The team might not be the killer it should've been considering all the experience, depth and skill, but the season isn't an epic disaster like it appeared to be destined to become in mid-September. A trip to the Fiesta Bowl would completely eliminate the memories of the ugly early losses, but this is by far the easiest game left on the slate with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor to close things out.

Why Texas Might Win: Texas, throw the ball in the air against the West Virginia secondary and good things will happen. It's not like a Case McCoy has been kept under wraps with David Ash still out with concussion problems, but he's not exactly turning it loose – this might be the game to do it. Interceptions have been a problem for McCoy with five in the last three games, but the defense has usually been able to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, the Mountaineer secondary has been absolutely destroyed over the last six games, giving up 210 yards to Maryland, 291 to Kansas State, and well over 300 to everyone else including 394 with three scores to TCU in last week's win. With no West Virginia pass rush to worry about, McCoy will have plenty of time to let the downfield plays develop.

Why West Virginia Might Win: Oh yeah, the interceptions. West Virginia needs help to beat the Longhorns. The offense isn't consistent and the defense sketchy, but it's doing a decent job of overcoming mistakes with big takeaways on its own. The secondary might be getting lit up like a Christmas tree, but it came up with three picks against Baylor and two last week against TCU. Up front, the D is forcing turnovers with two fumble recoveries in each of the last three games and with 13 in the last eight games. On the year, the team has been negative on the turnover margin in just two games, getting blown out by Maryland and Kansas State. Being _2 in turnover margin is a must, but Texas has been in the negative just once, and that was in last week's layup against Kansas.

Who To Watch Out For: It hasn't quite been the career so far that the Next Great Texas Running Back might have envisioned, but Malcolm Brown is starting to come on at just the right time. Limited over the first half of the season with just 23 carries in the first five games, he was fresh against Oklahoma with 120 yards on 23 carries. Even though he was bottled up by TCU, he still ran for two touchdowns. Last week he was unstoppable with four touchdowns and 119 yards on 20 carries. Texas has other options, but it's going to stick with the hot hand.

- Here's the odd thing for a team that relies so heavily on keeping the mistakes to a minimum; two of Clint Trickett's five interceptions came against Oklahoma State, and two more came against TCU. Both games happened to be West Virginia wins. He hasn't been consistent and he's not pushing the ball down the field, but he's been good enough to make the offense move a bit. He'll have to be patient, but he'll also have to take a few chances.

- Texas kicker Anthony Fera was injured for most of last year after transferring over from Penn State. This year, back from his groin injury, he has been brilliant as both a placekicker and a punter, averaging 41.2 yards per punt putting 18 kicks inside the 20. Meanwhile he has been nearly perfect on field goals, hitting 11-of-12 shots including a 50-yarder against Oklahoma and with the only miss a 45-yarder against Kansas State.

- This is just the second meeting between the two teams with West Virginia winning the first two. Last year was the second victory, and the first came in 1952 with a stunning 7-6 win over a Texas team that finished 1-9.

What Will Happen: West Virginia will pound the ball and make it interesting for about a quarter, and then the big plays will start coming from the Texas passing game. The Longhorns will pull away in the second half after converting off a few key turnovers.

Prediction: Texas 38 … West Virginia 23
Line: Texas -6.5 o/u: 56
Must See Rating: (5 The Wolf of Wall Street – 1 Ass Backwards) … 3
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