Back in August when tentatively mapping out NCAA games I would preview each week here at Doc’s, I glanced at this week’s West Virginia-Texas matchup and thought it would be an interesting game in WVU’s first visit to Austin as a Big 12 member, but probably not a marquee matchup with LSU-Florida and Georgia-South Carolina also on the Week 6 college football schedule. Well, Tigers-Gators and Dawgs-Gamecocks should be great, but Mountaineers-Horns is now must-see TV.
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WVU was expected to be a National Championship contender this year in its debut Big 12 season – it was No. 11 in the preseason polls. And QB Geno Smith was on every Heisman list. He’s been out of his mind (more on that shortly). Not quite as much was expected of Texas, which started the season at No. 15 in the preseason polls mostly on name alone. And Texas was one of the worst passing teams in the land last year and widely expected to be again with the mediocre rotation of David Ash and Case McCoy under center.
But Ash has put to rest any talk of sharing the job as he shockingly ranks No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency. Yet he won’t even be first-team All-Big 12. That honor will go to Smith, who leads the country in efficiency and is completing an absurd 83.4 percent of his passes. The senior has just eight more incompletions (28) than touchdown passes and has yet to be picked off.
This is the second meeting between these schools. Back on Oct. 6, 1956 in Austin, WVU beat Texas, 7-6.
West Virginia at Texas Betting Storylines
If No. 8 West Virginia (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) wins here, it could run the table and find itself in the National Championship Game. It has three ranked teams left on the schedule – Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma – and all three visit Morgantown. No. 11 Texas (4-0, 1-0) has Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry in Dallas next week and has to visit Kansas State.
Last week, Smith distanced himself as the Heisman favorite with an incredible performance in a 70-63 win over Baylor in the highest-scoring Big 12 game ever: 45-of-51 passing for a school-record 656 yards and eight touchdowns as WVU put up 807 yards in its first conference game. Smith also broke the school’s consecutive completions record with 14 in a row and a national passing efficiency record previously held by former Hawaii star Colt Brennan. WVU’s Stedman Bailey had 303 yards receiving, while Tavon Austin had 215 – that duo has caught 17 of Smith’s 20 TD passes in 2012. West Virginia has now scored at least 69 points in three of its past five games (dating back to last year's Orange Bowl).
Texas scored “only” 41 in a win at Oklahoma State last week after putting up 66 points the game before in a rout of Ole Miss. Ash was 30-for-37 for 304 yards with three touchdowns (one fewer than he had in all of 2011) and one pick – his first of the season – vs. the Cowboys.
The problem is that both defenses stink. WVU allowed a tidy 700 yards to Baylor, and the Bears' Terrance Williams set a Big 12 record with 314 yards receiving. The Mountaineers rank No. 106 in total defense. Okie State, meanwhile, outgained UT 576-440 yards (averaging 6.9 yards per rush) and was 3-for-3 on fourth down conversions. The Horns had 12 missed tackles on eight offensive plays vs. OSU and five broken tackles on kickoff coverage. Three of those missed tackles led to two long Cowboys touchdowns: a 69-yard Joseph Randle run (two on that play) and a 44-yard Josh Stewart TD reception.
The Longhorns have surrendered five touchdowns of 44 plays or longer this season. Smith had four touchdown passes of at least 39 yards against Baylor in the second half alone. And Texas hasn’t seen a quarterback anywhere close to Smith yet or two stud receivers like Bailey (158.8 yards per game, 10 TDs) and Austin (140.0, seven TDs).
West Virginia at Texas Betting Odds and Trends
UT is a seven-point favorite, according to college football odds, with the total at 75 on 5Dimes. WVU is 1-3 ATS this season and 2-1 “over/under”. Texas is 3-1 ATS and 2-2 over/under (0-2 O/U at home).
West Virginia is 4-1 ATS in its past five road games. The Mountaineers are 2-6 ATS in their past eight after a win. Texas has covered its past four games vs. teams with a winning record. But UT is 1-6 ATS in its last 7 home games vs. a team with a winning road record. The over is 8-3 in Mountaineers’ last 11 games following a win. The over is 7-2 in Texas’ past nine games following a win.
College Football Predictions: West Virginia at Texas Picks
Texas has been good vs. ranked foes under Mack Brown all-time, going 35-26. Look for UT defensively to try and imitate what Maryland did vs. WVU on Sept. 22 when the Terps held the Mountaineers to 31 points: run the clock down on every offensive play possible. Baylor didn’t even bother trying that. And on defense, the Bears rushed only three all day. Certainly, UT is much more talented defensively than Baylor. WVU runs a very similar offense to what Oklahoma State does, considering current Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen installed both.
The weather won’t be a factor in slowing down the offenses as it looks to be a picture-perfect day in Austin. But I just can’t recommend over that huge 75 total. I don’t think Ash is quite as good as he’s been, and I do think Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will have some interesting wrinkles for Smith – facing Oklahoma State’s attack essentially will give Diaz perfect preparation to face WVU’s offense. Still, I think West Virginia scores enough to cover if not win. Take the Mountaineers and the under.
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