Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: TCU Horned Frogs at West Virginia Mountaineers Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/31/2014
TCU Horned Frogs at West Virginia Mountaineers, Saturday Nov. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET
The Big 12 is wide open. Kansas State doesn't have a loss, so they lead the way. These two squads, along with Baylor, are next with just one loss. The Big 12 doesn't have a conference title game, but this game is essentially the first round of the conference playoff. You don't win anything if you win, but you probably lose your chance at winning the conference with a loss.
TCU is dealing with even bigger stakes as they head into Morgantown. There is a logjam of teams with one loss in the country, and at least two one-loss teams are going to get a berth in the first College Football Playoff. TCU is one of those teams, but they aren't viewed among the top tier yet. They need to keep piling up the big wins - West Virginia this week and Kansas State next week - and then hope that enough teams above them falter that they can get into the big dance. In short, this game matters. Really matters. For both teams.
TCU at West Virginia Betting Storylines
All TCU did last time out is score 82 points. Eighty-two! That was against a Big 12 foe, too, not some hopeless FCS team playing only for the payday. They aren't likely to match that total again in this game - or perhaps ever - but their 50.4 points per game is tops in the country.
Key to that success is QB Trevone Boykin, who has taken to the offensive overhaul this year at TCU like he was born to lead this system. He has entered the Heisman discussion, though he and everyone else will need a miracle to catch Marcus Mariota. TCU needs more than ever for him to be durable, though. Backup QB Matt Joeckel, who transferred to TCU this year after backing up Johnny Football at Texas A&M, entered the game in garbage time last week against Texas Tech and suffered an injury that is likely to keep him out all year. The rest of the QB depth chart is bleak - and that's being kind - so the fate of this game, and this season, depends on how healthy Boykin can be.
If we are going to talk about Boykin then it is only fair that we discuss Clint Trickett. The senior QB is in his fourth year playing but his second with the Mountaineers and second as a starter. He has taken a quantum leap forward this year - so much so that it is as if he is an entirely different player. He has passed for more than 300 yards in all but his most recent game - and that was an easy, run-based win over Oklahoma State. He has completed less than 61 percent of his passes just once and has yet to have what could be called a poor game. He's the biggest reason this team is far exceeding expectations, and he's a real challenge for TCU - a team that has not been particularly strong against dynamic quarterbacks - to contend with.
If the last two years are any indication then we could have a close game here. These squads have gone into overtime each of the last two years, with the road team - and underdog - coming out on top both times. Of course, TCU has changed so much from last year to this one that you really can't rely on history to teach us anything about what to expect here. Rarely can I recall a team that has so radically, and so successfully, overhauled itself in a single year - especially without making a head coach change.
One factor that isn't likely to have a huge impact, but is nonetheless interesting - and hard to believe - is that TCU not only faces a hostile environment, but it will be their first game of the year played outside of the state of Texas. Their only two road games have been at SMU and Baylor.
TCU at West Virginia Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with TCU favored by five points, and that has jumped slightly to 5.5. Nearly three-quarters of bets have been on the Horned Frogs, so it is somewhat surprising that the movement hasn't been a bit more significant. I would suggest that a small majority of sharp money has been on West Virginia, and that that has limited the movement. The total opened at an aggressive 73 and has stayed in that basic area.
TCU is 6-0 ATS in their last six conference games, and they have the same record against teams with winning records. West Virginia has gone "under" the total in their last four games overall but "over" the total in their last four November games.
TCU Horned Frogs at West Virginia Mountaineers Expert Predictions and Picks
This is a very tough game to call. Both teams are strong and creative offensively, and both have had big wins in important games this year - especially at home. I can make a case for either team - a pretty good indication that value could be better found elsewhere. I keep coming back to one game, though. On Oct.18 West Virginia hosted Baylor and was able to frustrate them on both sides of the ball like no one else has. TCU is a different team than Baylor in several ways, but the ability to adapt and adjust is what makes the Mountaineers dangerous - especially when they have nothing to lose. Given that, this just feels like too many points to be giving the home team. I'd wait until the last moment to see if the line moves further then jump on the best price I could find.
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