Saturday October 7th is a much bigger date than most of us expected at the beginning of the season. This Saturday is now a matchup with the 8th ranked TCU Horned Frogs hosting the 23rd ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. As a bonus, ESPN College Gameday will be broadcasting from the campus commons from 8:00-11:00. The matchup puts to of the most potent offenses in the conference against each other These two teams are very evenly matched and it will come down to who executes their game plan better. Here are the keys to victory for each team.
The Mountaineers are averaging 231 yards rushing per game, led by running back Justin Crawford who has run for 451 yards and six touchdowns through four games. West Virginia will run the ball up the middle with confidence and they use the running game to set up the play-action pass for quarterback Will Grier. Grier has thrown 13 touchdowns and is averaging 343. yards passing per game. Crawford's running has helped Grier find Gary Jennings Jr. to the tune of 438 yards on the outside.
Blitz. Blitz. Blitz.
The West Virginia 3-3-5 defense relies on blitzing from all angles in order to confuse the offensive line and running backs. The Mountaineers will need to get creative with their blitz schemes against a TCU offensive line that will be without two-year starter Patrick Morris at center. TCU has also played with Darius Anderson getting the bulk of the carries in the backfield. While Anderson has been dynamic as a runner, his pass blocking still needs some work and West Virginia will need to exploit these two weaknesses. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill has shown better poise this season, but when under pressure he has shown an inability to throw the ball away and instead has taken a few too many sacks.
Stop the TCU Rushing Attack
This is the most important key for the Mountaineers on Saturday. West Virginia is allowing 226 yards rushing per game on defense. TCU is averaging 232 yards on the ground offensively. The Mountaineer defense is going to have to find ways to slow down Darius Anderson, Sewo Olonilua and the returning Kyle Hicks if they want to stay in this game. If they allow TCU to run the ball, they will be hard pressed keep the score low enough for their offense to make a game of it.
This one has two meanings. First, with College Gameday in town, the Frogs need to stay focused on the task at hand and not buy into their own hype. Secondly, they need to continue to do what has gotten them to the 4-0 start this season. They need to continue to run the ball effectively with their stable of backs and keep controling the clock. Running the ball wears on the defense, but also keeps your defense off the field and fresh and against a potent offense like the Mountaineers, you need your defense rested. As i mentioned earlier, the Mountaineers are giving up 220 plus yards per game in the ground and the Frogs should exploit that weakness on Saturday. If the Frogs can get the running game going early, they may just literally run away with this one.
Make Will Grier Beat You
Will Grier is off to a great start to his career at West Virginia, but he hasn't yet seen a defense like he will see on Saturday. The TCU defense has improved as the season has gone on and that's a scary thought. Against Oklahoma State, the Frogs were able to slow down the Cowboys running attack and still get pressure on the quarterback when rushing just three. TCU will have a similar game plan against Justin Crawford and the Mountaineer rushing game. TCU is going to get pressure on Grier and how he responds to the pressure will tell the tale of the game for West Virginia.
Attack the West Virginia Secondary
The West Virginia secondary is young and inexperienced. They have some playmakers, but will also take chances when the ball is in the air. The Mountaineers don't have much of a pass rush this season. They only have five quarterback sacks in four games, including a game against FCS Delaware State. Kenny Hill should have time for plays to develop and we should see the middle of the field open up for the speedy TCU receivers. If West Virginia tries to blitz to stop the run, Kenny Hill must take advantage of one-on-one matchups in the secondary.