(10) TCU (6-1) at (20) West Virginia (6-2) (ET)
GAME NOTES: Ranked foes in the Big 12 Conference mix it up on Saturday afternoon, as No. 20 West Virginia entertains No. 10 TCU.
TCU is the nation's highest scoring team (50.4 ppg), and the Horned Frogs are hoping to secure their seventh win of the season this week. A wild 61-58 loss to another high-octane conference club in Baylor is the team's only blemish on an otherwise perfect resume'. Since that loss, TCU has won two straight, the most recent of which being an eye-popping 82-27 triumph over visiting Texas Tech last Saturday. That came on the heels of a 42-9 shellacking of Oklahoma State the week prior. Save for this week and next versus league-leading Kansas State, the remaining schedule (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State) is favorable for coach Gary Patterson's squad.
West Virginia has surprised many this season by winning six of its first eight games, including four of its five conference encounters. Coach Dana Holgorsen's club has won four in a row since dropping a 45-33 decision to Oklahoma on Sept. 20, and it is coming off a 34-10 triumph at Oklahoma State last weekend. Prior to that, the Mountaineers took down high-powered Baylor at home, 41-27. In addition to hosting TCU this week, a visit to Texas, a home game versus Kansas State, and a trip to Iowa State to close out the regular season remain.
West Virginia has won two of the three meetings in the series with TCU, with both tussles since the pair joined the Big 12 going to overtime. WVU won in Fort Worth last season, 30-27.
TCU's high-octane offense is directed by Trevone Boykin, and the junior signal caller has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for more than 2,300 yards, 21 TDs and only three INTs. Josh Doctson leads the receiving corps with 35 catches for 573 yards and seven TDs, while Deante' Gray has 27 grabs for 431 and six scores. Kolby Listenbee averages better than 22 yards per reception in totaling 494 receiving yards and three TDs. As for the Frogs' rushing attack, B.J. Catalon has rumbled his way to 388 yards and eight TDs, while Boykin has scrambled out of the pocket for 374 yards and three scores, and Aaron Green has 315 yards and three TDs.
Defensively, the Horned Frogs rank among the Big 12 leaders in average points allowed (21.6), as well as rushing yards (132.3). They have been a bit more lax against the pass (239.6 ypg), but that is due in large part to the fact that most foes have had to battle from behind. TCU leads the league in turnover margin (+12), coming up with 21 takeaways which is far and away the most of any team in the Big 12. The Frogs have also been unforgiving on third down, giving way on a conference-best 27.4 percent of conversion attempts. Paul Dawson paces the unit with 79 tackles, which includes 11 TFL and three sacks. He has also picked off a pair of passes and recovered three fumbles.
In last week's rout of the Red Raiders, TCU churned out 305 yards on the ground, another 480 through the air in totaling a school-record 785 yards of total offense. Boykin, who hit 13 different receivers on the day, threw a program-record seven TD passes, and his 433 yards were not only a career-high, but also the third-best effort in school history. Other standout performances were turned in by Gray (four rec., 165 yards, two TDs), Doctson (four rec., 76 yards, two TDs), Trevorris Johnson (10 carries, 105 yards, two TDs) and Aaron Green (six carries, 105 yards, TD).
From a defensive standpoint, the Frogs gave up two long TD passes in the opening quarter but not much else as they shut down the Red Raiders' rushing attack (101 yards). Sure they permitted 345 passing yards, but with the offense scoring at a record pace that was to be expected. Dawson led the way with 11 tackles, seven of which were unassisted, and the unit as a whole was credited with six TFL and four turnovers.
While generally pleased, Patterson tried to downplay last week's lopsided outcome.
"I'm way happy for them, but I told them before the ball game they weren't ready after watching them warm-up. Fortunately for us, we didn't play well and we won a ballgame. That hadn't happened around here over the last two years. We were sloppy, had a guy kicked out of the game, didn't play very good pass coverage in the first half. We have to get ready to play."
West Virginia scored a couple of quick touchdowns last week, effectively taking the Oklahoma State Cowboys out of the game shortly after it started. Clint Trickett saw his streak of eight straight 300-yard passing games come to an end, but he was effective in completing 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards and a pair of TDs, hitting Mario Alford seven times for 136 yards and a score. Star wideout Kevin White was held to 27 yards on three catches, ending his streak of seven straight games with at least 100 yards. Wendell Smallwood carried the ball 23 times and amassed 132 yards, while Dreamius Smith finished with 72 yards and a score on only five totes.
Oklahoma State put forth a balanced attack in tallying 194 yards on the ground and 242 through the air, but the Pokes were just 2-of-14 on third down, 1-of-5 on fourth down, and committed two turnovers. The WVU defense even got in on the scoring as Dravon Henry returned an interception, one of his two in the game, 52 yards for a TD late in the fourth quarter. Karl Joseph paced the unit with eight tackles, and the team as a whole was credited with seven TFL and a pair of sacks.
Holgorsen praised his defense for the effort last week against the Cowboys.
"We won the turnover battle, which was good. Our defense played well, third downs, once again was off the charts good."
Trickett leads the Big 12 in completion percentage (.683), and his 345.4 ypg also tops the conference. His TD-to-INT ratio (17-5) is exemplary, and while White had an off day last week, he is still No. 1 in the conference with 9.0 receptions per contest, 1,047 receiving yards, and eight TD catches. Presently, there are four backs who have gained at least 160 yards this season, with Rushell Shell leading the way with his 503 yards and six TDs. Smallwood and Smith both average in the neighborhood of five yards per carry, with the former scoring once and the latter three times.
The West Virginia defense is led by Nick Kwiatkoski (62 tackles, 9.0 TFL), while Shaq Riddick (6.0 sacks) is the guy Holgorsen expects to get after the quarterback. Forcing turnovers has been an issue for the Mountaineers this season, as they have only six (all INTs), and their 14 sacks ranks them seventh in the league. Speaking of turnovers, WVU is next-to-last in the conference at -9. Overall, the unit is allowing 25 points and 389 yards per tilt.
This should be a wildly entertaining game between two teams that aren't about to yield to the other. The WVU faithful will hopefully be better behaved than they were following the win over Baylor a couple of weeks ago, but the Mountaineers will need them to amp up the energy in an attempt to quell the Horned Frogs' up-tempo attack.
When the dust settles, expect the visitors to be the ones left standing.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: TCU 56, West Virginia 42