Game Preview: Texas Tech Vs West Virginia
Who: The West Virginia Mountaineers and The Texas Tech Red Raiders
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia
How to watch: ESPNU
When: Saturday, October 14, 11 a.m.
Broadcaster Team: Mike Couzens, John Congemi.
What pregame show to listen to: 1340 The Fan’s Countdown to Kickoff, 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 14.
West Virginia is 3-2 against Texas Tech since joining the Big 12. In 2012, the Red Raiders blew out the 4th ranked Mountaineers, 49-14. In 2016, the Mountaineers returned the favor beating them at home, 48-17. The three games in between the blowouts were decided by a total of 13 points.
This season should return to another close affair as the Mountaineers try to bounce back after losing a close one to TCU. If that sounds familiar, it's the same position Oklahoma State team was in. Generally, teams fighting to stay alive or clawing to get what they think they are owed are dangerous. West Virginia will be clawing this week.
The question is, will Texas Tech?
Will Texas Tech be satisfied with their first ranked week since 2013? Or does Texas Tech feel they have earned more than a chance to sit idly by while their Big 12 schedule runs past them?
Kliff Kingsbury's history doesn't look good for the final six games of the season, but this team is different than those of the past. They are the 80th in scoring defense, allowing 27.8 points per game. They are 2nd in the nation in turnovers forced per game. They are 43rd in rushing yards allowed per attempt. They are 64th in yards allowed per play. The defense has numbers to back up the offense. This, dare I say, makes the Red Raiders a complete team.
Does this complete team have a shot at having a winning record in the Big 12 for the first time in Kingsbury's tenure?
It all starts this week.
A week after 52 rushing attempts and almost 350 yards (w/o Nic Shimonek's sack yardage), Texas Tech has laid out the blueprint for offensive efficiency. Shimonek is a pro-style quarterback who thrives off short, quick reads, a strong running game, and the occasional deep ball.
He's not a quarterback that can sit and read three options. For one, he doesn't deal with pressure like a seasoned pro. Mostly because he isn't. He's a 5th year freshman. It's actually pretty incredible how well he's played so far considering this is his first extended game action since high school.
That said, in game six we should start seeing big improvement in Shimonek and his decision-making skills. I love that he throws the ball away instead of throwing interceptions, but a few more calculated risks over the middle are needed if you want to beat good teams.
In the running game, look for the pie chart of carries to look similar to what it did against Kansas: 45 percent Justin Stockton, and 55 percent Desmond Nisby and Tre King.
As far as the West Virginia defense goes, they play into the hands of what Texas Tech did against Kansas. They are 9th best in the Big 12 against the run, allowing 214 yards per game, and 2nd best against the pass, allowing a measly 52.9 completion percentage and 227 yards per game.
The Texas Tech offense will shoot for their season averages in both: 163 yards rushing and 386 yards passing.
The position group to watch will be the Texas Tech offensive line, which bounced back against Kansas after a poor showing against Oklahoma State University. Can the Red Raiders front be dominant moving forward like they were against the Jayhawks? Or at least above average against a great front like they were against Houston? That's the pressing issue this week and moving forward in Big 12 play.
The Texas Tech defense has proven that there can be improvement with coaching consistency. Everything about the defense is better in 2017 vs 2016. The Red Raiders are the 6th or 7th best defense in the Big 12, but they're arguably closer to the top than the bottom in regards to the talent.
The number 1 defense in the Big 12 is the Texas Longhorns, who've given up 1,771 yards this season on 324 defensive snaps. The Red Raiders have given up 2,187 yards on 398 defensive snaps. After some quick math, both teams yield 5.5 yards per play.
I'm not saying that Texas Tech has a top 5 defense in the Big 12; the stats are saying it. And who am I to deny the stats?
The real bugaboo here is that West Virginia has a really good offense. They are the second best offense Texas Tech has faced this season behind Oklahoma State. West Virginia puts up close to 600 yards and 44 points per game.
While I don't see the Mountaineers scoring over 44 points this game, I have doubts the Texas Tech defense will hold them to 5.5 yards per play. I think we'll see West Virginia match the output that Oklahoma State had against Texas Tech, and Texas Tech do enough defensively to stay in the game.
The good news/bad news situation here is that the Texas Tech defense has been effective this season at limiting big plays. That's the good news. The bad news is that Will Grier and the Mountaineers thrive on big plays.
If the Texas Tech secondary can match the play they had against Oklahoma State, they will be much more successful against West Virginia. WVU doesn't have the skill or the depth that OSU puts onto the field.
DO'S: Keep the 43 yard punt average.
DON'TS: Miss field goals. Kick it out of bounds. Get punts blocked.
This is a very winnable game. Not in the 'every game is winnable' sense, either. This game is winnable because Texas Tech is just as talented as West Virginia on both sides of the ball.
The West Virginia defensive coordinator has Kliff Kingsbury's number, and until that changes I'm going to have to pick the Mountaineers in this one.
I will, however, pick Texas Tech to cover at a +6.5 point dog. I'm also taking the over of 78.
Final score prediction: Texas Tech gets into a shootout and loses late, 42-38.