As the death machine that is the October schedule for West Virginia nears its end, fans and the team alike have been subjected to a schedule that is unmatched in recent memory but also nearly unprecedented in college football. 4 ranked schools in a row. 3 on the row. Two ranked in the top 5 in the country, both on the road, in "consecutive" games. That's a tough stretch. No one would blame you if you looked into the tunnel and didn't see a light at the end, but I may have just found it.
Today, WVU will face the most dynamic quarterback on its schedule: Trevone Boykin. Trevone was a Heisman candidate last year and he has only improved upon his stats. If you want to subject yourself to just how good he has been this year, check out this ESPN Big 12 article highlighting his improvement. As you can see, Trevone has improved incredibly from last year to this year. But has he faced a WVU defense which is doing some pretty impressive things and what about that Frogs' defense? It's not nearly as good as it was last year. Could WVU find some ways to exploit it?
A quick background, all of the stats I quote in this article will be pulled from a site I found online, TeamRankings.com. This site has an amazing breakdown of many different stats not just the normal stats found on many sports site.
WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has been quoted many times over the years that the initial first down of a drive is the most critical. WVU, like many offenses in the Big 12, runs the hurry-up spread. Once the offense achieves a first down, they begin their hurry-up offense, keeping whatever personnel the defense has on the field, not allowing them to substitute. This works to the offenses advantage by wearing down defensive players, allowing the coaches and quarterback to know who is on the field at all times and causing confusion among the defensive players. I think this is an area where WVU may be able to gain some advantages. TCU ranks 110th in the nation in first downs per game. Their defense allows 24 first downs per game. WVU on the other hand ranks 48th in the nation at 19 per game. TCU has only faced one team with an offense better than WVU (in terms of yards per game), Texas Tech. TTU rolled up 32 first downs.
For the season, WVU is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete less than 50% of their passes. Even with the increased competition of: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor, WVU has held opposing Big 12 quarterbacks to 55% passing. The 3-3 stack defense that Tony Gibson employs relies on confusion both pre- and post-snap. We saw last year when WVU held TCU to 166 yards on 12 of 30 passing that the defense can confuse even the best of quarterbacks. If WVU is able to hold Boykin to under 58%, might you see some struggles in Fort Worth?
To Tony Gibson, third down is the key down on any drive. Its a chance for the defense to get off the field, to get the ball out of the offenses' hands and another chance for the WVU offense to take time off the clock. All of those things are important. Tony has done a tremendous job of creating a defense that gets off the field.
WVU currently ranks 9th in the country at opponent third down conversions. They allow teams to convert less than 30% of their third downs. Even against Baylor, WVU held the Bears to 4-15 on third down. It was fourth down against Baylor that hurt the Mountaineers. TCU isn't Baylor in that regard. Win on third down and WVU can take the ball away from TCU. But it will be a challenge. TCU converts over 50% of their third down opportunities. If WVU is able to win on third down, it will better its chances of winning