Last week, the Mountaineers faced the #3 offense in college football. It marked the third straight week they took on a top 3 offense (Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech). The schedule in October and the first weekend in November were a brutal meat grinder that left WVU battered and bruised. The Mountaineers were able to regroup and come away with a much needed win against the Red Raiders. The schedule has now lightened up. Instead of facing top 10 offense, they now get to face offenses ranked 74th or worse in their final 4 games.
Texas is the first game up on the remaining schedule. Let's get one thing out of the way, the Longhorns are not a great football team this year. They are however a desperate team who is still holding onto bowl eligibility. Remember, this is Texas. They have had recruiting classes ranked #2 (2011), #4 (2012), #17 (2013) and #16 (2014) the past 4 years. They have talent. They haven't coached that talent.....yet. There are five categories that I typically look at when comparing teams. If you rank highly in these five categories, you are generally a good football team. If you rank low, you generally are a bad football team. Those categories are: Points Per Game, Rush Yards Per Game, Pass Yards Per Game, Completion Percentage & 3rd Down Conversions. Texas ranks 72nd or lower in all of these categories on both offense and defense except for one.
A win this Saturday will allow WVU to get above .500 and gain steam heading towards the finish line for 2015. A loss would quickly derail any good will that Dana and the team gathered by beating Texas Tech.
Stats for Hope for WVU
The West Virginia defense ranks in the top 30 in two significant categories: 3rd Down Conversions and Completion Percentage. 3rd Down Conversions are the big stat for this group. By being able to stop the opposing offense on third down, you give the ball back to your offense, stop the other team from being able to score and take time off the clock. All those things are helpful for WVU.
WVU ranks 23rd in 3rd Down Conversions per Game and 27th in Completion Percentage. As you might expect, teams often play better at home than they do on the road. This is no different for WVU, where they are allowing teams to complete only 46% of their passes at Milan-Puskar Stadium against 54% for the season. A significant reason for the disparity is the quality of teams they played on the road, especially TCU and Baylor. WVU was able to hold Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph to 50% passing (20/40) at home.
Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard is the leading passer for the Longhorns, completing 59% of his passes this season. His home/road splits are quite eye opening, as he has only attempted 30 pass attempts on the road all season, completing 15 of them.
Texas also does not convert many third downs. The Longhorns convert right at 5 third downs per game while WVU gives up 5.5 per game at home. In the game against the Red Raiders, WVU allowed Texas Tech to convert 6 of 10 in the first half (60%) but only 1 of 8 in the second half (12%). By limiting the Red Raiders in the second half, they were able to hold a top 5 offense to 16 points less than their season average.
Those two stats are nice and will certainly be a part of the equation to beating Texas, but they aren't the one that will determine the actual outcome. That always comes down to points scored. Here is the real problem for Texas. For the season, the Longhorns rank 79th in points scored at 25.4 points per game. That would fall nearly in line with the 'Eers scoring defense which gives up an average of 30 points per game. However, both teams have a Jekyll and Hyde personality in scoring on their home-road splits.
|Team||Points Per Game||Home Split||Away Split||Season Rank|
Texas is a horrible team away from Darrel K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium. They have scored 10 points in three true "away" games against Notre Dame, TCU & Iowa State. If you include the neutral site Red River Rivalry, Texas has scored 34 points in 4 games for an average of 8 points per game. They have scored those 34 points against the 34th (Notre Dame), 80th (TCU), 102nd (Iowa State) and 18th (Oklahoma) ranked scoring defenses. WVU conversely, has been very good at home. They have only given up over 30 points once in 5 home games, against Oklahoma State who needed overtime to do so. The remaining 4 teams, all wins for WVU, scored: 0, 17, 6, 26 points. WVU gives up an average of 16 points per game at home.
Despair for WVU
Given how poorly Texas ranks in most of the stats, this game is going to come down to one big question, can West Virginia stop the running game of Texas? Can WVU handle Jerrod Heard or Tyrone Swoopes when they are in the game and stop D'Onta Foreman and Johnathan Gray when they are handed the ball? Texas ranks 26th nationally in rushing offense at 206 yards per game on the ground. This is an area that WVU does struggle with on defense. The Mountaineers give up 180 yards per game on the ground, including 170 per game at home.
The defense employed by Tony Gibson is an odd-front, stacked defense. It is perfectly suited for most Big 12 teams that like to spread you out and find players in space. By employing 5 defensive backs as a base set, Tony is able to match personnel and bring blitzers from all directions to create havoc. Like everything in life, there is a weakness and the 3-3-5 stack defense is weak in power run defense. With fewer players in the box in general and smaller players filling the gaps, teams with the pedigree and ability to play power football can grind away tough yards until the defense just does not want to tackle. This was quite evident last year against Oklahoma and Samaje Perine.
Foreman may be the key to Texas. He has the game-breaking speed that Jonathan Gray simply lacks. Foreman has 534 yards on only 77 carries, a 6.9 YPC average. Outside of a 100 yard performance against TCU, when Foreman has been limited this season, Texas has lost. He has totaled 73 yards on the ground in Texas' four losses if you exclude TCU.
This will be where the game is won or lost for both teams. If WVU is able to control or slow down the Texas rushing offense, Texas will be forced to throw the ball, something they are just not good at this year. If Texas is able to run the ball consistently, WVU will be forced to score quickly to put pressure on the Longhorns. Skyler Howard is giving his all, but his all hasn't generated a lot of points lately. If the team is required to rely on his arm, the Mountaineers could be in for a long day.
Texas Offense vs WVU Defense
|Texas Offense||Season Average||Home Average||Away Average||Season Rank|
|Rushing Yards per Game||206||235||170||26|
|Passing Yards per Game||152||201||91||117|
|3rd Down Conversions||5||5.2||4.8||108|
|West Virginia Defense
||Season Average||Home Average||Away Average||Season Rank|
|Rushing Yards per Game||188
|Passing Yards per Game||243
|3rd Down Conversions||4.7
WVU Offense vs Texas Defense
|WVU Offense||Season Average||Home Average||Away Average||Season Rank|
|Rushing Yards per Game||227||261
|Passing Yards per Game||230
|3rd Down Conversions||6.4
||Season Average||Home Average||Away Average||Season Rank|
|Rushing Yards per Game||187
|Passing Yards per Game||247
|3rd Down Conversions||8