The West Virginia Mountaineers will follow up a home game against the Kansas Jayhawks with a difficult trip to take on the Texas Longhorns. The Mountaineers hold a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series, but the teams have gone 2-2 since WVU joined the Big 12 in 2012.
In 2015, West Virginia defeated the Longhorns 38-20 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown. The Mountaineers were led by running back Wendell Smallwood who rushed for 165 yards on 24 carries as the West Virginia offense posted 257 yards rushing as a team. Texas actually dominated the stat totals, but the WVU defense forced the Longhorns’ offense into five turnovers which ended up being the difference.
Game #9: Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns had an extremely disappointing 2015 season as Charlie Strong’s club finished 5-7 and didn’t reach a bowl game. The poor results had some fans calling for Strong’s dismissal, but the school decided to give him one more year to get things figured out. Those circumstances make 2016 a make-or-break year for Strong’s career at Texas.
Texas Offense: New Sheriff In Town
Although nothing’s been made official, context clues are pointing to true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele beginning the season as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback. Buechele was ranked as a four-star dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com coming out of Lamar High School in Arlington, TX.
Last year, Texas rotated Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes and the two quarterbacks only combined for 1,751 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Swoopes and Heard both return in 2016, but Heard has been moved to wide receiver and it looks like Swoopes will be Beuchele’s backup.
The strength of the Longhorns’ offense lies along the offensive line and in the running game. Look for a heavy does of D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III, especially early in the season as Texas tries to get Buechele settled in.
Texas Defense Should Be One Of The Best In The Big 12
Despite fielding a unit full of four and five-star prospects in 2015, the Longhorns’ defense allowed a whopping 453 yards per game. The biggest weakness was in the run defense as opponents rushed for 2,630 yards and 21 touchdowns in only 12 games.
That being said, Texas should be much better in 2016 as the defensive line is much deeper and the linebacking corps and secondary could be the best in the Big 12. Linebacker Malik Jefferson is a heavy favorite to win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after being named to the Freshman All-American team by both USA TODAY and Sporting News.
Prediction: Mountaineers Lose A Close Contest
I look for Texas to be much better in 2016 as there’s too much talent on the roster to have another disappointing year. The Longhorns should be strong on defense and in the running game which should certainly help Buechele develop.
The Mountaineers are likely going to be forced to outscore teams this season, but I’m not sure the offense will be able to put up enough points against this Texas defense to come out with a victory on the road. I predict the Longhorns will emerge victorious, 30-21.