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West Virginia vs #11 Texas Preview: Season 127, Episode 5 - Homecoming

We got a 3:30 kickoff, a striped stadium, the Longhorns coming to town, and it's Homecoming. Hit it.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

WHEN/WHERE

Date: October 5, 2019

Time: 3:30pm EST

Venue: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN app

Radio: Click HERE for a complete list of radio affiliates in West Virginia. If you live outside of the state, or don’t live close enough to a radio affiliate, you can listen to the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on TuneIn Radio.

DEGENERATES UNITE

Spread: West Virginia +10.5

Over/Under: 61

After opening at +11.5, the line moved as low as +9 before stabilizing at +10.5.

#THREAD WATCH

West Virginia: Blue helmets, Gold shirts, Blue britches. Striping the jerseys along with the stadium.

Texas: Texas will be wearing their classic all whites. Should contrast very nicely with our combo.

KNOW THE ENEMY

Series History: (5-3). I can't say whether the feelings are reciprocated, but I think most West Virginia fans would agree that they enjoy the yearly matchup with the Longhorns more than any other in the Big 12. Austin is a lot of fun, and with one or two exceptions the games are always competitive, including last year's thrilling 42-41 victory at DKR.

2019 Record: (3-1). So far things are progressing as expected. Convincing wins against Louisiana Tech and Rice were sandwiched around a home loss to LSU that was in my opinion the best game of the young season. I have a feeling that the win against Oklahoma State is going to look better and better as the season progresses.

Head Coach: Tom Herman. Herman is now in his third year in Austin and in my opinion is one of the less likable coaches in the conference. Regardless of my misgivings though there's no doubt that the Longhorns are trending upwards.

Offensive Coordinator: Tim Beck. Beck is in his third year running the show for Texas after previous stints at Ohio State and Nebraska. He's done a particularly good job in Austin of both developing and building around Sam Ehlinger.

Defensive Coordinator: Todd Orlando. Orlando is also in his third year in Austin after following Tom Herman over from Memphis. Texas' defenses have been solid if unspectacular over that time, and one could argue that they've underperformed a bit relative to their talent level.

WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL...

WVU players to watch: QB Austin Kendall, RB Kennedy McKoy, RB Leddie Brown, RB Martell Pettaway, WR Sam James

Texas players to watch: DE Malcolm Roach, NT Keondre Coburn, ROVER Jeffrey McCulloch, NB Brandon Jones

Texas graduated a ton of talent from last year's unit, but the newcomers have every bit the athletic pedigree of the guys they're replacing. The benefits of a perennial Top 10 recruiting class. Schematically their base is technically a 3-down front, but like us they play with a hybrid Rover position that allows them to fluidly transition to a 4-down look when the situation calls for it.

They're led up front by senior tackle Malcolm Roach but really all three of the guys up there are massive, especially the true freshman Coburn who weighs a stout 340 at the nose. They aren't overly productive statistically, but they're good at soaking up blockers and allowing the athletes behind them to flow to the ball.

Speaking of which, the linebackers have plenty of size, as well. 6'1 250lb true freshman Ayodele Adeoye starts in the middle while 6'4 245lb sophomore Joseph Assai starts on the weak side. The best and most experienced of the bunch though is Rover Jeffrey McCulloch, who as I mentioned earlier is one of the guys who gives them the versatility to throw a lot of different looks without changing personnel. McCulloch is currently 2nd on the team in tackles and is a guy we're going to have to get a hat on if we want to have success running the ball.

The secondary was one of the most talented in conference when the season started, and even though they should be expected to take a step backwards with the loss of Caleb Sterns, Josh Thompson, and Jalen Green, they still have plenty of talent back there. Senior safety Brandon Jones is one of the best in the conference with Sterns out, and the other Brandon Jones has been pretty good at the nickel. There's less certainty at corner, but everybody playing Saturday will have been a 4 or 5 star recruit coming out of high school.

Defining success: Take care of the ball, finish drives

In spite of their talent, if we look at the Longhorns first 4 games the only team that didn't have success moving the football against them was Rice. Most of that damage has come through the air, but Oklahoma State was able to gain 226 yards against them a few weeks back. We certainly don't run it as well as the Pokes do or pass it as well as LSU, but I think we can take those outcomes together and feel confident that we're going to gain some yards, especially when you consider the quality of the guys that will miss this weekend with injuries. The important thing for us is to make those yards count. That means we need 6's instead of 3's, and failing that, we need to pin them deep with Growden bombs and win the field position battle. Most importantly though, we can't afford any cheap turnovers. There is no more direct path to getting our asses kicked than having a lazy pass get taken back the other way for a TD or coming away with nothing from a 70-yard drive. If we can avoid those types of things though and win or even break even in the turnover battle, I expect us to at least be competitive.

WHEN THEY HAVE THE BALL...

WVU players to watch: DT Dante Stills, NT Darius Stills, LB Josh Chandler, BANDIT VanDarius Cowan, SPEAR Kwantel Raines, FS Tykee Smith

Texas players to watch: QB Sam Ehlinger, RB Keontay Ingram, WR Devin Duvernay, WR Collin Johnson

Let's just say this up front - Texas is the best offense that we've played. They have most of their core back from last year, and through 4 games find themselves ranked Top 20 nationally in both scoring (41.8 ppg) and total offense (497.8).

Everything starts with Ehlinger, who's looking exceptionally sharp in his third year as a starter. His legs have been the Longhorns tone setters for as long as he's been starting, but he's really made strides as a passer this year, especially in the RPO game. Through 4 games he's completing 73% of his passes for 308 yards per game at 8.8 yards per attempt, all of which are massive improvements over the 65%/235/7.8 splits he put up a year ago.

As for the skill guys, Keontay Ingram has been good at running back, averaging 5.4 ypc on about 14 totes per game. The real strength has been out wide though. 6'6 Collin Johnson will be back from injury this week, but Devin Duvernay has been so good in his absence that they hardly missed a beat. Duvernay has 39 receptions through 4 games and is one of those rare guys who's as threatening on a tunnel screen as he is attacking vertically.

Up front it's mostly the same group that we saw last year with the exception of freshman guard Junior Angalau.

Defining success: Limit explosive plays in the passing game

As I mentioned earlier, Texas is going to try to set the tone with Ehlinger's legs, but as good as he and Ingram are, their knockout shots have come through the air this year. We have to limit those types of plays this week if we want to have a chance going into the 4th quarter. That means keeping both Duvernay and Johnson in front of us on deep routes and swarming to gang tackle when they try to manufacture quick touches for the former in space. They're averaging right around 4 explosive passing plays per game (20+ yarders), and if we can hold them to that number or better I think we'll have put ourselves in position for the upset.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Longhorns are in the middle of the road nationally in most special teams categories with the curious exception of punt and kickoff returns, where they literally rank last nationally in the former and 3rd in the latter.

CLOSING ARGUMENT/PREDICTION

There's not a whole lot more to say here. It's a 3:30 kick, it's Homecoming, and it's Texas. If we can avoid beating ourselves and keep it close into the second half then I expect a borderline riot-level atmosphere at Mountaineer Field to get us over the line. Horns down. LFG.

West Virginia 28-27 Texas