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West Virginia vs Texas Christian - Season 128, Episode 8 - The Bounce Back Part Trois

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The Mountaineers face a third post-road loss bounce back test with TCU coming to town - can we respond the way we did in the first two and lock in a .500 season?

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Austin American Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

WHEN/WHERE

Time: 12:00pm EST

Date: November 14th, 2020

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

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

TV: FOX

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. We will also include the stream in our game thread, which will go live at 11:00 AM ET.

SiriusXM Satellite Radio will also be broadcasting the game on channel 81 on both Sirius and XM branded radios.

Streaming: FOX Sports app or FoxSports.com

DEGENERATES UNITE

Spread: WVU -3

Over/Under: 45.5

THREAD WATCH

Good guys:

Bad guys:

KNOW THE ENEMY

2020 Record: (3-3). You could make the case that their highs haven't been quite as high and their lows have been slightly lower, but TCU’s 2020 has been every bit the rollercoaster that ours has. Last week's thumping of Texas Tech is undoubtedly the high point, so here's to them falling back to earth a bit tomorrow.

Series History: (5-4). We've won the last two to swing things back in our favor, including last year's 20-17 upset in Fort Worth.

Head Coach: Gary Patterson. Patterson has been one of the premier names in major college football since taking over at TCU 20 years ago. The results have dipped a bit over the past few years, but the Patterson Frogs have never been a squad you can take lightly.

Offensive Coordinator: Sonny Cumbie. Cumbie is now in his 7th season in Fort Worth. He's helmed a couple of really good units during that period, but has struggled a bit since the departure of Kenny Hill in 2017.

Defensive Coordinator: Chad Glasgow. Now in his 19th season on campus, Glasgow is nearly as synonymous with TCU football as Patterson. His defenses have regularly been among the best in the country and have helped forge TCU's identity in the Patterson era.

WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL

Key players: S Trevon Moehrig, LB Garret Wallow, LB Dee Winters, DE Ochaun Mathis

Linebackers Garret Wallow and Dee Martin are both back from last year and have been good players over the course of their careers. However, both appear to have taken a step back this year, with Wallow especially falling short of the standard he set last year en route to 1st team All-Conference honors.

The secondary has probably been the strength of their defense. Safeties Trevon Moehrig and Ar'Darius Washington are both back after outstanding 2019 campaigns, and La'Kendrick Van Zandt has flourished following a transition from linebacker to safety. The corner rotation took a hit with the injury of Noah Daniels, but Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson has been solid and as a unit they're allowing just 222 yards and 3 explosive plays per game game through the air.

What to watch: Can we re-establish the run?

After last week's poor showing against Texas I have to think we'd be coming out looking to reestablish the run regardless, but considering TCU's struggles against the run relative to how well they play the pass, the opportunity seems especially ripe. The Frogs are in the middle of the road in terms of yards per game, but actually rank 8th in the conference in yards allowed per carry and are grading out dead last in run defense according to PFF.

Leddie Brown is apparently questionable for tomorrow so that's something to keep an eye on, but if he's able to go I expect a heavy does of him early before we settle into that quick-pass rhythm that we got into in the second half last week. If Leddie's out it obviously changes things, but I still think we'll give Sinkfield a good run at them before making any adjustments.

WHEN THEY HAVE IT

Key players: QB Max Duggan, WR Taye Barber, RB Darwin Barlow, RB Zach Evans

The first thing I notice about TCU’s offense is that they’re super young at the skill positions. They’re relying on a bunch of freshmen and sophomores across the two-deep, which maybe explains why they’ve struggled a bit to finish drives and put more points on the board.

The most notable of that group is obviously sophomore quarterback Max Duggan. Duggan strikes me as something of a middle-class man's Ehlinger - generally serviceable as a passer with more than enough athleticism to hurt you with his legs. He's improved his accuracy by about 12 percentage points this year (up to 65.2% from 53.4%) and throws a pretty nice deep ball, but still has some consistency issues on intermediate passes.

The backfield is a strength - young, deep, and undeniably talented. Darwin Barlow, Kendre Miller, and Zach Evans are all freshmen and all three average better than 5 yards per carry. Barlow leads the group in yards and carries, but don't sleep on former 5-star Evans - he's second in the conference with an average of 4.76 yards after contact.

The trend continues out wide, though it’s my impression that none of these guys are as dangerous as the running backs. Taye Barber has the most targets and yards, but freshmen Quentin Johnson and Blair Conright both average more yards per reception. The tight ends seem ok, but aren't targeted all that frequently.

They've had to do a bit of shuffling up front, but have graded out in the middle of the road per PFF. The notable performers are tackle TJ Storment and center Steve Avila.

What to watch: Are we gang tackling?

Much like Texas last weekend, TCU’s offense is powered by its quarterback's legs. Max Duggan occasionally leaves something to be desired as a passer, but as a runner there haven't been many better in the country. He's been carrying it about 15 times per game at an average of 6 yards per carry, and a mobile quarterback is always a variable that you can never really prepared for.

Equally as dangerous are the aforementioned running backs - Barlow and Evans both average more than 4 yards after contact and rank 3rd and 4th in the Big 12 in elusive rating, respectively. We have to get bodies to these guys and get them on the ground.

We mentioned last weekend that our run defense has been perhaps the single biggest indicator of our success this year, and that was borne out again last weekend with Texas running for 179 yards on 5 yards per carry. If we let Duggan and Co have similar success, we can probably expect to be sweating it out again when the 4th quarter rolls around tomorrow.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Horned Frogs are grading out dead last in the Big 12 on special teams according to PFF, but after glancing through the analytics it’s difficult to figure where the deficiencies are. Derius Davis has returned a punt for a TD and is obviously just as dangerous on kickoffs. Kicker Griffin Kell has been a bit dodgy as a place kicker with 4 missed field goals and a botched extra point, but he’s solid as a kickoff man and ranks 4th in the conference in touchbacks. Punter Jordy Sandy has been even better, with an average net of 39.1 yards and 20 of his 36 kicks downed inside the 20. The only thing I can figure is that they must struggle a bit on coverage, so hopefully we see that swing the field position battle in our favor on Saturday.

FINAL THOUGHTS/PREDICTION

TCU is an absolutely bang average team on paper. They both score and allow 27 points per game, they have both 6 giveaways and takeaways, and they rank somewhere between 4th and 7th in the conference in pretty much every statistical category you can imagine. The only area where they have the edge over us - again, on paper - is in the running game, which I feel is offset somewhat by the fact that we have the Big 12’s best defense and are stingy against the run.

Add to all that the fact that with Iowa State and Oklahoma looming, this is absolutely a must-win game for us. No disrespect to the Frogs, but we've responded well in similar situations already this year. I think we will again here.

West Virginia 31 - 17 TCU