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PREVIEW: West Virginia heads back to Texas for a night game with TCU

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Neal Brown promised changes during the bye week - will they be enough to right the ship against the TCU?

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NCAA Football: West Virginia at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

OPENING THOUGHTS

I apologize for what’s about to be an extremely pessimistic paragraph here, but.. running it back with Doege at quarterback after the six games we just sat through has me wanting to bang my head against a wall. I just don’t get it. We very much are what we are with Doege at quarterback for, well, going on three years now, and I have a hard time believing that much, if anything, can really change for us offensively with him at quarterback. I’m sure he’ll continue to look good enough and put up big enough numbers at times that you can make a good faith argument that, well actually we’re really close to something, but I’m also sure that he’ll continue to be on the wrong side of at least a few of those handful of plays that swing every close game. I would be very happy to eat these words, but after 20 games I just think that we know what Doege is and he ain’t it.

As for my more general thoughts, the bye week couldn’t’ve come at a better time for us, and as far as opponents go we could do worse than TCU. Simply put, this is must-win game if we want to go bowling this year.

WHEN/WHERE

Date: October 23rd, 2021

Kickoff: 7:30PM ET

Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium - Fort Worth, TX

Tickets: General Public

WATCH/LISTEN

Channel: ESPNU

Online Streaming: ESPN app with a valid cable OR ESPN subscription

Cord Cutters: Mountaineer fans can catch all the action on fuboTV. fuboTV is an over-the-top streaming service that carries all the major networks, including CBS, NBC, FOX, and now....the ESPN Disney networks! It also carries ABC, CBS Sports Network, FS1, SEC Network, and more. fuboTV comes with a cloud DVR feature, so you can record the game and watch it later.

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Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Radio Affiliates) | SiriusXM Channel 200 | WVU Gameday App (Apple | Android)

Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)

Reminder: It is against site policy to post links to illegal streams in the comments.

DEGENERATES UNITE

Spread: WVU +4.5

Over/Under: 57

57 feels a bit high based on the way most of our games have gone this year. If you're a rambling gambling man (or woman), I'd say the safest bet would to hit the under and TCU to cover, as most of the projections I've seen have them winning by multiple scores.

WEATHER FORECAST

Clear - 86/68 - 46% humidity - Wind 10mph

The weather looks like it will continue to cooperate with us this year. As of Wednesday the forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with the temperature topping out in the high 70s around kickoff and continuing to cool off throughout the evening.

THE ENEMY

Where are they from? Fort Worth, TX, just West of Dallas.

All-time series record: 6-4. The good guys hold a slim advantage on the back of a current three-game winning streak. The last handful of games haven't been as close as the first several.

Last game: Last year’s 24-6 win in Morgantown was arguably our best performance of the season.

Head coach: Gary Patterson (21st season, 181-77). Patterson is the second-longest tenured coach in America, but his results have slipped over the last half-decade or so.

2021 record: 3-3. The Frogs have lost to the three best teams on their schedule and beaten the three worst teams, leaving them somewhat disappointing .500 through 6 games. An optimist might say that the majority of their toughest games are behind them, and that a run to 8 wins is possible if things fall right.

NUMBERS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

4.8 and 5.2 - Yards after contact from TCU running backs Zach Evans and Kendre Miller so far this year, both of which are more than Leddie Brown is averaging overall. Need to take our big boy gang tackling pants to Texas with us this weekend, gang.

7.2 - Yards per scramble on 15 attempts for Max Duggan this year, with 6 of those going for first downs. It's a recipe for disaster if we let him run wild on us on Saturday.

40% - 17 of Duggan's 43 designed runs (excluding the aforementioned scrambles) have attacked the left edge this year. I don't know what to make of this exactly but it felt disproportionate and I wanted to mention.

57% - The rate at which TCU runs the ball even when tied or losing. This is a team that's committed to the run, which means we're going to have to stop it to stop them. Hopefully a strength on strength battle that we can win.

11.6% - TCU's havoc rate this year. The Frogs have been good at creating havoc defensively for most of the Patterson era but this is a bad number. It'll be devastating if we can't move it on these guys.

KEYS TO THE GAME

STOP THE RUN

If it wasn't clear from the numbers above, the big key defensively this weekend is going to be slowing down TCU's running game. The Frogs have three dudes in Duggan, Evans, and Miller who average at least 8 carries per game, and as a team they rank 15th nationally in yards per game (227.5) and 9th in yards per carry (5.6). Individually Evans and Miller are both right there with Kennedy Brooks, Breece Hall, and Bijan Robinson as the most talented guys we'll see this year, with both ranking in the Top 25 nationally in both overall run grade (90.2 and 84.8, respectively) and yards after contact (see above) per PFF. Their effectiveness on the ground also sets up their play action passing game, and though they don't use it as much as you'd expect (their 30.4% PA rate is pretty average) that's generally when Duggan takes his shots down the field (his 15.5 ADOT on play action passes ranks 5th in P5), which is exactly what Baylor wrecked us with a few weeks back. TL/DR - we have our work cut out for us this weekend, and if we can't stop the run it's probably going to be another long one.

CONTAIN DUGGAN ON 3RD DOWN AND GET OFF THE FIELD

The single biggest contributing factor in TCU's Big 12-leading 55% 3rd down conversion rate is their success on early downs, with their running game generally keeping them on schedule and facing manageable situations (58% of their 3rd down opportunities have been 3rd and 6 or less). However, right there behind that is the fact that Max Duggan is a good scrambler, and like most good scramblers he's at his most devastating on 3rd downs. I already noted Duggan's impressive numbers above, and overall he's averaging 6.6 ypc on 16 third down carries this year with 9 of them going for first downs. If we're able to knock them off schedule and back them up on third down, it's imperative that we finish the series and get off the field. We can't let Duggan break contain and extend drives.

PLAY WITH TEMPO

After the Baylor game Neal Brown mentioned that there would be changes offensively. Everything was on the table, he said. This sounded good to me, because after struggling to hit 20 points in our five contests against FBS opponents it seemed clear that much of what we were trying to do wasn't working.

Since then, however, Real Deal Neal has repeatedly defended his offensive scheme and said that we shouldn't expect any night and day differences, and with Monday's depth chart confirming that Jarret Doege is still QB1 that leaves the way we're applying the scheme as the only thing that could possibly be different. That's why playing with more tempo is the key for me - because something has to change and it's literally all that's left. I'm not saying we need to go no huddle and play like our hair's on fire because with our communication issues it would probably do more harm than good, but it would be cool if we played offense like we were more excited about scoring points than managing risk.

HOW AFRAID SHOULD WE BE?

7 out of 10. This is one of the more winnable games left on our schedule, but TCU's offense has been pretty good and ours hasn't (at least consistently). If we can hold them under 30 then I like our chances, but unfortunately they've hit 30 in all but one game this year and we've only done it like three times since 2019.

PREDICTION

We're a cornered animal, gang. I expect us to come out and fight like it Saturday night, because anything less than that is simply unacceptable for a 2-4 team that was publicly voicing its conference title aspirations as recently as three weeks ago. I'm not sure what to expect from us offensively, but I think the defense is going to come out with some fire and re-establish the standard that was set for most of the first half of the year. There's no reason for us to not be competitive, and at some point one of these close ones has to swing our way.

West Virginia 27-24 TCU