Date: September 23rd, 2023
Kickoff: 3:30PM EST
Where: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium - Morgantown, WV
Streaming: Only available on Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Radio Affiliates) | 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.
Spread: West Virginia +6
ML: WVU +195
Idk if I like any of this. Maybe the under?
Scattered showers - high 65/55 low - Wind 10 mph
Any wind and rain would be more than welcome. Let's make it f'in ugly.
Where are they from: Lubbock, TX. It's all West Texas.
All-time Series: 6-6. We ripped off 5, now they've ripped off 4. They were the better team for maybe 2. We're past due.
The Last Time We Played: 10/22/2022, West Virginia 10-48 Tech. Not much needs to be said here. By far our worst performance of the season.
Head coach: Joey Maguire (2nd season, 9-7). Maguire is dealing with his first real bit of adversity with this 1-2 start following a near universally approved debut campaign.
2023 record: 1-2. Don't let it fool you, gang. The Red Raiders are about two weird sequences from being 3-0.
WOMEN LIE, MEN LIE, NUMBERS DON’T
5.3/2 - Tackles for loss and sacks per game for Texas Tech this year, down from 7 and 2.4 last year, respectively.
44%/84% - Third down and red zone conversion percentages allowed by Tech this year, up from 38% and 74%, respectively. Margins, gang. Tech was 3-1 in one score games last year, but they're just 0-2 so far this year.
90% - Tech linebackers Jesiah Pierre and Ben Robert's have been targeted 20 times so far this year. Opponents have completed 18 of those throws. We need to put these guys in run-pass conflict as much as possible on Saturday. Misdirection, play action, RPO, etc.
5.1% - Percentage of turnover worthy plays for Tyler Shough so far this year. That's the 8th highest number nationally among P5 quarterbacks with at least 50 dropbacks and more than double the 2.3% he posted last year.
5 - Tech recievers with at least 10 targets, led by preseason All-Conference selection Jerand Bradley with 30. A slightly bigger challenge than Philly Jurk and the Funky Bunch.
7.1 - Yards per carry for Tahj Brooks on 38 carries this year. Dude probably deserves more touches based on how good he is.
12 - Team-leading targets for tight end Kole Taylor so far this year. See the linebacker stats above - possible KT masterclass incoming?
12.9% - Explosive play rate for the Mountaineer offense through 3 games this year. It didn't necessarily feel like we were even trying to generate them against Pitt, but this feels like an unsustainably low number for an offense with any sort of aspirations.
WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL - DICTATE PACE
Mountaineers to Watch: QB8 Nicco Marchiol, RB4 CJ Donaldson, RB0 Jaylen Anderson, TE87 Kole Taylor
Red Raiders to Watch: DE6 Myles Cole, CB24 Malik Dunlap, S18 Tyler Owens, S1 Dadrian Taylor-Demerson
We've run the ball on 66% of our snaps this year, and I see no reason for that to change this weekend with Nicco in line for his first start. The Tech defensive line and secondary have been solid, but they've allowed 4.1ypc on 92 early down carries against two weak opponents and one who would rather throw. Combine that with the TFL regression and I think it bodes well for our chances of falling forward and keeping things on schedule. Look for us to establish the RPO game and do some things to try to exploit the aforementioned weaknesses at the second level. Lean into that TE lead stuff we showed last week, then run counters and play action off of it. Put those linebackers in conflict and make them show that they can defend our best players in space. My bet is that our guys win those battles more often than not, and if they do then we should be able to move the ball and chew up clock.
WHEN THEY HAVE THE BALL - DISRUPT THEIR RHYTHM
Red Raiders to Watch: QB12 Tyler Shough, RB28 Tahj Brooks, WR9 Jerand Bradley, WR14 Xavier White, TE80 Mason Tharp
West Virginia Players to Watch: DE91 Sean Martin, LB1 Lee Kpogba, LB19 Tray Lathan, S2 Aubrey Burks
Tech's offense is at it's best when it's in rhythm and snapping the ball every 20 seconds. In my mind that makes disrupting that tempo the priority this weekend, and there are a few ways that we can go about doing that. The first is detailed above and seems feasible enough - basically, use our offense to keep them on the sideline as much as possible.
The second is to win on early downs. Stacking them up on first and second will make them think about it a bit more on third, and this one seems realistic, as well. CFB-graphs has our defense ranked 1st nationally in early down EPA while Tech's offense ranks 111th, and in general our front 7 has been good at both stopping the run and rushing the passer.
The final one - pressing up on their receivers to make them work to get into their routes - presents the biggest challenge. Getting mitts and rerouting receivers is just something that we've struggled with throughout the Neal Brown era, especially over the last two years and especially against Tech. They start ripping off those 7-8 yard gains and our guys lose all sight of down and distance. We can't let that happen with any regularity this weekend. 54% of their passes have targeted receivers within 10 yards of the line so far this year and only 18% have gone further than 20. We need to play those odds and get up on these guys this weekend. Making them take an extra half-second in the release might be the difference between a sack and a big play.
X-FACTOR - WHO WINS IN THE RED ZONE?
IF we're able to successfully dictate the pace of the game and control the clock offensively, it will obviously reduce the number of possessions for both teams, which then places a premium on what you do with those possessions. Tech has regressed a bit from the top 10 red zone unit they were a year ago - will that mean we're able to stuff it in for 6 points instead of 3 more often than not?
7 out of 10. This is a good team that presents matchup challenges that profile much closer to Penn State than either of the Pittsburgh schools.
I think the first quarter will tell us a lot in this one, gang. If we're able to establish the run and control the clock, I think it could be a long day for the Red Raiders. If they're able to come out and gas us with the tempo passing stuff, it'll probably be a long day for the OGnB.
Overall, it'll come down to which mismatch is most exposed. Tech has the better quarterback and better skill guys outside on both sides of the ball, while I think we have the advantage up front on both sides. Call me biased, but if I had to choose one I'd rather win the trenches. I think we'll be able to lean on them with the running game and limit possessions, and as long as we can avoid big plays and turnovers I think that puts us in a great position to win. Let's get something rolling here.