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Quick Look: West Virginia

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The Frogs and Mountaineers face off on Saturday in front of a GameDay crowd.

NCAA Football: Delaware State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

We sure did have a lot of fun during the bye week, didn’t we? There’s nothing like riling up another fan base, and Mountaineer fans responded to "Western Virginia" about as well as we could have hoped. Now that it’s game week, we’ll go back to using West Virginia on the site (Twitter on the other hand.....).

The TCU-West Virginia game has been one of my favorites to watch since the Frogs joined the Big 12. Maybe it’s the crazy, late-game heroics that took place in the first three matchups, including Josh Boyce’s 2-point conversion catch in 2012, or Jaden Oberkrom’s 37-yard, game-winning field goal in 2014.

Or maybe it’s the camaraderie the two fan bases have, having joined the Big 12 together.

Perhaps it’s even the simple fact that these two programs respect each other enough to high five on the sidelines after a good play.

Either way, I enjoy going back and watching these games because they’re just fun. Except for last year.

Last year, the Frogs went to Morgantown and had it handed to them. Costly turnovers early put TCU in a hole they were never able to climb out of, and when the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Mountaineers celebrated a 34-10 thumping.

2017 is proving itself to be a vastly different year, but you can bet that Patterson and the Frogs remember last year’s loss. This 2017 West Virginia team looks a lot different than its 2016 iteration as well, so let’s dive in.

West Virginia’s Record

3- (last week, BYE). The Mountaineers opened their season with a difficult matchup against Virginia Tech, and they dropped it to the Hokies 31-24. That loss dropped the Mountaineers out of the top 25, and was an early talking point for the conference vs. conference pundits about the Big 12’s status.

Since then, West Virginia has rattled off three wins, totaling 171 points in that time span, with an average margin of victory of 33.6. Yes, the wins come against East Carolina, Delaware State, and Kansas, but this is an offense that seems to have found itself over the past three weeks.

Key Players

Quarterback Will Grier was a massive pickup for the Mountaineers in the offseason, after the embattled QB transferred in from Florida. Through four games, Grier is completing just over 65% of his passes, and he’s thrown for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, to just three interceptions.

Grier’s go-to target is junior David Sills V. Sills already has seven receiving touchdowns this season, with multiple touchdowns in three of West Virginia’s four games. Sills is far from West Virginia’s only receiving threat though, and with guys like Gary Jennings, Ka’raun White, and Marcus Sims, the Mountaineers

West Virginia’s passing game is supplemented with an incredible running game, led by Justin Crawford. Crawford has 458 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 61 carries this season (if those numbers sound familiar, it’s because Darius Anderson’s line is almost identical: 64 carries, 434 yards, 6 TDs). Crawford is carrying the ball at a 7.1 ypc clip, and he’s probably the best running back TCU’s stout rush defense (13th in the nation) will have seen to date.

Biggest Unit Matchup

TCU’s Offensive Line vs. West Virginia’s front 7. I know I just talked about WVU’s offense a lot up there, and for good reason, but the biggest matchup this weekend is going to be, ultimately, the Frogs’ running game against WVU’s defense. The Mountaineers are giving up 226.6 rushing yards per game, 114th in the nation, and teams are getting 5.29 yards per carry. That’s worse than Kansas, and puts WVU between Kent State and Toledo. Speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks ran for 367 yards against the Mountaineers two weeks ago.

TCU’s rushing offense is 25th best in the country, averaging 5.19 yards per carry, and it all starts on the offensive line. With Patrick Morris out, the Frogs will have to shuffle things along the line, and this will be their first test to see if they can manage Morris’ absence over the next month.

Early Odds

TCU opened as 12.5-point favorites over West Virginia, which, honestly, scares me. West Virginia’s offense is solid, and they’ve had two weeks to get ready, just like the Frogs. The last two seasons of TCU-WVU have been blowouts, but this game has the making of a close one.