As previewed the past couple days here at Frogs O’ War, TCU will hope to begin Big 12 play in Amon G. Carter Stadium with a 4-0 record after a few non-conference stints and a bout against newcomer Houston begin its season.
With Colorado, Nicholls State, SMU and Houston on the early-season schedule, 4-0 should be the expectation, and with West Virginia coming up to Amon G. Carter Stadium to begin conference play, 5-0 shouldn’t be a lofty goal.
West Virginia is projected to finish last in the Big 12 after a 5-7 season last year. The Mountaineers finished 3-6 in the Big 12. Not much went right.
Head coach Neal Brown is now in his fifth year in Morgantown, where he’s gone 22-25 overall.
Conference realignment has taken the conference, and the college football landscape, by storm, but for now West Virginia is still a part of the Big 12, though they may feel slightly ignored.
Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC has sucked up a bulk of the national attention oxygen in the Big 12 room, and the additions of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF took up most of the rest of it.
What’s left has gone to Big 12 expansion rumors, how much fun Kansas might be, Kansas State winning the conference and, of course, the Frogs playing for the national title.
Out of the 14 teams in the conference going into 2023, only two didn’t go to bowl games last year. Iowa State was one – but still found itself in the spotlight with the play of the former Cyclones’ and San Francisco 49ers’ Brock Purdy – the other was West Virginia.
So, it’s understandable why there’s little fanfare so far over the four-year run under head coach Brown. The program hasn’t been a player in the Big 12 race and there hasn’t been any sort of splash yet.
No, no one is pulling off another TCU-like run from out of nowhere, besides maybe TCU – but the Horned Frogs were 5-7 in 2021, just like the Mountaineers were in 2022. If you’re looking for the possible sleeper that NO ONE is talking about, here you go.
The transfer portal provided a few terrific hole fillers to an already solid base, the overall team depth just got a lot better, and …
The Mountaineers’ offensive line has the potential to be among the best in the Big 12. Center Zach Frazier, who’s probably West Virginia’s best player, is an NFL-caliber center and tackles Wyatt Milum and Doug Nester will be the all-conference mix. Both starting guards are back, too.
The line is still relatively young, but it’s experienced enough to dominate. Which is why…
The running game should be a terror, even with top runner Tony Mathis taking off for now Big 12 rival, Houston. The other three leading running backs return for a ground game that averaged 4.6 yards per carry and hit the 200-yard mark five times – by the way, those were the five wins.
Mathis is really good, but the 6-2, 239-pound CJ Donaldson - who came to the program as a big receiver - is something special.
He cranked out four 100-yard games in his first seven appearances before getting knocked out for the year with a leg injury. Luckily for them, he’s not alone with several other options in the rotation along with…
QB Garrett Greene, who’s about to get his shot. I’ve watched his film, and he’s a baller. He sat behind JT Daniels, who moved on to Rice, before taking over late in the season. He wasn’t accurate enough, hitting just 55% of his throws, but he can move and can spread the ball around.
A dime here and a dime there pic.twitter.com/Czw96w3zel— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) August 8, 2023
However, he’ll have to fight off redshirt freshman Nicco Marchiol, who’s a more talented overall prospect and is just missing time and seasoning.
The Mountaineers’ top four receivers are gone, but the transfer portal – and the NFL – taketh away, and the transfer portal giveth. In comes big veteran Devin Carter from NC State, and the dangerous Ja’Shun Poke from Kent State, and JUCO transfers and other new options. Now, the offense has to start taking more shots. Overall, the corps should be fine.
Ultimately, the offense will get the job done. The line will take care of most of the heavy lifting, and the skill parts will be good enough to win with. Now, the defense has to do its part after having a hard time against anyone who could throw, was mediocre on third downs and couldn’t generate a takeaway.
The transfers are coming in, but they’re mostly for depth… except CB Montre Miller from Kent State. He, already, might be the team’s best defensive back, if it’s not big-tackling safety Marcis Floyd or Aubrey Banks. But, the secondary needs help from…
The defensive line. It loses star Dante Stills and tackle Jordan Jefferson, but Sean Martin returns as one of the Big 12’s most disruptive ends. Former Georgia Tech transfer Mike Lockhart will be a factor in place of Jefferson, and there’s overall good bulk, but this group will be tested right away.
Lee Kpogba started out at Syracuse, then went JUCO, before stepping into the Mountaineer linebacking corps and hitting everything in sight – he led the team with 92 tackles. Kpogba is the man in the middle, but overall, this group might be more of a question mark than the line.
Last season, TCU beat West Virginia 41-31 in Morgantown, in a game in which the Frogs didn’t trail once.
West Virginia couldn’t stop Max Duggan and the pass, and its 31 points from JT Daniels’ offense was far from enough.
This year, in Fort Worth, Garrett Greene will attempt to shock the Frogs back to 2021, but with a limited receiving corps and a rookie offense, Greene won’t have a chance.
His and his receivers inexperience is evident, and Chandler Morris throws all over this Mountaineer defense, just as Duggan did a year earlier, pushing the Frogs to 4-0 as they climb AP Rankings.
TCU 38, West Virginia 17