The Mountaineers have already exceeded expectations for the season; is this a conference title contender, a mid-tier bowl-eligible squad, or still a bottom rung Big 12 team?
- Anthony: The top of the Big 12 looks tough to crack, but it’s hard to see WVU missing a bowl at this point. The schedule sets up beautifully: despite difficult games in Fort Worth and Norman, the Mountaineers avoid Texas & K-State, while getting to play all four of the new members. God help Neal Brown if he can’t find three more wins on this schedule to reach bowl eligibility.
- Austin: I believe West Virginia will be a mid-tier bowl-eligible squad. I will say I’m certainly surprised by the Mountaineers' progress thus far, but cracking the Big 12 elite is too tall a task for this West Virginia team.
- Drew: I think the Mountaineers are still a middle tier team in the Big 12, but their schedule is very favorable after the game on Saturday. They should beat Houston and Oklahoma State and they get BYU and Cincinnati at home which are both winnable games. 8-4 with a trip to a solid bowl game should be the goal for the Mountaineers going forward.
- Miles: I think West Virginia can fight their way into a bowl game after some unexpected victories in their first few games. They’re better than I thought they were going to be this year.
- Russ: West Virginia sits in the middle-lower tier of the Big 12 Conference in my view. I don’t think the Mountaineers are in as bad of shape as Oklahoma State, Houston, Cincinnati or Texas Tech, but nothing about this squad screams eight wins or more.
The three FBS opponents TCU has played this season were heavy pass-reliant offenses, averaging 40 pass attempts per game. West Virginia has averaged just 20 pass attempts in its three FBS contests, relying on CJ Donaldson and the QB run game to grind away games. What is your confidence in TCU’s ability to slow WVU on the ground?
- Anthony: Donaldson torched the Frogs last season, going over 100 yards with 2TDs, but WVU ran for under 4 yards per carry as a team. Under Defensive Coordinator Joe Gillespie, TCU has only allowed 200+ yards three times: Georgia in the National Championship loss, K-State in the Big 12 Championship loss, and Baylor in a nail-biter. I don’t see the ‘Eers having that kind of success on the ground and the Frogs defensive front six contains the WVU run game.
- Austin: I’m not the most confident, but I believe the Horned Frogs will play stout run defense. With the experience and talent in the secondary, I am concerned with the pass defense. TCU even leads the Power 5 with 16 sacks! But, as far as the run game goes, I have some faith in the linebackers and defensive line to control the run.
- Drew: If Johnny Hodges plays I think the Frogs will hold up against the West Virginia rushing attack. If Hodges is out, however, the backup linebackers for the Frogs can struggle at times to sort through traffic on outside runs or runs with misdirection involved. That being said, I think the coaching staff recognized this weakness and hopefully made some adjustments and I think the Frogs success in run defense continues.
- Miles: I think the run defense will be okay. I haven’t seen anything that really concerns me in the last few weeks in this regard. The biggest problem I foresee is that this is the best offensive line TCU has seen this year. It’ll be crucial for second and third level defenders to get involved in the run game and make plays.
- Russ: This will be the toughest test for the run defense, but I was encouraged with what I saw from TCU during the second half of its win against SMU. The Mustangs controlled the line of scrimmage early on, but the Horned Frogs generated more pressure later on. I think TCU can play less coverage downfield and focus more on stacking the box in this game.
Penn State’s Drew Allar torched WVU in Week 1 for 325 yards and 3 TDs, but then the Mountaineer defense shut down Pitt’s Phil Jurkovec to an obscene 81 yards passing and 3 INTs! Where on that spectrum do you see Chandler Morris and the TCU offense landing?
- Anthony: The TCU offensive tempo, quick pass game, and spread run game is built to find success against a strong defense like WVU’s. If the Frogs find success early, sustaining lengthy drives and forcing the defensive front to wear down from the “death by 1,000 cuts” approach, then the second half will see space for home run plays. If Morris survives whatever pressure is thrown at him and avoids turnovers, he’ll be plenty successful.
- Austin: I foresee Morris’ numbers looking more similar to Allar rather than Jurkovec. The Pitt quarterback has only amassed 583 passing yards on the season, he clearly isn’t an elite passer by any means. Allar on the other hand has amassed 903 yards and 8 touchdowns. Morris is good passer, who reads defenses well. Throwing for more than 300 yards won’t be difficult.
- Drew: The strength of the West Virginia defense has been the front seven this season. I think the TCU offense is very prepared to deal with pressure with quick throws being a big part of the game plan. I don’t expect Chandler to have any issues continuing his strong level of play if he can get the ball out quick.
- Miles: Jurkovec is trash. Allar is great. Morris won’t have too much trouble. I think TCU puts up 30+ once again this weekend.
- Russ: I don’t see Chandler struggling against the Mountaineers this weekend. The biggest test will be how the TCU offensive line stacks up against what’s typically a stout West Virginia defensive line. If the Horned Frogs can protect Chandler, I think he’ll continue to make accurate throws and play with the confidence we’ve seen in recent outings.
Offensive MVP vs. West Virginia
- Anthony: The Offensive Line. WVU already has 6.5 sacks on the season, including 2.5 from Kentucky transfer Tomiwa Durojaiye, and has forced five turnovers. If that defensive front is allowed to hassle Morris and cause havoc in the run game, TCU could be in for a long day of short drives. TCU allowed SMU to get two sacks and six tackles for loss last week, while continuing to give away yards on penalties. If the Horned Frog O-Line controls the day and plays clean, TCU can run away with a win on Saturday.
- Austin: Emani Bailey. The Mountaineers have only allowed 109.8 yards per game on the ground. Acknowledging West Virginia’s stout defense and the Horned Frogs’ recent ineptness in the red zone, I would like to Bailey have a big day. TCU needs to get the ground game going early in this one to control the game and force West Virginia to pass.
- Drew: I’ve got John Paul Richardson having a big day for TCU. JPR has been a reliable option at receiver for the Frogs at all three levels of the field and I think he sees a bunch of targets in the screen game as well as down the field on Saturday.
- Miles: Emani Bailey needs to have a big day on the ground if TCU is to win this one. TCU has to avoid going 3 and out against a run-heavy West Virginia team.
- Russ: Jaylon Robinson. The former Ole Miss and UCF wide receiver has slowly emerged as a top pass-catching target for the TCU offense. I thought it would be Savion Williams, but Robinson has frequently created separation and if he can improve on the dropped balls, he could be in line for a career or close-to-career season with the Horned Frogs this fall.
Defensive MVP vs. West Virginia
- Anthony: Damonic Williams. Coming off a season-best performance vs. SMU where he made four tackles with a sack. He’ll need to be a force again vs. a powerful WVU run game. If he’s able to disrupt what the Mountaineers want to do offensively, eat space and funnel the runs to the waiting arms of Shad Banks or Jamoi Hodge, it could be a successful day for the TCU defense.
- Austin: I’ll agree with Anthony. Damonic Williams it is. Defending the ground games starts with the trenches, where Williams plays. If Williams can control the line of scrimmage, the Horned Frogs’ chances of building a big lead drastically increase.
- Drew: Namdi Obiazor had a huge game against the Mustangs in coverage as well as in run defense and I expect the versatile linebacker to continue that strong play against West Virginia.
- Miles: The entire defensive line. Against this run-heavy scheme these guys may not show up much in the stat line, but they must eat up blocks and allow the linebackers and safeties to make plays. If West Virginia’s offensive line wins the line of scrimmage this could be a tricky game for the Frogs to win.
- Russ: Shad Banks. Johnny Hodges is week-to-week with a hand injury, which means the former Texas A&M transfer will be on the field quite a bit against a physical West Virginia squad. Stopping the run will be paramount and Banks will need to step up to help the TCU defense contain C.J. Donaldson and crew.
- Anthony: TCU wins 30-17. Promise I’m not copying Drew, but this is the score I gave out on the Frogs Up podcast and I’ll stick with it.
- Austin: TCU wins 38-28.
- Drew: TCU wins 30-17.
- Miles: TCU wins 35-14.
- Russ: TCU wins 27-14