Friday, November 2, 2012

West Virginia Preview

Real, True West Virginians

Warning:  I'm not going to sit here and blow smoke up your asses about how well I think we match up with West Virginia and I'm not going to try and put a positive spin on the events that will occur Saturday.  If that's what you're looking for, I'd go elsewhere.  I've heard plenty of people saying how WVU is really similar to Baylor and how we can beat them on the road just like we beat Baylor, but let me give you a few examples of how they are NOT Baylor...

Geno Smith > Nick Florence:  Quite frankly, Nick Florence isn't better than 7 out of the 10 current Big 12 starting QB's.  His stats indicate otherwise, but that's because all they do is throw and he has NFL caliber receivers.  We put just enough pressure on him to cause him to panic and make mistakes all game long.  Another dimension that Geno Smith has is the ability to run if the pocket breaks down.  Florence didn't have that.  Smith doesn't run a lot, but that doesn't mean he's not capable.  He also make far better decisions with the football than Nick Florence did.  The guy didn't throw an interception through the first 4 or 5 games this year, and it's not because he was just throwing underneath routes.  His 26-2 TD:INT ratio is downright frightening.  When he has time, he's lethal.

WVU WR's > Baylor WR's:  Terrence Williams for Baylor is the class of the Big 12 at WR, but I think the others (Reese, Norwood, Sampson, etc.) are just products of the system that Baylor is running.  They've got inflated stats much like Florence does from the QB position.  Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, although not as big as the Baylor WR's, have the ability to hit a homerun whenever they touch it and from anywhere on the field.  They're already both around 800 yards with 23 TD's combined, not to mention Andrew Buie is a viable threat to catch the ball out of the back field, amassing 231 yards through the air this year as well.  On a positive note, I don't think the fade route to smaller receivers like this will be able to hurt us like it did in the Tech game.

Travel to Morgantown is a lot harder than bus trip to Waco:  The team is staying in Pittsburgh and driving over the morning of the game.  Stuff like that always scares me, because that's got to take some sort of toll on these players.  Or maybe the 2 hour bus ride will give them time to get their heads right and focus.  Either way, it's going to be a lot different in Morgantown than it is in Waco for many reasons, some of which are addressed later.

This isn't the same TCU team that played vs. Baylor:  Boykin is playing but I fully expect him to be hobbled.  Maponga is supposed to play a handful of plays, but I don't expect anything from him.  Blaize Foltz is coming of an injury but expected to play.  Brandon Carter...who the Hell knows what's going on with Brandon Carter, but I expect him to play and hopefully perform at the level he was earlier in the year.  Am I missing anyone?  I'm sure I am, because we haven't gotten healthy this year, just more injured.  Not to mention OSU laid out a pretty good blueprint on how to stop TCU's Trevone Boykin offense when he stays in the pocket (spoiler alert:  it's putting your hands up in the passing lanes).  If Boykin stays in the pocket and tries to throw from there all game, we are screwed.  If our OC duo can figure out a way to roll him out of the pocket on some throws and maybe even call a designed run for Boykin that isn't a QB draw, we might have some success.  That all hinges on the health of Trevone Boykin's knee though, because if he can't move out of the pocket then, well, we screwed.

WVU Crowd >>>>>> Baylor Crowd:  Instead of boring you with more rambling about how scared I am, I'll just compare the two fan bases via video.

West Virginia students/fans on gameday...

Baylor fans...

Sorry, it just never gets old.  You get the point though.  WVU fans are like deeper backwoodsier LSU fans, except replace bourbon and coke with moonshine and meth.  They're just absolutely bat shit crazy.  Our only hope is that they are all still coming down from their tweaker highs on Saturday afternoon and don't make it into the stadium.  Winning at WVU will be a little taller of a task than beating a bunch of baptists who tarp their endzone.  

So you get my drift now.  It's not going to be anything like trying to beat Baylor.  There are too many things that are wayyyyy different in regards to those two matchups for TCU.  It's going to be a much, much different football game.

Having said that...

WVU might suck worse defensively than Baylor and if Boykin can play a clean game we can most certainly win Saturday afternoon.  The weather won't be as sloppy as it could've been so there's no reason for turnovers.  It won't even be windy so passes shouldn't look like ducks.  There will be running lanes for Catalon (and Tucker if he's right) and Boykin.  Receivers will be open.  We just have to find creative ways to get the ball to them that don't involved our generously listed 6'2 QB with a sidearm throwing motion passing over linemen.  We need Devonte Fields to go off more than he has all year, and for that to happen somebody on the other side (Koontz, McFarland, Maponga???) has to take some of the attention away from him.  They're not going to kill us on the ground the way OSU did and wear us out, so we need to pin our ears back and go get Geno Smith.  This team is finesse, not physical, so there's no reason we should be gassed in the 4th quarter like we were last week.  Take the same offensive game plan we had against Baylor, albeit with a few more wrinkles, and control the clock.  Don't let Geno and co. get ahead of us and keep them in 2nd and 3rd and longs like we did Baylor and we've got a shot.  It won't be near as easy, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.  This defense can be scored on at will, but not if we stick with the vanilla offense that we showed last week when we had the lead against OSU.  To win this game it's going to take the best coaching effort we've seen from Patterson and his staff since the Boise game last year.  Fortunately for us, GP has a knack for calling great games when his back is against the wall.  Did anyone expect us to win in Boise last year?  Did anyone think we'd slow the potent Baylor offense this year?  No to both of those.  Let's hope he can pull one more rabbit out of his hat this weekend and have a hopefully drunk Dana Holgerson dumbfounded by halftime and we can pull this victory out.  

The pick:  TCU 38 - WVU 35.  Why the Hell not?  If I keep picking us to pull the upset, once we finally do down the stretch this year it's going to feel a lot better than having picked the opposition.  Let's go beat the 2nd most overrated team in the Big 12 on Saturday and then set our sights on Collin Klein, the QB who had never kissed a girl until marriage among other creepy things.

TCU @ West Virginia - Predictions

The big story on the East Coast has been Sandy, and some of that weather worked it's way down to West Virginia as well. As SnK already posted, the weather may impact tomorrow's game, making for cold, wet, and sloppy conditions. Also noted, the last time we played in severe weather, we picked off five passes. Geno Smith, once and former Heisman Contender, is no Garrett Gilbert, but he's come back to earth after destroying the Baylor "defense" a few weeks back.

I'm in the camp that bad weather benefits TCU even more with Boykin behind center, as his ability to make plays in the running game make the Frog's ground attack that much more dangerous - this is assuming he's at least 75% health-wise by kick off. Also, with Matthew Tucker back and hopefully getting stronger by the day, and BJ Catalon finding his groove and his confidence, I think GP and co will look to pound a Mountaineer defense that gives up over 130 yards per game, and will cross the 200 yard threshold as a team, including at least one TB2 long TD scramble.

The passing game, which kind of disappeared in Stillwater, is going to need to make plays. The WVU defense isn't exactly good, so there are plays to be made. They give up over 360 yards per game in the air - some of which can be attributed to the fact that West Virginia scores in bunches and teams are airing it out to try and keep up - but Boykin is going to have to be more accurate than he was against Okie State and make better and quicker reads. Boyce, Brown, Dawson, and Carter (if he plays) need the ball in their hands with the opportunity to make runs after the catch. Our strongest and deepest position on the team is WR; if they aren't involved we aren't winning this ball game. I think Boykin will be better, weather permitting, but with the focus on the run, I'm guessing he's something like 15/22 for 170 yards and a score.

Special teams has been such a strength, that seeing Jaden Oberkrom miss a couple of makable kicks last week was pretty surreal. The freshman with the cannon leg will bounce back tomorrow, and even in poor conditions he's going to have at least one big FG late that is a momentum changer. Field position is going to be huge, and Ethan Perry needs to unleash his own powerful leg and pin the WVU offense deep when given the opportunity. On the flip side, Skye Dawson has looked pretty solid the last couple of games, despite mishandling a few balls (shocking) he's made good reads and cuts and had some nice returns. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Boyce, who has been frustrated with his lack of opportunities the last couple games, breaks out a kick return TD in the first half.

Defense, and the ability for our games to stay fresh for four quarters will be the difference tomorrow, no question. The guys on that side of the field were visibly gassed in the second half against an up-tempo Cowboys team, and they will see the same pace of play tomorrow afternoon. Decimated by on field injuries and off-field issues, the defense doesn't have the depth right now, and so many walk ons and true freshmen are being called upon, it's a lot to ask to hold teams under 30. If the offense can score, which they should be able to, I do believe the Frogs can play well enough to be in a position to win late. Forcing turnovers, keeping Smith in the pocket, and knocking him to the ground, will be the key. With Maponga back, though likely limited, Fields should get more opportunities to wreak havoc on the outside, and I think he can get to Geno and plant him once or twice. Maponga's leadership was also sorely missed, and will be a difference maker in that department.

I've been going back and forth on how to call this game - it's a tough road test, far from home, in nasty conditions, coming off two straight losses in two very physical games. This team is young, with inexperienced players all over the (lack of) depth chart, and possibly looking ahead to the match up with a top 3 team a week from now. This all spells a recipe for disaster. BUT, I'm going the other direction and sticking with GMFP. The national pressure is off, and both of these teams, somewhat over-hyped in the preseason, have become the forgotten members of their new conference. This will be a battle from start to finish, but I'm calling for the upset and a TCU win, 35-34, with an Oberkrom kick to win it.

Do you still believe? Let's hear it in the comments: final score, Boykin rush yards, and couches burned. Purple tinted glasses on, let's Go Frogs!

Morning Dump: 11/02

Two beat writers, two teams, TCU vs. WVU - Star-Telegram
Boykin learning the hard way - SBNation
WVU-TCU reminds me of Jim Wacker - WV Metro News
WVU QB Gino Smith adjusting attitude after losses - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Presenting America's Best Dressed Coach - SBNation

Notes on a Scorecard -

TCU goes for second upset against Texas - Star-Telegram