Last week during my preview of the West Virginia/Baylor game I totally underestimated exactly how potent this Mountaineers offense was, I won’t make that mistake again this week when the #8 West Virginia Mountaineers head to Austin to square off against the #11 Texas Longhorns in Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Silly me, I said that the Mountaineers would score 45 points, what was I thinking they put up a cool 70 points versus Baylor in their first taste of Big 12 action. I got the shootout part right just not the fact of how much of a shootout it was going to be, this time I’ll try better and they better not disappoint me.
Entering the game West Virginia ranks first in the FBS in passing yards per game (441.5), 71st in rushing yards per game (157), third in points scored per game (53) and 96th in points allowed per game (32.5) while Texas ranks 40th in passing yards per game (267.8), 19th in rushing yards per game (228), ninth in points scored per game (47.3) and 41st in points allowed per game (21).
The Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12) explosive offensive attack begins with senior signal caller (and my early front-runner for the Heisman Trophy) Geno Smith. So far in 2012 Smith is having an out-of-this-world season, leading the nation in both completion percentage (83.4%) and touchdown passes (20), is second in passing yards (1,728 and has played one game less than the leader) and has yet to throw a single interception. Smith has also rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Smith will look to hook up with his two favorite targets Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin early and often. This season Bailey has hauled in 41 receptions for 635 yards and 10 touchdowns (1st in FBS) while Austin has 48 receptions for 560 yards and seven touchdowns (tied for 2nd in FBS).
The Longhorns (4-0, 1-0 in SEC) defense will definitely have their hands full attempting to contain Smith and the Mountaineers offense so it will up to sophomore QB David Ash and the Texas offense to do their part in making this game competitive. So far this season Ash has passed for 1,007 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception while completing 85 of his 109 attempts (78%, 3rd in FBS). Ash will look to get the ball to Jaxon Shipley (17 receptions for 192 yards and 4 TD) and Mike Davis (16 receptions for 243 yards and 2 TD) down field to create plays and open up space for the running game which is led by Joe Bergeron (52 carries for 255 yards and 5 TD) and Malcolm Brown (40 carries for 245 yards and 3 TD).
If Texas can get the running game going on control the time of possession battle then they have a shot, but that’s just a shot. The way that Smith and this West Virginia offense scores so quickly and effortlessly it doesn’t seem like that will make much of a difference. This one will be another Big 12 shootout and I think the Mountaineers will be just too much to handle, winning it 56-45.