Big 12 Football: Evaluating The Newcomers
Before the season began, WVU was getting a lot of respect and even picked by many to compete with the Oklahoma Sooners for the Big 12 championship. the Mountaineers’ offense looked unstoppable and senior quarterback Geno Smith passed his way into the Heisman discussion with a ridiculous stat line. The team was on top of the world after their victory against the Texas Longhorns in Austin, but ran into a wall as they traveled to the state of Texas to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock. West Virginia has another big game with Big 12 title implications this Saturday against the Kansas State Wildcats and while K-State just might have the kryptonite to holding Smith and the offense with clock control, the Mountaineers should come out fierce and ready.
Offensively, this team should be ok, but they hadn’t played a respectable defense until last Saturday. Smith struggled against the pressure from the TTU defense and couldn’t get the ball downfield. The Red Raiders took away the threat of big plays through the air and held Smith to just one touchdown pass. However, the secret to slowing down the offensive attack isn’t as simple as putting pressure on Smith. He is very effective even when he is on the move. There were also five drops from Mountaineer receivers last week, so it didn’t fall squarely on one person, but how this offense will perform against good defenses is still a question moving forward.
Defense has been, and will continue to be an issue for WVU moving forward. The abysmal defense will most likely keep the Mountaineers from winning the Big 12 crown, unless it can step up. Even after the 5-0 start, most writers and experts said at some point the defense will have to show up. They are ranked 117th in total defense, allowing over six yards a play. A defense has to able to create turnovers, something this defense has done ok with as they rank sixth in the Big 12, but they will need to do better to survive the round-robin bout.
Despite an off-season, and now mid-season filled with turmoil, the Frogs have managed their way to a 5-1 record. Once it was clear quarterback Casey Pachall would be absent from the team the rest of the season, many saw this team as tittering on the edge of collapse. The possibility is still there because they still have to play five teams from the Big 12 that are all currently ranked. The remainder of their schedule features road trips to Austin, Morgantown and Stillwater. How can this team play on the road with redshirt freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin will be what this team rises or falls with.
Boykin was thrown into an unexpected situation after Pachall left the team to enter a drug and alcohol treatment facility and actually performed well. The key for this offense moving forward is to have the same amount of balance they had against the Baylor Bears. They put up 49 points with 242 yards on the ground and 266 yards through the air. Granted the Bears’ defense isn’t exactly a good unit, but TCU came together and scored 21 straight points getting the job done.
With so many starters missing from the roster, the Horned Frogs have dug into their youth. TCU has played 27 true and redshirt freshman this season, which is next to the LSU Tigers and North Carolina Tarheels who have played 28. The team has risen to the occasion with so much off-field non-sense to once again play some very solid defense. The defensive unit has grabbed 14 interceptions, which leads the nation and ranks second in total defense in the Big 12.
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