West Virginia Mountaineers (6-3 SU, 6-3 ATS) vs. Texas Longhorns (4-5 SU, 5-4 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
TV: Fox Sports 1
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WVU -3.5/TEX +3.5
Over/Under Total: 52
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On Saturday in an important Big 12 conference match-up, the West Virginia Mountaineers come into Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns. The 23rd ranked Mountaineers, at 6-3, are favored, but face a tough road test coming off a deflating 31-30 home loss to TCU, where a last-second field goal capped off a 4th quarter comeback win. Texas is coming off a 34-13 road win against Texas Tech on Saturday and look to close strongly in what has been a tough 2014 season.
At 4-5, Texas could find themselves home during bowl season. They are underdogs in this game and will be so against Oklahoma State and TCU to close out the season. It was understood that this would be a rebuilding season, an effort to turn around a once-prestigious program that had fallen into mediocrity in recent seasons. But the falloff wasnt supposed to be this steep. Their only wins are against the lackluster quartet of North Texas, Kansas, Iowa State, and Texas Tech–teams with a combined W-L record of 9-24. Theyve lost to every good team they have faced this season and if that pattern holds true, they will lose again on Saturday. West Virginia certainly qualifies as good.
The Mountaineers may have lost the TCU game by a point, but considering where they were the last couple of seasons, its a major step in the right direction that they are giving some of the best teams in the nation a run for their money and sometimes even more. They are the only team to defeat Baylor this season. And all their losses are to top teams–Alabama, Oklahoma, and TCU, teams that were ranked 2nd, 4th, and 7th, respectively, at the time they played WVU.
The growth of QB Clint Trickett has been a big part of the West Virginia resurgence. He has thrown for nearly 3000 yards and his value goes beyond stats, as he is a leader and a positive and energizing presence on the field. Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell are a nice combo at running back. RB Dreamius Smith is also a dependable playmaker. Their real game-changers are in the passing-attack, with Kevin White over 1000 yards and simply one of the best in the nation. Mario Alford is another big-time threat, both as a receiver and a kickoff return man. Its one of the most potent passing-games in the nation.
While the image is that West Virginia is by far at their best at home this season, they are actually unbeaten on the road in 2014. Oklahoma State was the best of that bunch, a game they dominated, 34-10. In other words, this Mountaineers team can travel. But Texas will welcome being home after 2 road games. Its just that other than the 48-point output against the Cyclones, their offense hasnt been even doing that well at home, with 57 combined points against Oklahoma, Baylor, UCLA, and BYU. But when looking at Texas results, its important to keep in mind the strength of their schedule, having faced four top-12 teams.
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Texas offense is led by sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who has been solid, but a bit inconsistent. He thrived against Oklahoma, though the Sooners pass-defense this season is pretty bad. But against Baylor and Kansas State, he had 2 really bad games. Swoopes is pretty swift with his legs when in a pinch. as well, and is a burgeoning Big 12 talent who could make noise in the future.
Swoopes relies on a ground-game consisting of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, a no-frills duo so far in 2014. The receiving crew, starring John Harris, has some upside. Harris has 814 yards and WR Jaxon Shipley is a reliable weapon. They will need to manufacture points and hope their defense can keep them in the game, something theyve been fairly adept at so far this season. Texas is 1-5 when their defense allows 20 or more points. And West Virginia figures to be good for more than 20 points.
West Virginia is having a great season. But a loss here would put them at 6-4, with Kansas State coming next. While weve seen a lot of West Virginia this season, with them getting a lot of big TV spots this season, a lot of us havent seen a ton of Texas. Tyrone Swoopes is dangerous and its not like the West Virginia D is invulnerable. Hes been growing into the role of the focal point of the Longhorns offense quite well and this could be a coming-out game.
On one hand, losing a heartbreaker at home to TCU may have depleted the spirit of this West Virginia group. They were leading 30-21 in the 4th quarter and on the verge of beating the 7th-ranked team in the nation, two weeks after beating 4th ranked Baylor. But based on the pluck and character theyve shown thus far, I see West Virginia dusting themselves off and getting the win and cover in Austin.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the West Virginia Mountaineers minus 3.5 points.