Week 10: TCU at West Virginia Preview

TCU (6-1) at West Virginia (6-2) Nov. 1, 3:30, ABC/ESPN2 

Here’s The Deal: Really, before the season, you thought TCU vs. West Virginia was going to be a really, really big deal in the Big 12 title chase? While this is just the fourth time the two teams have been, the two new guys to the conference have played two terrific battles, with TCU winning 39-38 to years ago and West Virginia coming up with a 30-27 oasis last season losing three before and three games after. 

But that was when the two teams sort of stunk. This time around, the Mountaineers are coming in on a four-game winning streak with the two losses coming to Alabama and Oklahoma. 20th in the initial College Football Playoff ranking, they control their own conference championship destiny thanks to a win over Baylor two weeks ago and with Kansas State coming up. The two road games at Texas and Iowa State aren’t bad, so if WVU can take care of business in the two games in Morgantown against the Horned Frogs and Wildcats, it’ll be in a great position for a top bowl game. 

TCU, however, is still in the picture for the big prize and a spot in the big four. Seventh in the first rankings, the Horned Frogs impresses with their wins over Minnesota and Oklahoma, and for hanging 82 on Texas Tech two weeks ago. The offense has been unstoppable, and the defense terrific against everyone by Bryce Petty and Baylor in the fourth quarter. It’ll take some help, and some of the other Power 5 conference champions will have to finish with at least two losses, but with Kansas State at home next week, and road of layups ahead going to Kansas and Texas before closing out against Iowa State, TCU might realistically be two weeks away from an almost certain 11-1 mark and a chance at doing something truly special. 

Why TCU Might Win: Turnover margin, turnover margin, turnover margin. This is likely going to be a track meet, so what’s going to be the difference? Which defense can hold serve once in a while? West Virginia has been better, coming up with a +2 against Oklahoma State last week and going dead even with Texas Tech, but in between was a -3 effort against Baylor. The defense isn’t coming up with takeaways – at least until last week, generating just six on the year with two of them last week. Meanwhile, TCU is No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin, only losing it once all season, going -1 against Oklahoma. How tight has the offense been? In the last five games, it’s turned the ball more than one just once – again, against Oklahoma. TCU will likely be a +2 against WVU, at least. 

Why West Virginia Might Win: Get bombing and keep throwing. How do you hang around with TCU? Start throwing deep, because the dinking and dunking like Texas Tech tried to do obviously didn’t work. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech couldn’t keep up because the respective passing games weren’t connecting – neither one hit 50% of its passes. Even Bryce Petty only completed 51% of his throws, but they went for 510 yards and six touchdowns. Clint Trickett is hitting 68% of his throws, and he’ll likely be the most effective passer the Horned Frogs will have to deal with all season. 

Who To Watch Out For: What more could you possibly want out of Trevone Boykin? The TCU veteran followed up a 410-yard, three touchdown day against Oklahoma State by spreading around seven touchdown passes and 422 yards against Texas Tech. He didn’t throw a pass in last year’s game, and he struggled two years ago connecting on just 12-of-29 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. He’s the Big 12 Player of the Year, unless Trickett takes it away. The West Virginia senior threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in last year’s matchup, and last week was the first time all year he hadn’t cranked up 300 yards. He didn’t need to, completing 70% of his throws for 238 yards in the blowout over OSU. 

What’s Going To Happen: West Virginia beat Texas Tech 37-34, and TCU beat Texas Tech last week 82-27. So does that mean the Horned Frogs are going to win in a big-time blowout? Nope. West Virginia will make this a fun and wild fight, but TCU is playing too well on both sides of the ball, and the turnover margin will be a big deal, as it survives and advances. 

Prediction: TCU 48 … West Virginia 38 
Line: TCU -5.5 o/u: 73.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown – 1: Mike Tyson Mysteries … 4