Friday, September 29, 2023

Week 5 Games That Impact WVU Moving Forward

There are a few games happening this weekend that you should keep an eye on while you wait for the late start we have Saturday night at 8 PM against the Horned Frogs. These games should paint a pretty clear picture of the kind of competition we have coming up. More than that, you can gauge how you feel the Mountaineers are stacking up against the competition of the Big 12 while making a day of competitive college football. Here are my three games you should follow up on: Cincinnati @ BYU This Friday night kickoff should draw a lot of attention to the conference, which is good. Given the need for both teams to establish themselves as a prominent force entering the Big 12 this year, this should be a battle for all four quarters. BYU might not be as talented as Cincinnati is this year, and they are licking their wounds after being assaulted by the Kansas Jayhawks, but it is difficult for a team to head into Provo and win. Period. Since the 2020 season, they have only lost three games at home. You can catch this one by staying up late for the 10:15 EST kickoff tonight on ESPN. (24) Kansas @ (3) Texas Kansas can play spoiler to the Texas Longhorns steamroller right now. Austin is a hostile place to play and an even harder venue to win when UT is rolling. But, Kansas had already upset the Longhorns the last time they took the trip down to the Lone Star State. You can expect to either see one of the greatest games of the Big 12 this year, which I expect could be better than the Red River Rivalry/Shootout, or see Kansas buckle under the pressure of being ranked and playing in such a high-profile game against a Top 5 opponent. Either way, this game WILL have Big 12 Conference Title Game implications, regardless of the victor. Kickoff for this one is 3:30 Saturday afternoon on ESPN. Houston @ Texas Tech This is a contest that all Mountaineers should pay attention to, as it is sure to give you an idea of what to expect not only from Houston in our next game, but even from TCU in the game yet to begin. When Houston travels to Texas Tech, most expect this to be a get-right game for the Red Raiders, and dominance from TTU will only solidify the idea that TCU hasn’t yet been tested, that we beat a Tech team that was better than advertised, and we can glean some strategies of success by how Texas Tech performs against the Cougars. Don’t sleep on Houston, though. Dana took this one the distance last year 33-30 in a close loss when TTU made the trip to TDECU Stadium. This one is also set for 3:30 on FS2. Yeah there are plenty more games that you can watch and get a measure of the competition WVU still has to face, but these games should be handily one-sided, such as Kansas State playing Oklahoma State or Baylor traveling to Orlando to take on Central Florida. These listed matchups above should be good football and help to establish the hierarchy of the Big 12 by answering some questions about where teams belong in the breakdown after Week 2 of conference play. Photo Credit: NBC-Dallas

Success in Ft. Worth Could Mean AP Recognition

As of this morning, the WVU @ TCU matchup spread this weekend has grown to 12.5 points. Road dogging to Fort Worth is never easy, and Neal Brown has yet to defeat Sonny Dykes coaching the Horned Frogs. Yet, for all the growing separation and the chatter about the game this weekend, it is difficult not to see the matchup as an opportunity for a valid signature win in the Neal Brown era. This is one of the games that WVU has never been picked to win, and the closer the game gets, the less likely Vegas seems to believe it will happen. This is the time to make your statement. Can the Mountaineers go on the road and beat TCU? Yes. Colorado has already done it. We can play ring around the conferences and say Colorado beats TCU, Oregon beats Colorado, Texas Tech goes the distance with Oregon, we beat Texas Tech. Therefore, Oregon > WVU > TTU > Colorado > TCU. Now, does that actually make TCU an easy mark? Not at all. The Horned Frogs didn’t get embarrassed in their season opener; Colorado pretty much snuck one by them. They are a handful of plays away from being undefeated, and their squad is every bit as dangerous as they were a year ago under the right circumstances. Chandler Morris was the starter before the injury early last season, so by rights, he’s a better QB than Max Duggan was in the 2022 season. The Horned Frogs can light up the scoreboard with: Emani Bailey, who is averaging 120 yards on the ground per game Chandler Morris, who has so far rushed for 184 yards Morris also has a nearly 70% completion rate for 1,121 yards Four different receivers that have more than 11 targets through the year As formidable and productive as that offense has been, you can also look at the Texas Tech Red Raiders offense through the first three games before playing the Mountaineers to see that: After the end of week three, TTU had 815 passing yards and 488 yards rushing for 1,303 total offensive yards. Morton might be the backup, but he is likely the most experienced backup for any of the Big 12 teams, given his number of starts as a Red Raider. We held a team averaging 271 yards in the air to 161 in the most recent game against Tech. TCU currently averages 292 yards per game in the air against at least two teams hard-pressed to stop the passing attack in Houston and Nicholls State. Victory is possible, but it will require West Virginia to do three things: Win the Trench Battle Emani Bailey is a force to be reckoned with, and it will take a lot of muscle to keep him contained – which will sometimes fail. You will not smother this running attack entirely, but you can win the battles up front to stay disruptive. If they get behind on points, they must rely on an air attack to maximize available time. The better we can manage the rushing without the secondary having to check down to ensure runners don’t break into the second level of the defense, the longer of a day this will be for the Horned Frogs. Get Morris Off Time One of the glaring red flags about the Horned Frogs offense is how many turnovers they have allowed through their first four games. The Frogs have thrown four interceptions and fumbled four times, losing two to their opponents. If you want to win the game, we must do what we’ve been doing the past two weeks – wreak havoc in the backfield and get the QB to make a bad read. Winning the turnover war will pave an easier path to a positive plane ride back to the airstrip in Clarksburg. Good Hands Football If there was a time for the receiving corps to come alive and show that we are more than a one-dimensional offense, this is the week. A few good touches could push some of the roster out into the forefront as our playmakers to watch. Reach out and claim it, whoever you are. The West Virginia Mountaineers are no strangers to being underdogs. Picked to finish last in the conference and favored in no game we’ve played so far except the FCS opponent, the only thing the team can do is head out to Fort Worth and make them believe. If you beat TCU on the road in this upset, you might not end up on the AP Poll, but you’d be in the conversation. So far, we’ve NEVER been in the conversation for ranking, and that would be climbing, folks. Photo Credit: WVU Athletics

WVU Reveals Uniform for Road Trip to TCU

WVU will be wearing a special uniform for their matchup against TCU on Saturday. Morgantown, WV - Moments ago, the WVU Football team revealed their uniform combination for their game against TCU on Saturday. The Mountaineers will be wearing white Country Roads helmets, white jerseys, and blue pants. WVU and TCU kick things off at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. (Photo by WVU Athletics) 

SOURCE: Garrett Greene Expected to Play Against TCU

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia -- The West Virginia Mountaineers will have their starting quarterback this weekend against the TCU Horned Frogs, according to a source. Garrett Greene, who was injured in the first quarter of the Backyard Brawl against Pitt, is expected to be available to play on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. Greene fully participated during practice today and was a full-go during football activities, which means he is now officially cleared to get back on the field. In his stead over the last two games, Nicco Marchiol led the Mountaineers to victories over Pitt and Texas Tech. However, Marchiol only threw for 60 yards against Pitt and 78 yards last weekend against Texas Tech. In addition, Marchiol made a couple of really poor decisions and isn't quite as effective as Greene is running the ball. It's unclear at this time whether Marchiol or Greene will get the start, but Greene is definitely expected to see snaps and could potentially be the starting quarterback when the Mountaineers take the field on Saturday. The West Virginia versus TCU game is this Saturday, September 30, at 8:00PM eastern time and will be televised live on ESPN.

Can West Virginia Win Out?Does the schedule give a chance for the Mountaineers to...

West Virginia has finally generated some buzz this season. In an interview, Neal Brown just recently stated that he is ‘not surprised’ that WVU is 3-1 – I wish I could say the same. I was one of those who expected this to be a season where the team crashed and burned, hopefully rising from the ashes spectacularly, like TCU dropping Gary Patterson, Kansas releasing Les Miles, and so on. However, that is not what it looks like will happen. Now, you have to have the conversation along with the other major outlets of if WVU is capable of not only winning more of their games but potentially winning all their remaining games. Crazy, right? Some would say a little too crazy. But it is interesting to consider that if the defense continues to hold teams to a limited number, as they did with Texas Tech, is it possible? You must consider that Tech is not a team used to being held to 13 points, even in games they lose. They have not scored less than 30 points in a game this year and only did so a few times last season in their run to the Texas Bowl. Pitt is another example in our season of teams used to putting up points that are stymied before they can. Pitt hosted the (15) UNC Tarheels last weekend, and while they suffered yet another loss, they hung 24 points on the rapidly rising team. And yes, still with their amazing quarterback, Phil Jurkovec. We held Pitt to 6 points when they came to Morgantown. So, when do you feel good about getting on the hype train rolling through? When does it derail, I guess, is the better question? Can you win out in the conference – let’s take a look at the remaining games of the schedule: @ TCU – This weekend will be a true test of this Neal Brown squad. You aren’t getting thrown into the jaws of the University of Texas machine chomping through conference right now, but you are facing the former contenders for the National Championship. Chandler Morris lacks the spirit of Max Duggan, but has the full support of the Frogs fanbase. Lines vary considerably from a touchdown to 10 points, favoring the Horned Frogs. This is an absolutely pivotal game to get people sitting on the fence believing in the team. TCU is one of three seriously challenging opponents on the schedule for the Mountaineers and one of several games WVU is still projected to handily lose. But – do they? Win/Loss: If a win, it comes down to the wire. @ Houston – This will be more of a fight (at least for the first ½ to ¾ of the game) than it seems. Dana does not want to keep losing, as his seat is warming in Houston as it is. It might be entirely on fire if they drop another conference game to Texas Tech this weekend before our matchup on the road. While Holgorsen might not be worried about his spot as Head Coach, you can bet he puts together a well-thought-out scheme focused on any weaknesses we have shown. He has a bye week, too, remember? Win/Loss: Big win for the program Oklahoma State – Oklahoma State and Baylor are both sprinting to be the worst in the conference, and we face the Cowboys first in our games against Gundy and Aranda. OSU did get some life this past weekend but still lost to Iowa State, another one of this year’s disappointing programs, and should not be much of a test for the Mountaineers at home as long as they play all four quarters to completion. Win/Loss: Win @ UCF – This is where I think the schedule starts to get weird. Traveling to play in Central Florida is going to be a challenge. The fanbase there is large and loud, and while I do not believe that UCF is as good of a team as TCU is or Oklahoma, I do think that they are a lot to deal with if all of their offensive pieces are active at this point. Win/Loss: Close Loss BYU – You can look at this like the Backyard Brawl revisited. Slovis was the QB for the Panthers against his former teammate, JT Daniels, last year when the rivalry reignited in Pittsburgh. A high-profile team that could be getting right by this point of the year should make for a rock fight in Morgantown that is too close for comfort. Win/Loss: Close win. @ Oklahoma – There is no mistake that the two teams voted most likely to leave the conference next year for the SEC are leading the conference – at least right now. I am firmly in the camp that Oklahoma has yet to see a real test, and they have a few tough games on their slate coming up that might show us some ways to exploit their offensive strategies or defensive capabilities to slip one by the Sooners in Norman. Win/Loss: At least at this point, loss. Cincinnati – Who is Cincinnati going to be in the conference? Our former Big East opponent kicks off our series of future games in Morgantown, a distinct disadvantage for them. We are going to get one of two types of games here depending on how the game went a week before against the Sooners – either you have a Mountaineer squad riding high at 8-2 on the season, or you have a banged up and tired field product that keeps this one competitive until the final whistle. Win/Loss: regardless of the style of the game, WVU wins. @ Baylor – The Bears will have to work hard to get out of the bad reputation they are building for themselves across the conference. They all but laid down and took whatever the Texas Longhorns had to give last week, so it is not shocking to think that they might only be in it to play spoiler for a...

The Concerns of the Climb

From the needle being completely bottomed out on the spectrum, picked to finish last in the conference, the tide is shifting because of our fierce defense. Who would have seen that coming? I am not even sure Jordan Lesley saw that coming, and he’s the only one who should have. And yes, every forum on every site covering any type of WVU athletics has the same group going whoa whoa whoa, we’ve been here before. Three of his five seasons have started 3-1, so why is this different? Well, look at the team. The team acts differently. That defense hits the field and knows they can get a stop. The same missing links on the tracks for the hype train illustrate three other points worth addressing: We Haven’t Played Anyone Yet The idea that we have not played anyone of merit is somewhat baseless. Yeah, the teams we have won against are all currently 1-3 or 1-2, but let’s look at that. Pitt narrowly lost to Cincinnati, who held their own in a contest with Oklahoma this last weekend. Six points separated that game at the end. Then you have Pitt taking on a ranked team on the rise with a Heisman frontrunner with UNC. That was similar to our Penn State game, no one expected the Panthers to win that or their later season game against the Irish in South Bend. However, this team now has a chance to take the next three games and get back on the right side of .500 against Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Wake Forest before that marquee matchup against Notre Dame. Pitt was not ready for the defensive stand we took after their first drive and never recovered. Texas Tech is a team that had a lot of preseason chatter about being a dark horse to make it to the title game at the end of the season. They are fast, relentless, and no less productive under Morton. The Red Raiders were surprised early by a better-than-advertised Wyoming team on the road, then faced Oregon and lost by only 8 points. Ask Colorado how serious the Ducks are. This was, again, a dramatic win for the defense to stop this quick delivery they like to do under the same QB that gave us an embarrassing loss in Lubbock last year. Texas Tech Had Their Backup In As noted, the Texas Tech backup mentioned is the same one who started last year when the Mountaineers traveled to Lubbock and left with one of the worst losses of the Neal Brown era. Morton is someone who can put plays together, who is accurate, and who the team trusts. We also had our backup quarterback in, with much less experience than Morton, leading the team. The Big 12 Is Down Is the Big 12 Conference seemingly stepping aside and letting the University of Texas and Oklahoma have their last moments in the sun as they walk out the door to the SEC? In general, it’s still very early in the conference schedule and the season to say all of these teams ahead for the Mountaineers are simply lesser versions of their previous selves. The most recent opponent, Texas Tech, should go on to show Dana Holgorsen the official bottom of the Big 12 as the Red Raiders begin their climb back out from the bottom. They are far from done winning games. And if a couple of these teams have built great seasons on the backs of our off years, shouldn’t that be a stepping stone for us, too? You will never make everyone happy with the season's progress. Some people want WVU to lose because they believe we must shake off Neal Brown and his staff and start rebuilding. Others believe that a win is a win is a win. While ‘defense wins championships,’ let’s just focus on winning week in to week out and see where that takes us. Photo credit: WVU Athletics

If Both QBs Are Healthy, Who Faces the Frogs?

Head Coach Neal Brown has noted Garrett Greene as another game-time decision about whether he will be ready to hit the field and lead the offense again. By all accounts, it is not a question of if, but rather when, Greene will retake the QB1 position and resume his place under center. Is that this week? More to the point, if he is back and ready to get to work, is he the best choice to quarterback against TCU? One thing to note about these two is that they seem almost interchangeable in many ways. Nicco has the support of the team and his on-field teammates, as you could see when they were quick to help him keep his chin up when a play went sideways in both games he has taken over the offense. Garrett Greene is one of his biggest supporters when Marchiol makes the plays that take the Mountaineers to the victories they have seen in the past two weeks. Inexperience of Marchiol You can see flashes of poor decision-making, and bad reads when he runs the offense. The glaring example is the first pick thrown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in this past weekend’s game. Fortunately, unlike other young quarterbacks, Nicco did not let that turn a single mistake into a slew of them and bounced back when the defense gave the offense back the ball a short time later. You will get some growing pains with a quarterback who was not yet meant to take the helm of the team, but it seems like he has risen to the occasion enough to find success where it mattered. Emotional Leading of Garrett Greene On or off the field, no one in the West Virginia locker room is more a fan of the successes and more able to feel the heartbreak of the hits like Garrett Greene. He has the unwavering support and love of his teammates, who will play hard for him on the field. In fact, I would suspect that they might not have risen to the situation as much without Greene. He stepped up in such a positive way after what could have been a very polarizing event in relinquishing the start to Nicco. Who Does the Crowd Want? Based on a poll we featured on X, most would welcome Garrett back to the starting position if both quarterbacks were 100% ready for a start. I, too, fall into this camp. I think as a whole, Garrett has been involved with this offense and its pieces for many years and has earned his place to lead the team to whatever the rest of the season holds. I do not see Garrett being some costly reason that the Mountaineers come up short, and even if he were, it would certainly not be out of character for us to continue to put a QB out there on the field week after week with the fans screaming for the backup. Image Credit: WVU Athletics

Major Harris Reunited With 1988 Fiesta Bowl Ring

Former WVU Quarterback Major Harris has been reunited with his 1988 Fiesta Bowl ring. Hurricane, WV - Sports Fanz WV, a very well-known and respected sports memorabilia store in the Mountain State, has shared some very heartwarming news that will surely bring WVU fans to their feet. According to their social media page, Major Harris’ 1988 Fiesta Bowl ring found its way to the shop last week. The store took no time in finding Harris and returning the ring to its rightful owner - arguably the best quarterback in Mountaineer Football history. What an incredible gesture by one of the best sports stores in West Virginia! (Photo via West Virginia University on YouTube) 

Tavon Austin Possibly Reuniting With Geno Smith

Former WVU Receiver Tavon Austin could be heading to the NFC West.  Seattle, WA - A huge WVU reunion could soon be taking place in the Pacific Northwest. According to Field Yates of ESPN, former WVU Receiver Tavon Austin worked out with the Seattle Seahawks today. Austin, who was on the practice squad for the Buffalo Bills in 2022, would be reunited with his college quarterback Geno Smith. Smith and Austin both had massive careers for the Mountaineers, owning many school records collectively. This would be the first time in the NFL that they have played together. Stay tuned to The Voice of Motown for updates.

Analyst: “West Virginia is a 9 Win Team”

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia -- Well ask and you shall receive: the story isn’t how WVU is going to go 1-11 anymore this year. That honor has been passed to teams like the Baylor Bears. Instead, steam is starting to roll in the biggest sports coverage brands like ESPN, changing up many of the projected matchups to favor the Mountaineers, including Houston, Oklahoma State, BYU, and Baylor. We are still underdogs to TCU, UCF, Oklahoma, and Cincinnati. So even if we only win the games we are now projected to, that’s a 7-5 record. Much better than 1-11, right? While outlets like ESPN are never going to say that they pegged this one wrong or acknowledge anything more than the stumbling of the Big 12 opponents, other increasingly popular news programs like Locked On the Big 12 has had a lot of exciting chatter about the WVU program the past couple of days. Their YouTube channel, albeit not the most popular form of their news brand, has a clip dedicated exclusively to the WVU fanbase: In it, the host talks about the recent success of the defense and how it is no longer crazy to think the Mountaineers could end up as a 9-win team or wreak havoc and be knocking on the door of the championship in Arlington if you catch Oklahoma lacking. Either way, very different conversation than the country was having when the season began. photo credit: WVU Athletics

What is TCU Hiding in their First 4 Games?

When Sonny Dykes took the TCU Horned Frogs on their fabled run to the National Championship game last year, he had a lot of help along the way. The squad might have easily lost multiple games. Even the one in Morgantown might have been in the bag if just a couple of plays had been different. Even the unexpected change to the backup, Max Duggan, impacted the entire season. Duggan carried the team on his back, seemingly single-handedly scrapping to keep them in matchups like the Big 12 Title Game. That was last year’s Horned Frogs, though. This year, there seem to be a lot of cracks in the gameplay and some chinks in the armor worth exploiting. Even in these first four games, each of the teams has had a way of showing some of the possible areas the Mountaineers could focus on if they want to get out of Ft. Worth undefeated in the Neal Brown era. What Did Colorado Teach? When the Colorado Buffaloes came to Fort Worth to begin the season, many expected this would be a blowout. TCU was ranked 17th in the country then and had enough returning production where they were perceived as at least somewhat of a threat. Did Colorado blow them away with some significant difference in yardage? No. Colorado had 565 yards to TCU's 541 in the Horned Frog’s three-point loss in Game 1. The main difference? Only 55 yards were rushing for the Buffaloes. Sanders and company put up 510 passing yards and lit up the defense. Takeaway: WVU has to incorporate passing more than 22% of the time against opponents with a more robust secondary than Duquesne. What Did Nicholls State Teach? Even though the final score was 41-6, the Colonels of Nicholls State had some gems to reveal in their matchup against TCU. Again, any success that the team found against the Horned Frogs was more in the air than on the ground, doubling the difference between these metrics in their 263 yards of total offense. Surprisingly, vulnerabilities were shown in the turnover game. The two teams tied for lost fumbles and thrown interceptions in the game. Combined with 2 interceptions thrown against Colorado, TCU is up to 3 turnovers from Chandler Morris in Week 2. Takeaway: Our defense can feast on risky passes. What Did Houston Teach? Houston had an unfriendly introduction to the Big 12 thanks to the Horned Frogs, but we do not leave empty-handed. The Cougars put up similar numbers to Nicholls State, with 266 yards of total offense – 225 of those being through the air. Despite being bullied and outplayed throughout the matchup, Dana’s lackluster defense still grabbed an interception and recovered a fumble. TCU is up to 4 on the season in Week 3. Takeaway: Does it seem like they might be giving up pass plays? What Did SMU Teach? SMU was one of the only squads this year that could put up some yards on the ground against the Horned Frogs but still favored passing 258 yards to the 158 they grabbed on the ground. Rivalry games are weird – we should know. All the metrics suggest this one should have been closer than 34-17, and it was headed into halftime with TCU only leading 14-10. You did see the rush defense breaking down as the pass coverage improved for this game. SMU put up more than 100 yards on the ground before halftime, meaning the opportunities exist to destroy the Frogs with a legitimately balanced attack. Takeaway: The rush defense has shown up in the past games, but to improve their weak passing coverage, vulnerabilities could exist if the passing attack is covered. TCU isn’t some wall that West Virginia is about to hit. In fact, I think that with taking the week and working on ball distribution around the field, this game might not be as formidable as it seems. The Horned Frogs are no pushovers – they have only lost one game to a Colorado team that was a lightning bolt running out of the starting line. We must be active and on it all four quarters to survive Fort Worth. Photo Credit: ESPN

West Virginia Back in the Mix in the Big 12

This is a weird and scary time to be in the Big 12. Nothing seems to make sense or be as it was projected or even expected. Teams that should be dominating or competitive find themselves scraping the bottom of the conference, and then you find teams like West Virginia that no one picked for anything fairing pretty well in the recent standings. Granted, we are only through week one, but WVU has been underdogs in all the matchups – so even their position after week one of conference play is a surprise to the nation. Here are the current Big 12 Standings, and then we can look at the matchups for this week and how likely these teams are to stay where they are: BIG 12 CONF W-L STRK 1 Kansas 1-0 4-0 W4 2 Oklahoma 1-0 4-0 W4 3 Texas 1-0 4-0 W4 4 Kansas State 1-0 3-1 W1 5 TCU 1-0 3-1 W3 6 West Virginia 1-0 3-1 W3 7 Iowa State 1-0 2-2 W1 8 BYU 0-1 3-1 L1 9 UCF 0-1 3-1 L1 10 Cincinnati 0-1 2-2 L2 11 Houston 0-1 2-2 W1 12 Oklahoma State 0-1 2-2 L2 13 Baylor 0-1 1-3 L1 14 Texas Tech 0-1 1-3 L1 First place is a three-way tie between Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. But that will not stay that way for long. (1) Kansas @ (3) Texas : The Jayhawks are hitting the road for their most challenging test of the year – playing the University of Texas Longhorns in Austin. This is going to be a battle. Slow starts are impossible here, or you get too far behind the score to catch up in front of this massive crowd. With Kansas being ranked now, this has become an unexpected marquee matchup of the Big 12 this week. If Kansas’s defense plays lights out as aggressively as they did against the Cougars this past weekend, Texas might also have its most demanding game ahead. However, the Longhorns are finding their stride and have not wavered much throughout the year. They should be juiced and up for this ranked-on-ranked competition before their home crowd. Predicted Winner: Texas (7) Iowa State @ (2) Oklahoma : Somehow, the Oklahoma Sooners just keep getting some easy beginning-of-the-season games. I don’t think their performance has been tested, and I think it won’t happen this week, either. Iowa State is coming to town, and while fresh off a win against Oklahoma State, Iowa State is outgunned and unprepared for the Sooner attack. This is going to be a pretty decisive victory. Predicted to Win: Oklahoma (4) Kansas State @ (12) Oklahoma State: Unless the Cowboys figure out something fast, this will be a long and brutal season for them. The play on the field has been lackluster, and people like Gundy are in the camp of not leaning on NIL for progress or retention of good players, so this might just be the norm in Stillwater. Either way, Kansas State is coming to town, and they are feeling good after taking out one of the league’s new entrants in UCF. Oklahoma State might fight early, but I think Kansas State handily takes care of business. Predicted to Win: Kansas State (6) West Virginia @ (5) TCU : This will be a game to watch, not just because of our obvious fandom. TCU has been good for years, mostly. Yet somehow, Neal Brown has always had a way of keeping it close – even last year, in our 5-7 finish, we took the National Championship-bound Horned Frogs the distance. Within the last few minutes of the game, TCU only had a 3-point margin of lead. I actually think this team is playing the best football I have seen in a while in Morgantown, and I love it. You figure out how to get some big plays downfield with some sure-handed receivers, and the Mountaineers are gigging. Predicted to Win: WVU (10) Cincinnati @ (8) BYU : Both teams are coming from decisive losses. Cincinnati faced theirs at home against Oklahoma, and BYU suffered theirs in Lawrence to the currently rolling Jayhawks. Even at this point of the season, you don’t know what to expect from either of these squads, which has always been the case with BYU. They have spent much time being decent with flashes of greatness, but never fully getting over that hump. I think that this will be as close as projected, but the Cougars stay relevant for now and squeak out a win. Predicted to Win: BYU (13) Baylor @ (9) UCF : I believe this one goes as advertised. The Baylor Bears are rather humdrum so far beyond a serious stand against Utah in Week 2. The Bears are traveling to Florida to meet a Golden Knight squad looking to shake off their unfriendly welcome to the conference in a loss in Manhattan, KS last weekend. I think UCF lights it up on the ground, especially if Plumlee is back under center. Predicted to Win: UCF (11) Houston @ (14) Texas Tech : WVU fans NEED Tech to have a decisive win in this one for two reasons: one, it shows that we don’t have as many question marks about our own team and some hype is okay, and two, it shows that we are looking at putting it to Holgorsen’s unit after we are done handling business in Ft. Worth. I do believe TTU makes a statement that they are not the bottom of the conference as current standings suggest. Predicted to Win: Texas Tech

More Bowl Projections For WVU

Brett McMurphy now has the Mountaineers included in his bowl projections for 2023.   Morgantown, WV - Following a 20-13 win over Texas Tech on Saturday, the West Virginia Mountaineers are now only three wins away from bowl eligibility. Many outlets around the country are beginning to take notice and including West Virginia in their bowl projections for 2023. Brett McMurphy of Action Network is one of the many analysts changing their stance on WVU. According to McMurphy, the Mountaineers will be making the trip to Shreveport, Louisiana to compete against the Arizona Wildcats in the Radiance Technology Independence Bowl on December 16th. This would be WVU’s first bowl appearance since the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bowl - a game in which they lost 18-6 to Minnesota. These are certainly exciting times for Mountaineer fans after their team was projected to be the worst in the Big 12. (Photo by WVU Athletics) 

What Is Holding the Mountaineers Back?

As much as I want to continue to ride the highs of a good first third of the season, we have to turn focus forward once again. Can WVU sustain this type of progress with the on-field product we’ve seen so far? No, probably not. The defense has been nothing short of lightning. I am not sure what changed in that room with those guys, but there is nothing they are doing that will lose the Mountaineers future games if they keep this pace. The offense, on the other hand, is a different matter. People want to say well, Nicco shouldn’t be in there and the play calling suffers because they can’t run the whole offense. But much like every backup that has ever come into a football game, they need to have enough of a grasp of the system, or the progress suffers. Fortunately, Marchiol is not lost out there, but the play calling is incredibly reserved and does not scream that the powers that be trust Nicco as much as they suggest they do. One hope is that Garrett Greene is back suited up this week and TCU has to prepare an answer for that. However, if he isn’t 100%, you will get him hurt to play him early with the type of injury he endured against Pitt. If you give Garrett the same type of designed runs Nicco took 14-15 times in the Tech game, I think that’s a part of the scheme TCU must acknowledge. However, stopping the run isn’t especially difficult if you are not trying to pass. As tough as it is to grab these wins almost exclusively on the ground, the attack isn’t sustainable. One dimensional football can only stay successful for so long, it’s kind of like gimmicks for teams. In the past years, Texas Tech won games by just breaking defenses down with their relentless play to play to play approach. Now, the Big 12 competition knows that’s coming and can design a plan to figure out how to manage the clock and factor substitutions. It’s less menacing than it used to be, despite what happened in Morgantown last year against the Red Raiders. Success, at least success in the next third of the schedule, is going to have to come from a balanced attack. You cannot allow a defense to load the box and not end up with something damning like CJ getting injured again. You have to stretch out opposing defenses and that means receivers have to step up, the playbook needs to open up, and we have to start taking shots that force secondaries to think before checking down on the QB and runners. Play action and (successful) RPO is going to be the best category of plays in our arsenal moving forward. Here are some important modifications to keep the Mountaineers competitive and keep momentum for the games ahead: Keep Scoring Points Obviously, right? But if you take Duquesne out of the equation, the Mountaineer offense is averaging 17.3 points per game. Our defense is doing well enough to get takeaways and limit blowout wins (I think) but 17.3 points is not enough to beat the best of the Big 12 by far. You have to figure out new ways to the end zone and not stop when the team gets the lead. One play going differently on Saturday takes that game with Tech to overtime. Brilliant red zone stand by the defense, but it might have been a better approach to never let off the gas and have that 10-14 points of separation at that stage of the game. We had the plays and the determination to march down the field and answer when Tech scored towards the end of the game, so where is the aggressive play calling that could have put some padding? Let the Battle Begin for Best Hands I said this before and still say it leaving the Tech game. Someone has to be THE GUY of our offense. We do not have the Stedman Bailey, the Kevin White, the Gary Jennings, the Bryce Ford-Wheaton. The list goes on. The talent is in that room for breakout performances, someone just has to take the frog by the horns this week and make some grabs. Balance the Attack At this stage, it’s unclear who the best receiver is, partly because we haven’t been exactly competitive in this area and partly because there has been a much higher percentage of run plays called.  Even just taking TCU into account, it is unlikely we beat them running 8 out of 10 times. So far this year, only 22% of the offense has been in the air. Run heavy is great, but you have give those runners a chance by throwing closer to 40% of the time. We can’t be scared because we have a set of QBs that could make mistakes, the most touted players in college football throw interceptions, fumble, and get the read wrong. The Mountaineers are likely the closest thing to a professional team that the state will ever get. You ride the highs and you hit the lows when they come. It’s not easy to flip a switch and forget everything that has made the past seasons so terrible and not be among the many fans just waiting for the shoe to drop. Some comment that our coverage of stories and takes on the team border on bipolarism, but it’s really more likely a product of being smart enough to realize that we support this team and love its successes along with everyone but have to remain objective enough to say there are still areas for improvement. That’s any team in the country. Alabama is a powerhouse and yet they are learning this year that the wins just don’t just come because you’re the Crimson Tide. Our climb really begins by building a foundation stable enough for the mountain to stand on. Whether it’s Neal Brown or Nick Saban, have enough stumbles and anyone is coaching for their job. photo credit:...

Quarterback Controversy in Morgantown?

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia -- Garrett Greene went down with an ankle injury in the 1st quarter of the Backyard Brawl against Pitt, leaving Neal Brown no other choice but to turn to redshirt freshman Nicco Marchiol to lead the Mountaineers. In Greene's stead, Marchiol has beaten West Virginia's top rival, Pitt, and defeated a really talented Texas Tech team. Although Marchiol hasn't put up incredible (or even average) numbers, he's very clearly a winner and has found ways to get the job done. Against Pitt, Marchiol was 6/9 for 60 yards and 1 touchdown as the offense relied heavily on the running game. Against Texas Tech, it was more of the same, but Marchiol did show flashes of brilliance, particularly on the ground, leading the team with 72 yards on 15 carries. Marchiol did make a few errors throwing and finished 12/21 for 78 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Again, these numbers are nothing to write home about, but it's important to remember that Neal Brown called an exceptionally conservative game offensively and Marchiol showed a lot of maturity in the game. With that said, Garrett Greene was seen before and during the game on the sidelines with his ankle heavily wrapped and a slight limp. If he's unable to fully practice again this week, one has to wonder if Neal Brown won't go with Marchiol at TCU. Marchiol has proven that he can lead the team to big victories and Brown is ultra-conservative in all facets but especially when it comes to the health of his players. If Marchiol plays and goes on to beat TCU, winning his 3rd consecutive big game in a row, it would almost certainly cause a quarterback controversy, at least within the fanbase. Garrett Greene has been a very patient and supportive teammate during his time at West Virginia and he was clearly way ahead of Marchiol in terms of being ready to lead the team during the preseason, but winning trumps all and Nicco Marchiol wins football games. Who should start at quarterback for the Mountaineers next weekend at TCU? Vote in our poll below: