Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 5, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Yes, it was a lot of fun for the West Virginia Mountaineers to put up 70 points last week against the hapless Baylor defense in their first ever Big 12 encounter. That was a “welcome to the league” gift. “We’ll send one of our worst defenses to your home stadium for your debut.” But, Saturday Night...West Virginia better be ready for a real football battle in Austin, Texas. Their REAL Big 12 history begins with this critical encounter that will be nationally televised on FOX.
Yesterday we talked about how Georgia-South Carolina might already be the SEC East Championship game even though more than half a season remains. Can the same be said for West Virginia-Texas in the Big 12. There’s no longer an official league championship game because there are only 10 teams. Is this the battle of the best?
*Oklahoma has been exposed as unworthy once again, struggling in September vs. the likes of UTEP before losing a stunner at home to Kansas State. For the umpteenth year in a row, the summer pundits tabbed Oklahoma as one of the best teams in the country only to be reminded that the talent and consistency just isn’t there.
*Kansas State is currently getting a lot of respect in the polls. Do they have the depth to keep it going all season long? They were underrated to start the season. Could they be overrated now? Who’s more likely to run the table amongst K-State, Texas, or West Virginia? We have a lot of respect for what K-State has accomplished in their climb back to relevancy. We just don’t see them as the Big 12 favorite at the moment, even with their win in Norman.
*TCU is playing a waiting game for the time being. They’ve shown quality so far this year…but not yet the level of play that would suggest a championship is in the offing.
*Oklahoma State will have to rally themselves back into the discussion after losing at home to Texas on the heels of a poor scoreboard margin in a loss to Arizona. It’s possible for the Cowboys to sneak back into the picture in an “everyone keeps beating each other” scenario. This doesn’t look like a championship team at the moment.
At the very least, West Virginia/Texas looms large over the coming season. Possibly, this really is going to be the Big 12 title tilt when the season is in the books. Let’s crunch some numbers…
WEST VIRGINIA at TEXAS (7 p.m. on FOX)
Las Vegas Spread: Texas by 6.5, total of 75
This is one of those matchups where home field advantage is worth more than three points. West Virginia is making a long trip to a place they’ve never played before. The stadium will be rocking because Texas hasn’t played a decent home opponent all season. West Virginia would be a slight favorite at home…Texas a slight favorite on a neutral field. In our view, the market is saying Texas is about a field goal better (maybe a shade less) right now, with home field advantage getting a higher value than normal.
CURRENT AP POLL RANKINGS
W. Virginia: #8
Interesting that the market thinks Texas is the better team, while the polls have it as West Virginia. You don’t normally see a Top Ten team getting almost a touchdown in Vegas from an opponent that’s ranked worse than they are! Who’s right? That’s part of what you’ll be handicapping here. It is important to remember that West Virginia was higher in the polls entering the season on the heels of their Orange Bowl annihilation of Clemson. And, more money is bet on Texas generally because they’re a public team (and because so many gamblers have roots in Texas!). Both the polls and the markets have their influences that you need to keep in the back of your mind as you ponder your options here.
W. Virginia: Dana Holgorsen
Texas: Mack Brown
Not the first time these guys have met. Well, it is with Holgorsen as the head man. But, he played a huge role in designing Oklahoma State’s offenses the past few years. Texas knows all about dealing with those. These men have butted heads often in “football chess,” with each guy having something to brag about. In terms of coaching “right now,” Holgorsen is right on the cutting edge of what’s working best in the college game, while Brown seems to be misreading his own team often the past few seasons. He thought his defense would be fantastic this year, but it had trouble stopping Oklahoma State last week. He thought his running game would be dominant. It was a disappointment last week. Quarterback David Ash had a big game in the air, when it was thought he might not be capable of that. Texas regressed badly under Brown after Colt McCoy left. It’s far from clear that things are back where they need to be in the conference race or the national polls. The Horns could easily have lost last week if not for a kick return TD.
W. Virginia: Geno Smith
Texas: David Ash
Smith is the more dangerous weapon. But, Ash played very well last week in a way that suggested he might not be overmatched here. The Texas offense needs a smart quarterback who can make passes. Ash has matured to the degree that he may become a true weapon. We’ll find out Saturday Night if last week’s numbers were a result of playing a horrible defense…or were a sign that Ash is about to matter in the Big 12 race. For now, Smith and West Virginia get the edge.
LAST WEEK’S BOXES
WEST VIRGINIA 70, BAYLOR 63
Total Yardage: Baylor 700, W. Virginia 807
Rushing Yards: Baylor 119, W. Virginia 151
Passing Stats: Baylor 29-47-1-581, W. Virginia 45-51-0-656
Turnovers: Baylor 1, W. Virginia 0
Third Downs: Baylor 69%, W. Virginia 80%
Vegas Line: West Virginia by 11, total of 83
There’s a point where college football is going to become Arena Football, and people are going to stop watching. You either loved this game because of the scoring, or you thought it was a travesty! We don’t think West Virginia is going to pass for 600 yards again this week. If they do, then Texas is a team you can’t take seriously in the national picture. Stunning how both defenses were basically spectators in this game. West Virginia better not put forth that level of non-effort every week in this league. Sorry, but 11-point home favorites shouldn’t be allowing 700 yards and 63 points!
TEXAS 41, OKLAHOMA STATE 36
Total Yardage: Texas 440, Oklahoma St. 576
Rushing Yards: Texas 136, Oklahoma St. 275
Passing Stats: Texas 30-38-1-304, Oklahoma St. 18-27-1-301
Turnovers: Texas 1, Oklahoma St. 1
Third Downs: Texas 53%, Oklahoma St. 46%
Vegas Line: Texas by 2.5, total of 65
If you were only scoreboard watching on this game, you might not have realized the degree that Texas was outplayed. They were outrushed significantly, which wasn’t supposed to happen with their new plan of attack. They were outgained badly overall as well. Ash was the highlight with a very sharp passing night that kept the ball moving. Take away the kickoff return for Texas though, and the final score matches the stats. Texas better not get any delusions of grandeur off this scoreboard result. They didn’t play that well…and the defense in particular was WAY below what was promised before the season started.
Based on those boxscores, we’re looking at another possible shootout here. Well, not 133 points like we saw in Baylor/West Virginia. But, two offenses moving pretty much at will against defenses that disappointed last week. And, it’s not like those defenses had any time to freshen up and get their legs back! Both defensive units should be tired…and that could become a big deal in the second half. Be sure you check the forecast to monitor weather conditions. Depth could be the biggest factor of all in a game that’s likely to be won in the fourth quarter unless one side or the other self-destructs with turnovers.
JIM HURLEY has been talking with his Texas sources all week to get a read on this game (as well as other important Big 12 matchups plus Houston-NY Jets in the MNF game in the NFL). A major release may be in the offing. But, there are several big games on the Saturday card…and some of the “off-the-radar” matchups have some appealing handicapping qualities too.
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FINALLY we have a college football Saturday that’s chocker block full of exciting matchups morning, noon, and night. DON’T YOU DARE MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!