The Texas Longhorns (4-5, 3-3) will travel to face the West Virginia Mountaineers (4-4, 1-4) in a Big 12 matchup Saturday afternoon. Texas has won two of the three previous matchups, including a 33-16 win at home as a 3 point underdog on November 8, 2014 in the most recent matchup.
Texas won for the third time in their last four as they pummeled winless Kansas 59-20 last week. West Virginia snapped a four game skid and picked up their first conference win of the year with a 31-26 triumph over Texas Tech at home last week. This game kicks off at 12:00 pm ET from Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia and will be televised on ESPNU. West Virginia is currently an 8.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 55.5 points.
Free Pick on the West Virginia Mountaineers -8.5
Texas led 24-14 at the half before exploding to outscore the Jayhawks 35-6 after intermission to cruise to the win. The Longhorns outgained the Jayhawks 598-426 to make up for losing the first down battle 23-20. Texas lost the time of possession battle as they allowed the Jayhawks to hold the ball for 32:23 in the game. The Longhorns forced four turnovers in the game while committing just one; both teams scored on offensive fumble recoveries. Texas scored on an 84 yard pass play on their first play from scrimmage and added a 93 yard scoring run in the second half.
The Longhorns have struggled through the air as they are 118th in passing offense with 152.7 yards per contest; Texas is 31st in the nation in rushing with 206.9 yards per game on the ground. Texas is scoring 25.4 points a game but they are giving up a lot of points as they are currently 83rd in scoring defense by allowing 29 points per game. Jerrod Heard has seen the majority of the snaps under center; he’s completed 79 of 134 passes for 1,040 yards with four touchdowns against three picks while leading the Longhorns with 540 yards and three scores on the ground. Tyrone Swoopes has struggled in his action as he is 26 of 55 for 334 yards with three touchdowns against no picks; he has 266 yards and nine scores on the ground. D’Onta Foreman is the second back in the ground game with 77 carries for 534 yards and four scores while Johnathan Gray has been held in check with 109 carries for 433 yards and three scores. Daje Johnson leads Texas with 29 receptions for 285 yards; John Burt (19 catches, 376 yards, 2 TD), Armanti Foreman (11 grabs, 182 yards, 2 TD) and Marcus Johnson (10 grabs, 116 yards, TD) are the only other Longhorns with double digit receptions. Nick Rose has hit 28 of 29 extra points but is just 7 of 10 on field goal attempts with a long of 46 yards.
West Virginia managed to survive a back and forth contest with the Red Raiders and escaped victorious to get back in the win column for the first time in over a month. The Mountaineers outgained the Red Raiders 449-378 and picked up 28 first downs to Texas Tech’s 23; the Mountaineers held a narrow 30:14 to 29:46 edge in the time of possession battle. Those advantages helped West Virginia overcome the two turnovers they had in the game; they forced one Texas Tech miscue in the contest.
The Mountaineers enter this contest ranked tied for 47th in the nation in passing offense (241 yards per game) and 20th in the nation when it comes to running the ball as they have an average of 220.1 yards per game. West Virginia averages 32.4 points per contest, which is tied for 47th in the nation; the Mountaineers currently stand 78th in scoring defense as they allow 28.5 points per game. Skyler Howard has been up and down this season as he’s completed 139 of 250 passes for 1,875 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions while adding 256 yards and three scores on the ground. William Crest Jr. (8 of 15, 53 yards, 51 rushing yards, TD) is the backup should Howard go down. The run game has been focused around Wendell Smallwood, who leads the team with 143 carries for 954 yards and six scores. He’s supplanted former phenom Rushel Shell, who has 109 carries for 437 yards and five scores. Shelton Gibson is the team’s leading receiver with 25 grabs for 576 yards and seven scores; Daikiel Shorts (22 catches, 265 yards, 2 TD), Smallwood (20 catches out of the backfield) and Jovon Durante (20 receptions, 285 yards, 3 TD) are good secondary targets. Josh Lambert has booted all 32 extra points and 11 of 16 field goal attempts with a long of 51 yards; two of his four misses are from beyond 50 yards.
Texas is 6-20 ATS in their last 26 after throwing for at least 280 yards, 1-4 ATS in their last five after a straight up win of at least 20 points and 1-8 ATS in their last nine after scoring more than 40 points in their last game.
The Longhorns have had their ups and downs this season and will have a tough time dealing with the run game that West Virginia brings to the table. Texas isn’t a great road team and they’ve had problems putting together consistent performances this season. West Virginia isn’t an overpowering team but they should beat Texas by double digits at home here.