Breaking Down the WVU-Texas Tech Matchup By Position
Texas Tech might be ranked, but WVU seems to have teh upperhand.
The Mountaineers lost another heartbreaker last week in Fort Worth. The offense played great despite another slow start and the defense struggled to make a play. Coming off a loss the road doesn’t get much easier for WV. This week the sneaky good Texas Tech Red Raiders arrive in Morgantown. Texas Tech is hot with a win vs Kansas last week, and for the first time this season, they make the top 25, coming in at No. 24. Here is where the Mountaineers and Red Raiders have their advantages:
West Virginia Advantages
Will Grier continued his ridiculous season on Saturday, putting up 366 yards and 3 touchdowns and bringing his season totals up to 1,740 yards and 16 TD’s. His game continues to impress and this week Grier earned the #10 spot on NFL.com’s College QB rankings. Expect huge numbers from Grier on Saturday against a very weak TTU secondary. Texas Tech’s gunslinger is Iowa Hawkeye transfer Nic Shimonek. He has put up Grier-like numbers and their styles are similar, this season he has 1800+ yards and 14 TD’s. Most of those stats from the game against Arizona State where he threw for 6 touchdowns. Last time out vs Kansas he passed for 233 yards and 2 TD’s in the first 3 quarters and then the backups came in because of the blowout. This game has two great college quarterbacks and should have shootout-like scoring. Both are great but Grier has the slight advantage.
Justin Crawford continued his 100 yards per game streak putting up 111 against TCU. He now has 100+ in every game this season. He’s one of the Big 12’s best and should be ready for a challenge vs. TTU. Texas Tech’s backfield is a tale of two men. Justin Stockton took over in his freshman year and has only missed one game in his career. He is a speed back and when I say speed i’m not kidding. He gets his yards in bursts, WV needs to stop him at the line to prevent big plays. He has 385 yards this season and 4 touchdowns, including 161 yards and a touchdown last week against Kansas. The second back is Desmond Nisby who had a breakout game last week putting up 4 touchdowns and 93 yards. This ex UAB commit is TTU’s power back, seeing his first CFB action this season. The Red Raiders have a nice little duo but Justin Crawford and company top it. WV has the advantage.
David Sills collected a lot of accolades last week. 7 catches, 116 yards, 2 touchdowns, an ESPN article, and last but not least, a horrible offensive pass interference call. He still continues to compete with some of the best in the country with 9 TD’s on the season. Gary Jennings used a great half to put up 80 yards, but the receiver who had the most surprising day was Ka’raun White who scored 1 TD and had 116 yards. As for Texas Tech, KeKe Coutee is very dangerous. Despite only being 5-10 he’s got 5 TD’s this season. He also put up 186 yards at Oklahoma State and 161 at Houston. Along with Coutee is Dylan Cantrell and Derrick Willies. Cantrell had a breakout game vs Arizona State with 160 yards and 2 TD’s, but other than that he has been pretty quiet this season. Willies, the third best WR of his recruiting class, has 285 yards this season and 3 TD’s. Last time out vs Kansas he had 32 yards and 1 TD. This is a talented WR group for TTU but WV is simply better. Mountaineers have the advantage.
The West Virginia offensive line has been solid all year. They were definitely put to the test on Saturday and did not fair very well against TCU’s rush. A Lot of runs were stopped before they could even start and Grier almost always had a hand in his face. They still played well enough as WV outgained TCU on offense. The TTU offensive line is not very good. Not one player was on a preseason Big 12 team and they have been shifting starters. The OL lost a combined 154 starts the last two years and return just 46. And that number is only that big because of the rare 7th year in center Tony Morales. This year they have 3 first time starters and only one starter has more than 2 career starts, Center Paul Schwartz, who started 14 games in Lubbock. This is a unit of weakness for TTU and WV has a clear advantage.
The WV defensive backs are coming off a solid week vs TCU. They held Kenny Hill to just 188 yards and 1 TD. Dravon Askew-Henry had 6 solo tackles and the rest of the group played some great coverage. This is a unit with room for improvement but it has been good so far. Texas Tech has gotten off to a horrendous start defending the pass. They are 129th in the country in pass defense and the task does not get easier in Will Grier. The junior Jah’Shawn Johnson is, far and away, the most talented player in the group. He had 2 pass breakups vs Kansas and 40 tackles on the season. Desmon Smith has only played 3 games this season but has made his presence felt with 13 tackles in those games. As if the unit wasn’t struggling enough, DB Douglas Coleman is listed as questionable for the game. This is a big time WV advantage.
Texas Tech Advantages
The WV defensive line played pretty well vs TCU. They held the Horned Frogs to 170 rushing yards and really shut down the two headed monster that is TCU’s rushing attack. Nonetheless, this is a group that needs to improve for the Mountaineers if they want to win these close games. As for Texas Tech, this group led by Mych Thomas, has talent and size and they close holes quick for rushers. Thomas has 18 tackles this year, including 4 against Kansas last week and a sack vs AZ State. Zach Barnes and Boldrick Washington both make plenty of tackles. The wild card is Notre Dame transfer Kolin Hill, with 32 tackles last season and 11 this season. This is a beat up TTU unit with Lonzell Gilmore and Houston Miller both questionable. The TTU defensive line has struggled but has had more success than WV and they have the advantage.
The WV LB group improved so much on Saturday, all thanks to the return of David Long. He played great and was all over the place and I expect the same this week. Al-Rasheed Benton also added 8 tackles. The Texas Tech Linebackers are led by Dakota Allen, with 87 tackles last year, he is a key piece of how the defense runs. They also have Jordan Brooks with 86 tackles last season and JUCO transfer Tony Jones with 101 tackles in junior college. For only 3 linebackers these three make their presence felt and really lead the defense. How they play is usually how the defense plays. All in all it is a elite group for TTU and they have the advantage over WV, big time.
The WV special teams struggled again on Saturday. Mike Molina missed another kick and the punt team muffed a huge kick in the first quarter giving TCU 7 points. The lone bright spot was punter Billy Kinney. His 5 punts averaged 41.8 yards, a big improvement. Meanwhile, the Texas Tech special teams are very talented with a giant group of kickers. The leader is Michael Barden who has only missed once this season and he is only one of 4 kickers. The punter Dominic Panazzolo averages 40 yards a kick. This is a very talented TTU ST and they have a big advantage over WV.
While TTU is ranked and full of talent, I still think WV is better. WV is a couple inches, bad penalties, mistakes, or overtimes from being a top 10 team. The Mountaineers should come out hungry and expect a lot of scoring in this one. It should be fun to watch but I think the Mountaineers pull it out late. WV 48 TTU 38