|With RB Malcolm Brown out due to injury, Texas will rely more on the running of Joe Bergeron, shown here last Saturday against Oklahoma State. (AP)|
No. 8 West Virginia (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) at No. 11 Texas (4-0, 1-0 Big 12)
Kickoff: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: Texas by 7
Watchability: Given Oklahoma's early struggles, this could prove to be the game of the year in the Big 12. The Mountaineers have the flashy offense and the Heisman Trophy front-runner. The Longhorns are trying to show they are again a Big 12 title contender after back-to-back down years. This is certainly one of the top games to watch Saturday.
Shining stars: West Virginia: QB Geno Smith. The hype machine has kicked into overdrive, as Smith is now the prohibitive favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. But there is reason to believe the hype. Smith's senior season has gotten off to an improbably strong start, as he is completing 83.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Smith put up ridiculous numbers in last week's 70-63 win over Baylor, throwing for 656 yards and eight touchdowns -- while only six of his 51 passes fell incomplete. Texas: DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Part of a two-headed monster at defensive end (Alex Okafor mans the other side of the Longhorns' line), Jeffcoat has had a remarkably strong start to the season. He has 25 total tackles -- eight of which have been tackles for loss, including three sacks. He has five QB hurries to his credit, along with a pass break-up and two forced fumbles. If Texas is going to make life difficult for Smith, Jeffcoat figures to be a big part of that.
Who could steal the show: West Virginia: The team's defense. That might not be a good thing, as WVU surrendered 63 points in last Saturday's win over Baylor. The pass defense is particularly struggling -- ranked 118th out of 120 FBS teams, as WVU gives up 352.75 passing yards per game. The one positive: turnovers, as the Mountaineers have forced seven in four games. Texas: QB David Ash. If anyone stands to benefit from facing West Virginia's struggling pass defense, it is Ash, who showed himself to be more than a game manager in last Saturday's win at Oklahoma State. Ash completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys, showing a nice touch on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jaxon Shipley.
You going? Ranking the road trip: The game day atmosphere in Austin led Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro to remark recently that he prefers playing road games because "It's way louder and gets me way [more excited]. No offense to our fans, but [Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium] is not loud." Longhorns fans are attempting to buck that perception, as social media has lit up with the hashtag "#MakeGenoDeaf." Of course, it may not matter -- WVU uses hand signals and a silent snap count -- but still, it seems Texas fans are certainly amped up for this game.
Magic number for West Virginia: Zero. That is how many times WVU's offensive starters have turned the ball over through the first four games of the season. The Mountaineers are 66-4 in the last decade when winning the turnover battle. Of course, if you don't give the ball away, it's tough to lose in that stat.
Magic number for Texas: 6.19. While many perceive the Mountaineers as the team that comes into this game with a struggling defense, the Longhorns haven't been much better. They have yielded 6.19 yards per play -- worse than every Big 12 team other than Baylor. Against an explosive offense like West Virginia's, that could spell trouble.
This game comes down to: Who can control the running game? Yes, West Virginia is known for its passing attack, but it uses the run to open things up for Smith and company. RB Shawne Alston hasn't played the last two weeks, and his status for Saturday is unknown. Texas struggled to bottle up Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle last week. The Longhorns will be without RB Malcolm Brown due to injury, but figure to be fine at the position thanks to Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray. The Mountaineers defended the run well against Baylor, but can they handle Texas' more talented backfield tandem?
Prediction: Texas 45, West Virginia 42
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).