Trickett and Sims give Mountaineers edge at QB and RB, but Longhorns have the better defense

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Quarterbacks

Case McCoy completed almost 70 percent of his passes against Kansas, but threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. McCoy’s play has worsened over the last two games and freshman Tyrone Swoopes has yet to demonstrate he is a legitimate passing threat. Clint Trickett is 2-3 as a starter, starting with the upset over Oklahoma State (7-1). Though his numbers are not impressive, Trickett has saved his best games for his best opponents, so the Longhorns should look out.

Advantage: West Virginia

 

Running Backs

Malcolm Brown matched his touchdown total from last year by running for four touchdowns against Kansas. Brown has scored more than two-thirds of Texas’ points in the last two games. Johnathan Gray has remained effective, averaging four yards per carry in the past three games. Joe Bergeron’s role has decreased, but he has shown dedication in the special teams game. Charles Sims had a season-high 154 rushing yards in an overtime win over TCU, scoring two touchdowns. The Houston transfer is the Mountaineers’ biggest offensive weapon, and with 300 yards receiving on the year, he is also an effective pass-catcher. Dreamius Smith only had six yards against the Horned Frogs but has been an effective second-back, with 400 yards and four touchdowns on the season.

Advantage: West Virginia

 

Wide Receivers

West Virginia seemed short-handed at receiver after Ronald Carswell was suspended indefinitely by the program before the TCU game. But Daikiel Shorts stepped up with 98 yards on six catches in the win. Marcus Johnson has become the Longhorns’ most effective receiver, catching passes for 59, 65 and 31 yards in the last three games. Daje Johnson had a career-high seven catches against Kansas. Jaxon Shipley has been a consistent target averaging five catches a game, but has yet to score this season while Mike Davis has only caught four passes in the last three games.

Advantage: Texas

 

Offensive Line

West Virginia surrendered two sacks to the TCU defense last week, an average mark for the Mountaineers, who will face a Texas pass rush that has nine sacks in the last three games. The offensive line has helped West Virginia run for 145 yards per game in the last three weeks.

The Longhorns offensive line gave up their first sack in three weeks against Kansas, and have only given up 10 all season. Texas has rushed for 200 yards per game the past three weeks and faces a West Virginia team that has the No. 78 rush defense in the country. 

Advantage: Texas

 

Defensive Line:

West Virginia had two sacks against TCU, with Will Clarke forcing a fumble on one of them. That ended a five-week drought during which no Mountaineers defensive linemen notched a single sack. West Virginia has made 6.4 tackles for loss per game this year, No. 41 in the nation. A running back in high school, Chris Whaley has finally lived the dream of scoring in college, adding his second defensive touchdown of the season on a 40-yard fumble return against Kansas. Senior Jackson Jeffcoat’s four-game sack streak ended in the same game, but junior Cedric Reed had a career-high two sacks on the day. 

Advantage: Texas

 

Linebackers

No running back has rushed for 100 yards or more against the Longhorns in four weeks. Steve Edmond has stepped up, with 16 tackles in the last three games and an interception against TCU. The linebackers will face their toughest running game this week since facing Oklahoma. West Virginia forced two turnovers and a sack against senior Casey Pachall. Nick Kwiatkoski intercepted Pachall on the very first play, Brandon Golson earned his third sack of the season and Isaiah Bruce forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that put the Mountaineers back in the game. The group is playing at their best.

Advantage: West Virginia

 

Defensive Backs

Darwin Cook leads the Big 12 with four interceptions on the year. Cook also recovered a fumble against TCU that led to a 10-point Mountaineers lead in the fourth quarter. Ishmael Banks had his second interception in the fourth quarter against TCU, sparking 14 straight Mountaineers points. Despite the turnovers, the secondary gives up 276 yards passing per game (12th-worst in the country). Texas has the No. 16 pass defense and have not given up a passing touchdown in three straight games. Duke Thomas leads the secondary with two interceptions on the year. 

Advantage: Texas

 

Special Teams

Sophomore Daje Johnson has continued to be an explosive factor on the Texas kick return team, returning a kick 40 yards against Kansas last week. But the kick coverage team is now the third-worst in the NCAA in yards allowed, allowing 27.2 yards per kick return. West Virginia allows 22 yards per kick return and allows four yards per punt return. Freshman kicker Josh Lambert has transitioned well into the college game, knocking down a 50-yarder two weeks ago against Kansas State.

Advantage: West Virginia