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The Film Room Previews: The West Virginia Mountaineers

Let's burn this couch

West Virginia really disappointed me this year. I picked them to potentially challenge for the Big XII title, but a brutal schedule and some incredibly unlucky injuries have derailed their chances. I feel completely confident saying that when they are completely healthy, they have a top 10 secondary in the nation. QB Skyler Howard was hailed by some as the next big thing, and hasn't really panned out. Wendell Smallwood is averaging 6 yards a carry, but outside of him the Mountaineers don't have a running threat. Shelton Gibson is explosive, but he hasn't been having the crazy statistical season some predicted him to have. In essence, the Mountaineers are pure potential. If they would've caught a couple of deep balls against TCU, their game last week might have been closer. That being said, there were also some instances that helped the Mountaineers get to the measly 10 points they put up. They're a lot like us: they have the framework of a good team, but that framework hasn't manifested itself.

WEEKLY PLAYLIST:

pull a randy moss - Mike Schonebaum

The Randy Moss Parody Song - 93.7 Mike FM

RANDY - some dude on YouTube

One Clap

Straight Cash Homey

OFFENSE: Spread With A Lot Of Pistol

The image above is what WVU reverts to in long situations, but so far this year they've been a predominantly running team out of the Pistol. Wendell Smallwood is a good RB, and Shelton Gibson is dangerous. WVU's offensive struggles, in my opinion, can be largely attributed to Skyler Howard. He simply isn't preforming where we all expected him to be. This would be fine if, you know, you need a QB to throw the ball. Howard's problem isn't that he doesn't have the tangibles, he just lacks the consistency WVU needs.

DEFENSE: Really Blitzy 3-3-5 Stack

New DC Tony Gibson absolutely loves his Cover 0 blitzes. He has a lot of faith in his linebackers in coverage, which honestly, he should. If Nick Kwiatkoski isn't on some Big XII award lists, it will be a crying shame. The defensive line is average, but with the secondary beaten to crap, the strength of WVU rests solely on the shoulders of their dynamic linebackers. They do everything well. The short middle, which is normally our home, is going to be a tough walnut to crack this week.

WHY I'M WORRIED:

11 AM starts, especially on the road, have not treated us kindly over the years. At this point, if they don't get a win against us, there might be some huge upheaval on the coaching staff. They aren't playing for their lives yet, but they're dang close, and playing a team like that on the road is always dangerous. Our secondary has struggled as of late, and Shelton Gibson can make you pay if you're not careful. Wendell Smallwood is an incredibly consistent back, which is just what the doctor ordered for WVU.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED:

Lost in the haze of last week's disappointing loss was a pretty good stat: we finally held someone to under 200 yards rushing. Without two huge rushes in the 4th from OSU, we would've held them to under 100 on the ground. I'm predicting that WVU is going to have to take their chances over the top against us, and as long as Nigel Bethel is the one lined up on the receiver going deep, i'm okay with that. Also, as desperate as WVU might be, we're a little desperate too. I think we're a better team than we've shown, and our 4 losses are to top 15 teams. I think this is the most winnable game left on our schedule.

HOW WE MATCH UP:

I will stop using the read option in this section the second we prove we can stop it. Since we can't, we will see it. This is one of my least favorite parts of Texas Tech's rush defense struggles, the fact that everyone in the freaking stadium knows exactly what's coming and we can't stop it.

WVU's read option differs from most based on the fact that there's a small fake by the WRs on the outside. WVU is very good at selling the outside screen on the read option. This might give us a huge amount of trouble, because as we all know, we struggle between the tackles. I really don't see Skyler Howard actually throwing this screen, even though it might be there. We're at a crossroads here. TCU's defenders, especially the defensive line, excel at shedding blocks. We do not.

Shedding blocks might be the biggest weakness of our defense. If we can't get off of some of the stuff WVU is going to throw us, they will run for 300+. If we can get off the blocks at the point of attack, we'll get off the field. Our defensive line is going to have to play at a level that we haven't seen them at this season if we want to shut down WVU's strength.

However, Dana Holgorson is an Air Raid disciple, so still expect to see some Air Raid concepts.

This is a vintage Air Raid play. There's only two reads, hit the slant that's going to be opened up by the two outside WRs going deep, or hit the stop route to the opposite side. It's a simple play, but it works. In essence, nothing the Mountaineers do on Offense is groundbreaking. They simply do the basics, which would lead to a ridiculous amount of points if they were able to execute. This season their execution hasn't been what it was, and their Offense has slipped a little.

I was really high on Skyler Howard at the beginning of the year, but i've really softened on him recently. He can make erratic choices throwing the ball, especially on 3rd down. He's good running the ball, but to be effective in this wide open offense, you need consistency in the passing game, and WVU doesn't have that right now. Don't get me wrong, there's a big chance that they find that against our defense, but against more competent ones they don't have it. This isn't to say that the WVU Offense is bad, rather that with all of the firepower they have, I expected a lot more.

This may come as a shock to you because they play in the Big XII, but the Mountaineers have a pretty stout defense.

Kwiatkoski is an absolute stud at OLB. On this play in particular, he doesn't record the tackle, but sets the edge perfectly. If there's anything WVU is good at, it's setting the edge of the line and turning RBs back inside. They utilize a lot of blitzes to do this, but it ends up working out because their secondary is so dang good. They lost Karl Joseph to a knee injury, but without him they're still pretty good. Yes, they miss him badly, and his loss makes them significantly worse, but they still have playmakers back there. They are very capable of giving us trouble on Offense.

There is something I think we can exploit though: how WVU reacts to motion

WVU brackets their coverage against men in motion, which can benefit us in a big way: we can match up our ridiculous speed on linebackers. Right here, TCU sends Kavonte Turpin in motion and gives him the ball while he's full speed, giving him enough space to slip by the linebacker covering him. Originally he had a DB on him, and TCU moved him to a spot where he could succeed.

This week is easy on Offense: get our guys in places where they can succeed. We won't hit as many of our massive plays due to WVU's solid D, but we'll be able to rip up some solid chunks if we can get Jakeem Grant and Ian Sadler lined up on linebackers. I don't expect WVU to run much Cover 0 in order to stop us getting the ball at the line of scrimmage, but if they do, we're more than capable of beating them over the top for big plays.

THE VERDICT:

WVU is a dangerous team that we're playing at a dangerous time. 11 AM start times suck, and have plagued us all year. We've also shown that it doesn't matter how we start, a fast start doesn't guarantee us a victory. We need to piece together a full game for the first time in a while to win this week. However, I'm not overly impressed with Skyler Howard, and I think our Offense can potentially do enough to let us sneak out with a win. WVU is a team that Kliff has beaten before, and nearly beat last year with one of our worst teams in decades. I think he really understands what Holgorson tries to do, and I think he's going to be able to exploit him a little bit. Tech wins, but it's not pretty.

SCORE PREDICTION:

Texas Tech 55, WVU 42