,
The Press Box Sports

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. WVU Mountaineers Football Preview

NCAA Football WVU Mountaineers Texas Tech Red Raiders

If you like watching high-scoring games in college football, you should watch the WVU Mountaineers vs. No. 24 Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday. The teams have a lot in common this season. For starters, their only losses have been against top-25 opponents. Their passing performance has also been nearly identical. Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury was in desperate need of a strong season this year and so far, so good. The Red Raiders are 4-1 with their only loss being against Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers season has been as expected so far. Losses against Virginia Tech and TCU put them at 3-2 and they’re still looking for a quality win. If they can come out on top in Lubbock, it’s a start to a solid football season.

This game will feature two great offenses and not much defense from either team. The Mountaineers rank third in the NCAA in total offense, averaging 577 yards per game. Texas Tech is ranked seventh in total offense, averaging 549 yards per game. WVU is more balanced on offense with 364 passing yards and 214 rushing yards per game. Mountaineer offensive coordinator, Jake Spavital has the offense clicking in his first season back in Morgantown.

The Red Raiders are pass heavy as well, averaging 386 yards through the air to 163 yards on the ground. Eric Morris is going into his fifth season calling the plays for Texas Tech. Defense is a different story. Texas Tech is ranked 104th in the nation, giving up 437 yards per game. WVU is right behind them ranking 105th and giving up 442 yards each game this season. The Red Raiders have struggled on pass defense while the running game has given the Mountaineers most of their problems this year.

Quarterbacks:

Will Grier has performed well for WVU. Currently, he’s eleventh in NCAA Football in passing with 1,740 yards. Grier is also tied for third in the nation with 16 passing touchdowns. The Florida Gator transfer has great poise in the pocket, but has struggled when under pressure. He’s made several bad throws and that’s resulted in four picks in five games. Regardless, the Mountaineers couldn’t really ask for a better quarterback this season. Grier is completing 63 percent of his passes and averaging 348 yards per game. He has shown flashes of mobility with 140 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.

Nic Shimonek is having a career year for the Red Raiders. The Iowa transfer is third in the NCAA, completing 71 percent of his passes. He also ranks seventh with 1,811 passing yards, and is tied for eleventh with 14 touchdowns. His accuracy is what makes him so dangerous. Add that with a quick release and you’ll see why the senior is averaging 362 passing yards per game.

Will Grier WVU Mountaineers

Interesting Fact: Grier leads NCAA Football with 789 deep passing yards.

Receivers:

The Mountaineers field on of the best receiver units in college football this season. Gary Jennings and David Sills lead the team and are among the best wide receivers in the nation. Sills leads all of NCAA FBS football with 9 touchdown receptions. The former quarterback has 33 catches for 512 yards, and averages 15.5 yards per reception. Gary Jennings has settled into his new role nicely. He leads the Mountaineers with 39 catches and 518 yards. Ka’Raun White is a leader on this offense and has 347 yards and 3 touchdowns. Marcus Simms is a burner that rounds out the receivers. He averages 22.1 yards per reception and has great acceleration to gain separation on defenders.

David Sills WVU Football

Sills has become a fan favorite and a key target in the red zone.

Keke Coutee is the leader among the Red Raider receivers and one of the best in the country. The junior is eighth in NCAA football with 585 yards. Coutee has big play potential and is by far the favorite target for Shimonek. He also leads Texas Tech with five touchdowns. Dylan Cantrell is the No. 2 receiver on the team with 22 receptions for 322 yards and 4 touchdowns. Derrick Willies completes the trio, catching 16 passes for 285 yards, 3 touchdowns, and averages a team leading 17.8 yards per reception among starters. The Mountaineers may have a few more weapons at receiver, but this Texas Tech unit can go head-to-head with anyone in the country.

Keke Coutee Texas Tech Football

Keke Coutee is among the top receivers in NCAA football this season.

Running Backs:

WVU has a significant advantage in the ground game due to their depth at the position. Justin Crawford is having great year after having a solid 2016 campaign. Crawford is averaging 7 yards per carry and has 562 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. He’s an explosive running back that can beat defenders to an opening for a huge gain. Kennedy McKoy is almost as solid as Crawford. With 221 yards on the season, the sophomore is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has 3 touchdowns.

Justin Crawford WVU Football

Crawford’s tackle breaking ability gives him a chance to break a big run on every carry.

While not as impressive as WVU, Texas Tech does have a solid running game of their own. Justin Stockton leads the team with 385 yards, averages 6.8 yards per carry, and has 4 touchdowns. Expect to see a lot of Desmond Nisby in this game. At 235lbs. he’s a power back that thrives in short yardage and goal-line situations. The junior has 6 touchdowns and 197 yards on just 35 carries. He’ll be used to pound his way through running lanes and wear down the defense.

Desmond Nisby Texas Tech Football

Nisby is a power runner that will be involved in almost every red zone opportunity.

Defense:

When your defense is ranked 105th in the nation, there isn’t too many positives to talk about. Linebacker, Al-Rasheed Benton is one positive to talk about for the Mountaineers though. Benton has 44 tackles, a sack, and an interception this season. He’s been critical in making big stops on third down this year. Another player to watch for is Kyzir White. While he’s had his struggles in the secondary this season, White can make the big play on defense at any given moment. The defensive line struggles to get pressure on the quarterback and will have to give the secondary some relief by getting to Shimonek and forcing bad throws. Overall, the defense is young and should show signs of improvement as the season moves on.

Al-Rasheed Benton WVU Football

Benton has been the anchor of the WVU defense.

The good news for WVU is that Texas Tech is in the same boat. The Red Raiders give up a ton of yards with most being through the air. They also have had issues getting to the quarterback. That could lead to trouble for the secondary. The Red Raiders will rely on linebackers Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks to make plays on defense. Allen has 39 tackles, a sack, and 2 picks while Brooks leads the team with 42 tackles. Lonzell Gilmore and Douglas Coleman are questionable at the moment to play in Saturday’s game. If either one can’t go, that will make the task for this defense more difficult.

Dakota Allen Texas Tech Football

Dakota Allen will be called upon to lift the Red Raider defense against WVU.

Game-Plan:

With their defensive woes, the Mountaineers have to start quicker on offense. They put up just three points in the first half in last week’s loss to TCU. The defense played well, giving up only a touchdown in the half, but the offense has to keep them off the field and have better production early in the game. Going for touchdowns is a necessity. Kicker Mike Molina is only 3 for 6 on field goals this season. The Mountaineers do a pretty good job at disguising their blitz packages, but a weak secondary means the defensive front has to get to Shimonek quick.

Texas Tech needs to attack the Mountaineer secondary, but can’t be afraid to run the ball. The Mountaineers gave up 367 rushing yards to Kansas three weeks ago, so adding a few more running plays should be on Kingsbury’s agenda. On defense, the Red Raiders can’t get beat deep. They will also try to plug to middle to keep the Mountaineers’ running game at bay.

Expect this game to be a shoot-out and victory could be determined by who has the ball on the last possession of the game. Game time is set for noon est. on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown. WV. The game will be televised on ESPNU and you can follow a full game recap here at pressboxsports.net.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

three + nine =