Matchups: West Virginia

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QB

Advantage: West Virginia

West Virginia senior Clint Trickett has piloted the Mountaineer offense to an unexpectedly successful season. The pocket passer is a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given to the nation’s top quarterback, and his 2,925 passing yards rank fourth in the nation.

Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes has improved drastically on passes over 20 yards, and his dangerously underthrown balls have been rare in recent weeks. Swoopes still needs to learn how to make quick reads under duress and stand tall with pass rushers in his face. 

RB

Advantage: Texas

Senior Malcolm Brown finally achieved 100 rushing yards in a single game. However, that came against a terrible Texas Tech defense. More encouraging is the fact that junior Johnathan Gray has started to resurrect the explosiveness that made him a top recruit.

The Mountaineers are built on the passing game, but they are more than capable of working the ground game if they have to. West Virginia has four rushers, including sophomore feature backs Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell, who each have at least 50 carries and average four yards per attempt.  

WR

Advantage: West Virginia

Senior Kevin White is electric before and after the catch, and his 1,075 receiving yards are good for the third-highest total in the nation. White’s senior teammate, Mario Alford, and his seven receiving touchdowns will spread out an already thin Texas secondary.

The receivers have been the strength of the Longhorn offense this season, but they had a couple of crucial drops against Texas Tech. Senior John Harris’ efforts have produced great numbers, but his fantastic ability to beat defenders with the ball in the air cannot be quantified. 

OL

Advantage: West Virginia

West Virginia has trotted out the same front five every game this season, but the unit is not without its faults. Trickett has been sacked 21 times, and the team, as a whole, is averaging just four yards per carry.

Head coach Charlie Strong praised his offensive line’s performance against Texas Tech last week. Texas has started the same offensive line for three straight weeks, but the success could be more a factor of Texas Tech’s terrible front seven than a newfound chemistry. 

DL

Advantage: Texas

This unit took a bit of a step back last week, and it will have to get back to form in order to knock off the Mountaineers. Senior defensive end Cedric Reed has to start making an impact in opposing backfields to help stop the run and save his plummeting draft stock.

Senior defensive end Shaquille Riddick will do his best to disrupt an inexperienced Swoopes and keep the Texas run game at bay. Riddick has recorded a tackle for loss in four straight games, and his six sacks are good for fifth best in the Big 12. 

LB

Advantage: Texas

The Longhorn linebacking corps will not have to worry about chasing a mobile quarterback around the field. This unit will instead need to focus its resources on stopping the pass. Senior Jordan Hicks’ two interceptions and 115 tackles serve as evidence that the linebackers should be up to the challenge.

The Mountaineer linebacking corps, led by redshirt junior Nick Kwiatkoski and his nine tackles for loss, are not the flashiest unit on the field, but they get the job done. They have allowed 4.6 yards per attempt — it’s not great, but West Virginia has also faced some of the best rushing attacks in the country. 

DB

Advantage: West Virginia

West Virginia’s secondary has made a drastic improvement over the past couple of seasons. Junior safety KJ Dillon has secured two interceptions on the season, and the team has given up just over 200 yards per game despite already playing TCU, Baylor and Alabama.

Junior cornerback Duke Thomas has his flaws, but he will need to play the game of his life to reign in White. The struggles of the safeties — senior Mykkele Thompson and sophomore Dylan Haines — have thrown Bryson Echols, a talented but inexperienced sophomore defensive back, into the mix on nickel and dime packages. 

ST

Advantage: West Virginia

Even if the Longhorns manage to suppress the powerful Mountaineer offense, they will have their hands full on special teams. Alford is tied for the NCAA lead with two kick return touchdowns, and redshirt sophomore kicker Josh Lambert has hit all four of his 50-plus-yard field goal tries.

Junior Nick Rose hit a 46-yard field goal against Texas Tech, but he also missed very wide on a 37-yarder. Texas will need him to be consistent in order to eke out a bowl appearance. Senior receiver Jaxon Shipley is consistent on punt returns but has yet to make any game-changing plays.