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Staff Predictions: Texas-WVU

After starting their conference slate with a bang in last week's win at Oklahoma State, the Longhorns now host a quarterback that's already garnering a lot of Heisman talk.

Johnathan Gray will get an opportunity to shine against West Virginia.

The Texas offense has put together two very impressive performances, but the defense is yet to play up to its lofty expectations.

Meanwhile, West Virginia comes to Austin after beating Baylor 70-63 in its Big 12 debut and is among the best in the country in virtually every major offensive statistic. On the other hand, the Mountaineer defense looks like one of the worst in the Big 12

This game has all the makings of a shootout in DKR. Neither offense will be completely shut down, but whichever defense rises to the challenge enough to slow the opposing offense down is going to be the one leaving with a win Saturday night.

I'm starting to get the feeling this Texas team has a little something extra to them. You don't just do what they did on the road against a team that won the Fiesta Bowl the year prior and not have a little swagger. I'm extremely impressed with what they've done thus far, how they've progressed on offense especially. And I still think they have some bullets they haven't really fired yet on offense. Johnathan Gray hasn't really been unleashed yet and Daje Johnson needs to get more touches. Those guys can make things happen. The defense, of course, is the issue. They're without the vocal leader in Jordan Hicks and he's also the only linebacker who had any kind of experience heading into the year. I think Texas plays well. I think they find a way to get Geno Smith off balance just enough to give him some issues here and there. But I also don't think you can keep WVU down either.
Texas 49, West Virginia 45

Everybody is going to talk about slowing down Geno Smith, and rightfully so, but I feel like the key to the game for Texas is turning it into a red zone game. Not only does the defense need to force West Virgjnia to use as many plays as possible on its scoring drives and continue to play well when they get inside the 20, but the offense has got to come away with touchdowns from point-blank range. For all of the talk about running clock and using a ball-control attack, it's pretty meaningless unless you're finishing those long drives with touchdowns. One thing this Texas defense does well is force turnovers, and if the Longhorns can make Smith and the West Virginia offense press a little bit, it plays right into their hands. I feel like Texas has a great chance to have the game go exactly as they'd wish, because I feel like they've got more talent and last week's game at Oklahoma State will go a long way with West Virginia having not played in a primetime environment yet this season. The Mountaineers will score points, and while I've changed my score several times, all of the outcomes still have Texas on top.
Texas 38, West Virginia 31

It is now or never for Manny Diaz and the under-performing Texas defense. Geno Smith is said to be coming into DKR with a chip on his shoulder from the lack of publicity he has gotten in the past. On the contrary, the Texas defense came into the season full of positive publicity and expectations and they too should be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder. So the question is whose chip gets chipped. I'm looking for Geno to be picking up his chip of the ground and taking it back to Morgontown with a loss. Texas' defense finally shows up and the new and improved David Ash continues to show why he is one of the top QBs in the country.
Texas 49, WVU 24

Yes, the numbers West Virginia put up against Baylor were impressive. But despite the questions about the Longhorn defense after four games, it's still a much better unit than the Bears'. Geno Smith will put up numbers - there's just no way to completely stop him - and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will make plays, but I think the Texas defense makes the West Virginia offense look more like the unit that scored 31 on Maryland than the one that hung 70 on Baylor. David Ash will continue to play well against one of the worst defenses in the Big 12 and the ground game churns out yards even with Malcolm Brown on the bench. Look for Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron to have big games.
Texas 35, West Virginia 28

This game is all about pressuring Geno Smith. While the Baylor and Marshall games are talked about the most, I keep going back to the 31-21 win over Maryland in which West Virginia punted seven times and rushed for 25 yards (58 before sack yards). While West Virginia certainly didn't throw the kitchen sink at Maryland, they were still contained, and held to around 360 yards. The other thing that continues to grab my attention is the fact that West Virginia runs the ball only 40.4 percent of the time. That is not a recipe for disaster, to be fair, but it's not normally conducive for winning consistently on the road against quality opponents. For Texas, attacking the nation's 118th-ranked pass defense, while still controlling the clock/game in the run game is very key. There are big plays waiting in the passing game, assuming the Texas offensive line can protect long enough for the routes to develop. While Texas has the statistical advantage in the return game, Tavon Austin has the ability to make big plays for West Virginia and is something to keep an eye on Saturday. Directional punting resulting in fair catches is key for Texas. At the end of the day, Texas is the better team, and is playing in front of what will be a jacked up home crowd.
Texas 45, West Virginia 34

Texas is a seven point favorite in this game and I can definitely see why. Sure, West Virginia’s offense can put up video game numbers.  However, their offense has yet to go up against someone of Texas’ caliber.  I can’t help but look back at that Maryland game, where they squeaked out a win, as well. Maryland isn’t anything special on defense. They don’t have the talent Texas does, but they played a solid game and halfway shut down the Mountaineers. I think if the Longhorns play just halfway up to their potential, they’ll be in a favorable position. I also believe that David Ash and the Texas offense’s well-balanced attack will shred the West Virginia defense. Clock control will be the key here, and I think the Horns will have no problem doing that.
Texas 48, West Virginia 34

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