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Staff Predictions: Texas Longhorns vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

HornSports Staff
HornSports Staff

Photo: Sara Diggins, Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Texas Longhorns will take the field on Saturday against the West Virginia Mountaineers in what appears to be a must-win for Steve Sarkisian's team in order to keep conference title hopes alive.  Following a 34-37 overtime loss against Texas Tech in Lubbock last weekend, more questions about playcalling and execution on both sides of the ball arose.  Sark continues to play his quarterback cards close to the vest, particularly with an injured Quinn Ewers, who has been practicing and suited up last weekend in Lubbock.  Whether or not Ewers, who sustained a clavicle sprain against Alabama in Week 2, plays at home on Saturday remains to be seen.  One thing is certain - the offense under sophmore Hudson Card looks one-dimensional for the most part and has struggled to sustain drives.  The Longhorns need a balanced attack this weekend against a solid Mountaineer run defense that effectively rushes the passer.

Can the Texas defense contain West Virginia quarterback JT Daniels?  Will the Longhorns get the running game going to allow the starting quarterback to take shots deep downfield?  The HornSports Staff gives their thoughts and score predictions on the upcoming game.

Ryan Swantkowski (2-1)

The Longhorns will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers back in Austin on Saturday after a gut-punching loss to the Red Raiders in Lubbock last weekend. The Mountaineers have been firing on all cylinders offensively so far this season, averaging just over 42 points per game, and are coming off a strong road victory against Virginia Tech last week. This West Virginia team offensively is talented all over, with veteran QB J.T. Daniels, a dual-threat backfield in CJ Donaldson and Tony Mathis Jr. and a speedy WR in Bryce Ford-Wheaton. On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers have been a little inconsistent (giving up 55 points to Kansas but holding Virginia Tech to only 10) but have really turned up the intensity as of late. 

Looking over to Texas, the QB situation remains up in the air again. QB Quinn Ewers seems to be trending in the right direction to play, but if he's unable to go then Hudson Card will seem to make his 3rd straight start. Star WR Xavier Worthy's status is still unknown as well for Saturday as he was injured in the first quarter last week. Defensively against Tech the Longhorns allowed the Red Raiders to convert 6 of 8 4th down conversion attempts (75%) and were missing LB DeMarvion Overshown for the first half due to the targeting call he had in the 2nd half of the UTSA game. To top everything off, Heisman hopeful Bijan Robinson fumbled the ball in OT that would lead to Tech's game-winning field goal. It seemed that the Longhorns didn't have their best stuff in Lubbock, but if they want a chance at the Big 12 title, that has to be put in the rear-view mirror to focus on this explosive West Virginia Offense. I'm rolling with the Horns in a big bounce-back win and a strong defensive performance. 

Score Prediction: Texas 27, West Virginia 17

Jameson McCausland (3-1)

It feels dramatic to call a game in early October a "must-win", but for all intents and purposes, Saturday's game is a must win for Texas if they hope to keep their goals for this season alive. There is a decent chance Hudson Card will be making his 3rd consecutive start and Steve Sarkisian has to find a way to put his QB in favorable positions for all 4 quarters. Sarkisian left the offense out to dry with some conservative play-calling last week.

Defensively, it's quite simple for Texas. They have to find a way to slow down the short passing game of West Virginia. The Mountaineers excel in getting the call to their receivers in the quick game and it is something the Longhorns haven't shown they can slow down yet this year. JT Daniels isn't going to beat them with his legs, so this is the game for Texas to dial up some pressure and see if they can force some mistakes.

It will be another close game, but I think Texas finds a way to improve to 1-1 in conference play and set up a big game in the Cotton Bowl next week.

Score Prediction: Texas 35 West Virginia 27

Aaron Carrara (3-1)

This is a Texas team that really isn't quite sure of its identity right now and that's a big problem for Steve Sarkisian and his staff.  The offense has regressed since the Alabama game and the defense has showed promise, but they were gouged last week by Tech quarterback Donovan Smith for 331 yards passing and two touchdowns. JT Daniels operates a smooth offense and will beat Texas with the short throws if they let him.  The linebackers and secondary will be busy and their level of play on Saturday will dictate a lot toward to final result.  

If Texas can get things going offensively and force a turnover or two they win this game with ease.  Unfortunately outside of the Alabama game we haven't seen the offense gel or the coaches make the necessary adjustments when facing adversity.  The Longhorns need to win this game to quell an angry fan base before heading into a rivalry game the following week.  Bert Auburn has been outstanding as of late and wins this for Texas.

Score Prediction: Texas 34, West Virginia 31

Devon Messinger (3-1)

Following a rather disappointing loss to Texas Tech, the Longhorns will look to turn the page with a home victory against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Unfortunately for a Texas team that has struggled to move the ball at times, West Virginia is currently the 23rd-best defense in the country (in terms of yards per game).

On Saturday, the Longhorns will have to apply pressure to redshirt junior quarterback JT Daniels who has a pair of lengthy wideouts that he likes to target - Bryce Ford-Wheaton (6'3") and Kaden Prather (6'4"). Meanwhile, we will have to see if Quinn Ewers is ready to go for the Longhorns before the Oklahoma game, or if Hudson Card is still the man in charge at quarterback.

This weekend's game is surprisingly a big one for the Longhorns as it could exponentially increase their likelihood of dropping three games in-a-row with a loss. Which Longhorns team will we get? An angry unit that pushed Alabama to the brink of a demoralizing loss or one that showed a lack of fight against Tech?

Score Prediction: Texas 34 West Virginia 31

TFloss32 (3-1)

After processing the highs of the Alabama game and the extreme lows we witnessed in Lubbock, I’m trying to remind myself that things are never as good or bad as they seem. As a graduate, diehard fan, etc. it can sometimes be difficult for us to tell the difference between what we want to happen and what is actually happening. I wish I knew. The Longhorns are understandably dealing with significant injuries that have changed how the coaching staff has to approach each week, but many warts from 2021’s squad are still showing – specifically the very concerning trend of uninspired road performances and blowing double-digit leads with an unwillingness and/or inability to make adjustments in the second half. West Virginia is a must-win game, and a winnable game, but it will be a formidable task. Sark can’t be conservative on offense by taking the game out of his QB’s hands, and the defense has to tighten up their discombobulated pass coverage as the Mountaineers will most certainly attempt to exploit that much like UTSA and Tech. We should know quickly if the team fully appreciates the situation they’ve put themselves in after a disappointing loss. With the little benefit of the doubt I have left to give, I’ll predict a victory on Saturday and a confidence bump throughout the program if Ewers gets the starting nod.

Score Prediction: Texas 34 West Virginia 31

Mitch Lovell (3-1)

Texas wins a close one and is finally able to hold on to a lead.  Longhorns get a much-needed win headed into the Cotton Bowl next week.

Score Prediction: Texas 31 West Virginia 24

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