The No. 8 West Virginia University football team (4-0, 1-0) travel to Austin, TX to take on the No. 11 Texas Longhorns (4-0, 1-0) this Saturday. In a game with major national implications, both teams hope to set the tone early on in conference play.
The Mountaineers were involved in a shootout against Baylor last weekend. The offense and defense were both hot topics afterward, but for completely different reasons. While the offense put up 70 points and Geno Smith put up some of the most ridiculous numbers anyone has ever seen from a quarterback, the defense gave up 63 of their own.
Texas was also involved in a high scoring affair last Saturday in a game against Oklahoma State. The Longhorns left Stillwater with a victory after scoring a controversial late touchdown in the closing seconds to win 41-36.
There is a reason there has been a lot of hype surrounding Geno Smith and his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy. He currently leads the entire nation in QB rating at 208.4. No surprise from a player who has thrown 20 touchdowns and no interceptions. WVU also leads the country in passing yards per game with 441.5. His receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin rank 1st and 6th respectively in total receiving yards nationally.
With running back Shawne Alston being dinged up, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison have been splitting carries for the Mountaineers. Alston's and fullback Ryan Clarke's status for Saturday's game is still in question.
By far, Texas' defense is the most talented West Virginia has faced all season. The Longhorns are giving up 21 points per game. They rank 29th in total passing yards allowed.
One place Texas has been vulnerable defensively this year is in the run game. They are giving up 180 yards on the ground per game.
The key to WVU's success offensively against Texas this week is whether or not West Virginia's tackles can stop Longhorn defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat.
"They like to pressure the quarterback," Geno Smith said. "They blitz from time to time. They have really good defensive ends that get to the quarterback without the blitz which helps their out because they get the chance to get into some coverages and unique coverages to force some turnovers so we need to prepare for that."
On the other side of the ball, Texas QB David Ash seems to have finally taken that next step that many expected him to. The only player rated higher than Ash in national QB rating is Geno Smith. Ash has thrown for 1,007 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception so far in 2012.
"He's a tremendous athlete," Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest said. "They have him doing the right things for what he can do. His completion percentage [78%] is off the chain. He's throwing balls that he can complete and their doing enough in the run game to not put all of the burden on him."
Starting running back Malcolm Brown has been ruled out for the Longhorns, but Joe Bergerson and Johnathan Gray have been good when given the opportunity. Both expect to split carries this Saturday.
After last week's game against Baylor, the Mountaineer defense has been highly scrutinized by fans and the media. They have given up 32.5 points per game, which is 96th in the country. They have also given up 352.8 yards per game through the air.
The key for the Mountaineers defensively is to force turnovers. While I believe it will be tough to slow down the Texas offense, if they can win the turnover margin on the road and give the ball back to Geno Smith and company, it will be very important to WVU's success.
The current weather forecast for Austin is a high of 80 degrees with a 0% chance of rain.
The game is at 7:00 p.m. ET and will be aired on FOX.