MORGANTOWN-So far, No. 5 West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) has done a good job of taking the 2012 season "one game at a time." But, with all of the talk surrounding the Mountaineers and a possible berth in the National Championship game in mid-January, that focus will suffer another stern test when the old gold and blue travel to Lubbock, Texas, to face an unranked Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's all about staying on the grind," head coach Dana Holgorsen explained during his weekly press conference. "And, if these guys want to win a national championship, then they need to learn how to do that.
"The next game has to be every bit important as the previous one. We've had three pretty emotional games in a row, with Maryland, Baylor and Texas, and these guys have to understand that it is college football. I think we have a group that understands that."
Texas Tech is coming off of a disappointing 41-20 setback at the hands of preseason Big 12 favorite Oklahoma.
"Our guys were ready to play," said Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville. "It just looked like we were waiting for something to happen, but we've got to make stuff happen in games like that."
The Red Raiders won't have to wait long, especially on defense, against a West Virginia offense that is scoring nearly a point a minute.
"Game this week, we've got a good football team coming to town," continued Tuberville. "Scoring a lot of points, averaging 52 points per game. That's a lot of points. They do a great job. They've got an outstanding quarterback that loves to throw the ball.
"He's strong. He's quick. I had a chance to watch him quite a bit in the Manning Camp this summer against all of the other quarterbacks in the country and there was no better kid than him. He's got great touch on the ball."
The game will feature two of the top three signal-callers in the Big 12-WVU's Geno Smith and Tech's Seth Doege.
Smith, who is coming off of a four-touchdown performance in WVU's 48-45 come-from-behind win over Texas, has connected on 166-of-204 throws for 1,996 yards and 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Doege, who was picked three times by the Sooners' defense, has completed 127-of-183 attempts for 1,392 yards and 15 scores, but has tossed six interceptions.
"Offensively, they (Texas Tech) run a similar system to what we do," said Holgorsen. "I've known their coaches for some time and we have been to a lot of different clinics together. They do a lot of the same stuff we do, which is pretty similar to what Oklahoma does, which is pretty similar to what Oklahoma State does.
"There are a lot of teams that do the same stuff. They vary their tempo, they go fast, they can slow it down, they use tight ends, they use fullbacks, they screen, they want to establish the run, they have really good skill at receiver, they have two or three backs that can really go and they have a quarterback that is a veteran and understands the system and game of football."
Of course the same words could be used to describe Holgorsen's own offense.
Smith is having a Heisman winning type of performance and is surrounded by three of the best receivers in the Big 12-Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods-and a sophomore running back (Andrew Buie) that is coming off of a career-rushing performance against the Longhorns.
Austin leads the league in receptions per game (11.6) and is third in yards per game at 132.4, while Bailey is second in receptions (9.8) and yards (142.0) per game. Woods is sixth in receptions per game with an average of 5.8 per contest.
"He (Smith) loves to play, and you can tell he's got that senior leadership," said Tuberville. "A guy that's got some age to him. He takes a shot in the pocket and he'll stand there and throw it.
"He's got good receivers with a lot of speed. Lot of speed on the field Saturday."
And, he has Buie, who rushed for 207 yards and a pair of scores on 31 carries in the win over Texas.
"Texas Tech is a good football team," said Holgorsen. "They had a setback last week, but they'll be ready to go. It's their homecoming, and they'll be fired up about playing.
"From their fan standpoint, there will be some 60,000 people that will be anxious to get a crack at the Mountaineers. We need to play on all three sides of the ball."