MORGANTOWN - The 'New Kids on the Big 12 Block', No. 23 WVU (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) and unranked TCU (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) meet at Milan Puskar Stadium at 3 p.m. Saturday with the winner maintaining some hope of moving into the upper echelon of the league while the loser will begin playing the part of the spoiler for the remainder of the season.
"It's a big ballgame going into West Virginia," said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. "Both of us came into the Big 12 this year and are on the same path.
"We understand what we have to do. One of those things would be to get healthy, but that probably isn't happening for a couple of weeks. We have to get ready to play. It's a great venue in Morgantown, and they have great fans and some really good players."
Both come into the afternoon meeting in need of a victory. The Horned Frogs went three overtimes before dropping a 56-53 decision to No. 17 Texas Tech two weekends ago and are coming off of a 36-14 setback at Oklahoma State last Saturday.
WVU is coming off its final bye week of the season. The break could not have come at a better time as the Mountaineers have been sent reeling following lopsided loses at Texas Tech (49-14) and at home to No. 4 Kansas State (55-14).
The similarities, however, end there.
"I try not to compare anybody," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We try to get to know our opponent as well as we can. We worry about ourselves and getting our guys ready to play.
"We want to get them prepared from a mentality standpoint, and we want to get them in the right frame of mind. We worry a little bit more about ourselves than the opponent. With that being said, we get to know the opponent as much as we can. We want to get the guys in the right frame of mind to execute."
What Holgorsen and his staff discovered is a TCU offense that is averaging 33.2 points and 429.5 yards per game despite the loss of starting quarterback Casey Pachall to a rehabilitation center early in the season.
Taking over for Pachall under center was redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin. Since taking over the reigns of the Horned Frogs' offense against Iowa State, Boykin has completed 101-of-164 attempts for 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Good numbers, but ones that pale in comparison to those posted by WVU's Geno Smith during his final season in Morgantown. The senior has completed 217-of-292 passes for 2,417 yards and 26 touchdowns with two picks - both coming in the second half against KSU.
"He (Smith) is the all-time leading passer at West Virginia," said Patterson. "They have been running the offense a long time. He is very athletic, can make all the throws and has a lot of weapons on their offense."
Injuries, however, may place both teams' offense in a precarious position. TCU's Boykin left during the latter stages of the team's loss to OSU and it will be missing at least one of its stable of running backs while WVU's Stedman Bailey and Shawne Alston are less than 100 percent.
"I didn't know that our offensive problems were incredibly affected by one guy," said Holgorsen. "Are we better with Stedman out there at 100 percent? Yes. Are we better with 100 percent out of Shawne Alston? Yes. Is that the reason we lost? No. There are a bunch of things that go into, but we are working hard to fix it."
The team that is best able to overcome those losses, and protect the football, will open the final third of its season with a win.