WVU gets to catch a breather

With the Big 12 Conference having a championship game for the first time since West Virginia joined the league the regular season must be concluded by the end of November. The effect on conference teams is that instead of two bye weeks there is only one in 2017.

That may not seem to be significant, but when injuries accumulate those weeks off can be important. That was certainly the case for the Mountaineers this past week, as three defensive starters Jacob Long, Ka’Raun White and Toyous Avery would likely have not been able to play if there had been a game this previous weekend. Having the bye week early in the season thus helped WVU, but the downside is that there are no more respites the remainder of the season.

As we have seen after watching the Mountaineers at Kansas on September 23, there is significant drop off in the quality of play when players second on the depth chart are on the field.

Injuries can be a factor for all teams, but the elites of the college football world like Alabama and Ohio State usually have exceptional athletes to step in. That is not always the case for most of the rest of college football.

Despite the concerns with the defense the West Virginia offense has put up some impressive numbers thus far. But our enthusiasm must be tempered by the fact that the three wins in which the offense averaged 57 points per game were against teams who collectively have just one win against an FBS opponent.

As long as Will Grier is on the field there is comfort knowing that the Mountaineers have a chance to win. What worries WVU fans is that if an injury to Grier occurred, there is little experience behind him. We note that Coach Holgorsen discussed at some length this week encouraging Grier to learn how and when to slide when running the ball to avoid injury.

What now remains are eight consecutive weeks against Big 12 opponents, and with cellar dweller Kansas already dispatched there certainly isn’t a game that fans could comfortably put an automatic “W” beside the team name. So from here on in every week will be a dogfight.

THIS SATURDAY

Preseason prognostications had Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at the top of the Big 12. But although the Sooners clearly remain the top dog TCU crashed the party with an impressive upset win on the road at Oklahoma State two weeks ago. The Horned Frogs are now ranked #9 in the nation, and the road trip to Fort Worth this week now presents a great opportunity for WVU to state its case in the conference. The Mountaineers can pull the upset if they play their best but at this point I have to lean to the ranked team playing at home.

TCU 30, WVU 27

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