Texas plays West Virginia on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the two schools in the Mountaineers' home city of Morgantown. Thanks to a bit of conference realignment, and WVU's 2012 move into the Big 12, the game also doubles as the two teams' third contest since 1956.
Last year's Mountaineers were undefeated, ranked eighth, and quarterbacked by top-rated passer Geno Smith when they barnstormed out of Austin with a 48-45 win over the 11th-ranked Longhorns last October. The shootout victory elevated West Virginia – then-midway through its first season playing within the Big 12 – to a No. 5 ranking in the Associated Press poll, where they plateaued before dropping five straight and getting booted from the Top 25. That trend has seemed to have continued through this year: Head coach Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers are 6-11 since leaving Austin victorious.
By contrast, Texas (6-2, 5-0 in Big 12) is 11-5 since that meeting, though the Longhorns' lineup remains virtually unchanged – save for de facto starting quarterback Case McCoy.
West Virginia, on the other hand, has a new quarterback – junior Clint Trickett – and a slew of new wideouts to replace Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who've joined Geno Smith in the NFL. That trio was the engine for high-speed offense that averaged 39 points per game through 2012. 2013's unit – which does feature dangerous tailback Charles Sims – generates 23 points per game, while their defense gives up 31.
The Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4 in Big 12) snapped a three-game losing streak Nov. 2 with their 30-27 overtime win at TCU. So far, Texas and West Virginia have shared No. 12 Oklahoma, Kansas State, and TCU as common opponents. The Longhorns are undefeated against that slate by a combined score of 97-48; while the Mountaineers are 1-2, being outscored 49-78.
Still, Texas will need to make Sims Public Enemy No. 1 if they're to win in Morgantown and retain their shared perch atop the Big 12. Last week, the senior diced TCU's vaunted rush defense for 154 yards on 24 carries, making the Houston native and former Cougar a high risk to torment Texas' front seven, which hasn't exactly been imposing against the run all season.
Sobering, as is how No. 15 Oklahoma State suffered their only loss in Morgantown five weeks ago. Sounds like we've got ourselves a trap game, folks.