No. 8 TCU hosts No. 23 WVU in Big 12 showdown

The Sports Xchange

October 03, 2017 at 8:17 pm.

Sep 16, 2017; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill (7) throws during the game against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 16, 2017; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill (7) throws during the game against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the best offenses in the country will be on display when No. 8 TCU hosts No. 23 West Virginia on Saturday in a crucial early-season Big 12 Conference showdown.

The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. EDT at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.

TCU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) and West Virginia (3-1, 1-0) were picked in the preseason to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, but both teams have shown strength with balanced offenses in the usually pass-happy league.

In fact, the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers have the top two rushing offenses in the Big 12, separated by just over a yard per game. TCU averages 232.3 yards and West Virginia is getting 231; they rank 25th and 26th in the country.

West Virginia (594.8 yards per game) is second in the nation in total offense. TCU (497.0) is 17th.

TCU is second in the conference in total defense and the best in the Big 12 at defending against the run, one of just two teams in the conference that are allowing fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground.

“They’ve been doing the same thing defensively for 20 years,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “That’s (TCU coach Gary Patterson’s) stamp on college football. They’re as good as they’ve always been defensively, and their stats show that.”

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, a transfer from Florida, leads the Mountaineers’ prolific attack, hitting on 94 of 144 passes through four games for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has thrown just three interceptions.

Grier is a multi-skilled quarterback who is making the players around him better.

“You’ve got to find a way to slow them down. You don’t necessarily ever stop them,” Patterson said about the West Virginia offense. “You can’t allow the big play, and you’ve got to stop the run. Grier, obviously, the thing he can do, he runs around really well also. That also dictates coverages and everything else that you do.

“It’s just another Big 12 ballgame. You’d better get ready to pull up your pants and get ready to go.”

West Virginia also wants to run the ball and, with running back Justin Crawford, it has the chance to get meaningful yards on every snap and control the game. Crawford has racked up 451 yards and six touchdowns on just 61 carries. He has gained at least 100 yards in each game this season.

The TCU attack will be triggered by quarterback Kenny Hill, a transfer from Texas A&M who has the sixth-best completion percentage in the nation and trails only Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in the Big 12.

Hill is one of two starters in the conference who has yet to pass for more than 1,000 yards, but with the league’s top rushing offense, he has been able to play a smarter brand of football that has led the team to its perfect start.

“He’s been taking care of the ball better,” Holgorsen said of Hill. “They’re running the ball a good bit. They’re not asking him to sit back there and throw the ball 90 percent of the time. He’s got a lot of good people around him, but he is managing it extremely well.”

If there is key difference in this game, it hinges on West Virginia’s ability to stop the run. The Mountaineers allowed a school-record 291 rushing yards to Kansas’ Khalil Herbert two weeks ago, allowing the sophomore to eclipse a mark that had stood since 2000.

Sophomore running back Darius Anderson was the star of the show for the Horned Frogs in their 44-31 win at Oklahoma State on Sept. 23, rushing 26 times for 160 yards and catching four passes for 41 yards. Anderson looked as strong at the end of the game as he had at the start, rolling to a 42-yard touchdown on his final carry of the game to cement the win for TCU.

Anderson leads the Horned Frogs with 422 yards rushing. He has three career 100-yard performances (all on the road against Power Five opponents). He is averaging 7.1 yards per carry in his past seven games dating back to last season.

“Without Darius, we probably wouldn’t be where we’re sitting right now,” Patterson said. “He’s grown up, and every week he’s gotten a lot better at everything from pass protection to how to make the cut and what to do. With him being a sophomore, we see him only getting better.”

The series between the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers is tied 3-3, and all but one meeting has been in the Big 12, where TCU leads the series 3-2. West Virginia won last year’s contest 34-10 in Morgantown, inflicting TCU’s most lopsided loss as a member of the Big 12.