Game location: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Game time/channel: 7:00pm ET/FOX (previously announced to be on FS1)
Spread: -10 (West Virginia); moved to WVU -13 Thursday afternoon
Most Recent Matchup: 2016 (West Virginia 35, BYU 32)
The Cougars and Mountaineers squared off in Landover, Maryland in 2016, at the home of who are now the Washington Commanders of the NFL.
BYU got thrust into what looked like a classic Big 12 shootout. BYU briefly led 10-7 in the second quarter before the Mountaineers, led by QB Skyler Howard, went on a hot streak. West Virginia kept BYU at arm’s length most of the rest of the game until the final possession.
With the Mountaineers up 35-32, Taysom Hill led BYU on a drive with less than three minutes remaining in the game. The Cougars got all the way to the West Virginia 28 yard line with just over one minute left.
Hill then threw an interception to seal the win for West Virginia in a compelling game in a fun environment at an NFL site.
Head coach: Neal Brown
2023 Season Thus Far
The Mountaineers opened up with one of the hardest games on anyone’s schedule in the FBS, on the road at Penn State. They lost in convincing fashion. After being picked to finish last in the Big 12 by the media, it seemed that was their destiny.
Until they rattled off four straight wins, beating Pitt, Texas Tech, and TCU in consecutive weeks in the process.
Their two losses since the opener at Penn State was on a Hail Mary on the road at Houston on a Thursday night and to perhaps the fourth best team in the conference in Oklahoma State.
They bounced back with their fifth win last week against UCF, winning 41-28 in Orlando.
BYU and West Virginia enter this matchup with identical records at 5-3. The winner will become bowl eligible.
When BYU Has the Ball
Ever since the final whistle in the blowout loss to Texas, the BYU offense has been under intense scrutiny, especially at the quarterback position. Kedon Slovis makes some impressive throws at times, but mostly looks limited in an offense typically designed for mobile quarterbacks.
BYU, more than ever this season, needs its run game to surface. Aidan Robbins was ineffective against Texas. LJ Martin was out with an injury. He appears to be a game time decision for this weekend.
Whoever plays at running back, it’s up to the offensive line to make the run game effective.
The good news is West Virginia ranks 92nd in yards per carry allowed. They are 71st in total offense allowed.
BYU cannot afford to go five-plus drives with a three-and-out like it did against Texas. We saw that no matter how well the defense plays, it means nothing if the offense can’t get out of their own way.
That starts with not turning the ball over and turning 1st & 10 situations into 2nd and 3rd and manageable.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
Garrett Greene is the engine that makes this West Virginia offense go. He is the second-highest graded quarterback in the Big 12 per Pro Football Focus. He also has the second-most rushing yards of any quarterback in the conference.
Receiver Hudson Clement leads the Big 12 in yards per reception.
Running back CJ Donaldson is coming off of a 121-yard performance against UCF, averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
BYU defensive end Tyler Batty ranks second in the conference in total pressures and tied for the lead in QB hits. He needs another big game for BYU to keep their offense at bay. The linebackers need to prevent the run game from getting into a rhythm and staying on schedule.
How BYU Can Win
Morgantown is a tough place to play. West Virginia is 8-3 since 2021 at home against unranked opponents, including wins over both Texas and Oklahoma.
To win in a rowdy road environment, BYU needs their best performance of the season from the rushing attack (the season high is 150 yards). Kedon Slovis (or whoever the QB is) needs to take care of the ball and not put it in harm’s way. The offense needs to open things up to create running lanes and opportunities for big chunk plays.
The defense is becoming the more trustworthy unit. But as we saw against Texas, that won’t matter if the offense is out of sync.
Hopefully, the offense spent the week of practice remedying the run game and giving BYU’s QB more chances to succeed.
Prediction: West Virginia 30, BYU 21