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Thursday, October 4, 2012
Three questions: West Virginia vs. Texas

By Carter Strickland

Each week we take a look at three of the burning questions that face Texas as it prepares for the next opponent. This week the No. 11 Longhorns will play No. 8 West Virginia at home. The winner could have the inside track to the Big 12 title:

1. Is there more to worry about than Geno Smith?
No doubt. Smith can get the ball to anyone at any time. But he also has very capable running backs. Shawne Alston is a 235-pound back who can move. He missed the Baylor game with a thigh injury but is expected to be back against Texas. Alston averages 6.2 yards per carry and is rarely brought down by the first guy. This is a worry for Texas because it rarely brings down a running back with the first, second or third guy.

Mike Davis, Justin Gilbert
Mike Davis is one of a few Texas receivers who are capable of having big games.
Smith is going to spread the field and that could give Alston plenty of room to roam on draws and delays.

2. Does David Ash have a go-to target?
No, and that is what has made him such an effective passer this season. Texas knows that all of its top three receivers can break the game open at any time. In fact, it has gotten to the point where it is not about the player but the position. Texas coach Mack Brown didn’t even realize Jaxon Shipley was the player with three touchdown catches against Oklahoma State. He just knew there were three touchdown receptions. That speaks to the willingness of Texas’ players to forgo ego and do what is best for the passing game.

Not having a set target has made it difficult for the defense to key in on one player. That was the case against Oklahoma State on third downs. Typically the assumption would be that Shipley is the primary target on those types of downs. But Ash had enough confidence to go with Marquise Goodwin and he was open every time.

3. Will these two teams top 100 combined points?
Looking at the past stats the quick answer would be yes. Texas has scored 66 and 41 -- 107 points -- in back-to-back games. West Virginia has scored 101 in its last two games. Plus the defenses have not exactly been stellar, either.

But this game should stay below the century mark. Texas will control the clock much more than Baylor did and not allow the Mountaineers as many opportunities to score. Plus the Texas defense, while extremely suspect between the 20s, has been solid inside the 20s. Oklahoma State was forced to kick four field goals and missed one of those. WVU seemingly hasn’t kicked a field goal since the days of leather helmets.

But if Texas can limit two or three of the WVU drives to three points and then control the clock for 36 to 38 minutes the game should stay in the mid-80s range.