Big 12 still a road test for West Virginia
A week after losing a heartbreaker at home to TCU that knocked them down in the league standings, the Mountaineers have to get on a plane for a 1,400-mile trip to Texas to face a Longhorns team trying to scrap together a late-season surge to make a bowl.
No team has to travel within the Big 12 like West Virginia (6-3, 4-2), and the Mountaineers have struggled to cope with the wear and tear in the second half of the previous two seasons.
After a 4-0 start in 2012, the Mountaineers lost six of their final eight. Last season, they lost six of the final seven.
And last week, they lost 31-30 on a last-second field goal after leading the entire game. Is it the start of another late-season swoon?
Don't count on it, Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett said.
''I'm not too worried about it,'' Trickett said. ''I think we will be fine. If you can't get excited about Texas, and playing in front of 100,000 people, something is wrong with you.''
Texas (4-5, 3-3) is trying to claw its way back from a 2-4 start under Strong, the program's worst in nearly 60 years, and getting bowl eligible would feel like an accomplishment.
Texas has struggled badly against ranked teams, with a 1-7 mark in its last eight matchups with Top 25 opponents.
''The thing for us to start doing is (winning in) our home stadium,'' Strong said. ''We haven't done a great job of on our own turf.''
Some things to watch when West Virginia plays at Texas:
TRICKETT'S TURNOVERS: Trickett had two of West Virginia's five turnovers last week against TCU and had a season-low 168 yards passing. The Mountaineers' minus-12 turnover differential ranks among the worst in the country. Early mistakes against a tough Texas defense could bury the Mountaineers.
BIG HITS: Texas turned the game against Texas Tech last week when cornerback Quandre Diggs leveled Red Raiders' quarterback Pat Mahomes and knocked him out of the game in the second quarter. Texas also knocked Trickett out of last year's win over the West Virginia. The Mountaineers have to protect Trickett on Saturday.
WHERE'S WHITE?: West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White was one of the league's most dazzling players through the first half of the season with circus catches and over 1,000 yards. He's all but disappeared the last two games with six receptions for 55 yards as defenses have committed to double coverage.
''We'll figure out ways to be able to get him involved,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
FINAL DRIVE: The last two meetings have gone down to the wire in typical Big 12 style. West Virginia won 48-45 in 2012 and Texas won 47-40 in overtime last year.
''We have no reason to think this game is going to be any different,'' Holgorsen said.
THIRD AND LONG: Two weeks ago allowed Kansas State to convert 9 of 17 third downs. Similar struggles getting off the field against West Virginia could lead to a big day for the Mountaineers.