1. Which team will want to redeem itself more?
Both teams have lost their last two games. West Virginia fell from no. 5 in the AP poll to no. 21 in the BCS after losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State. TCU fell out of the top 25 with losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Both teams have something to prove as Big 12 newcomers, and a loss would break long-standing trends for each team. The Mountaineers have not lost consecutive home games since 2003, while TCU hasn’t lost three straight since 1998.
2. Can TCU’s defense avoid “mistakes” on Saturday?
Sophomore safety Sam Carter emphasized the “mistakes” the Horned Frog defense made against Oklahoma State. The defense surrendered 36 unanswered points to the Cowboys last week, and face just as potent of an offense in Geno Smith and West Virginia. The Frogs have surrendered 150 points over their last four games, and the defense will have to play a complete game to shut down the Mountaineers. If they continue to make “mistakes” on that side of the ball, West Virginia will find the endzone early and often.
3. Will the Frogs be able to contain Tavon Austin?
Not many teams have thus far. Both Texas Tech and Kansas State held Austin under 100 yards, something the previous four Mountaineer opponents were unable to do. The Red Raiders are the only team to keep Austin out of the endzone in 2012. One way to contain Tavon Austin is to put consistent pressure on Geno Smith. The early-season Heisman hopeful has struggled under pressure in West Virginia’s two losses. Stansly Maponga’s presence will help the Frogs pressure Smith, but Devonte Fields will likely have to find his way into the backfield on several occasions to disrupt the passing game and take away one of the most dangerous weapons in the Big 12 in Austin. The senior receiver can also create havoc in the rushing attack and on special teams.
4. Can Trevone Boykin bounce back from last week’s disappointment?
In Boykin’s first game as the Horned Frogs’ starting quarterback, he threw three interceptions and TCU suffered its first loss of the season. However, Boykin rebounded the next week, completing over seventy percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns against Baylor. Boykin did not play well against Oklahoma State last week, as he completed just over fifty percent of his passes for 185 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Boykin was sidelined with a leg injury on the same play that he threw the interception and did not return for the final drive. TCU head coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday he thinks Boykin will play Saturday, but two questions surround the freshman quarterback: can he rebound once again from a disappointing stat line? And, will he be effective playing through pain?
5. Can the Frogs stay healthy during the game?
The 2012 season has been an ongoing series of losses for the Horned Frog roster. Starters on both sides of the ball have continued to get banged up on a weekly basis, some missing significant time. A few players that have been hurt in recent weeks will be back Saturday. Boykin will play at quarterback, Jason Verrett will play despite an injury suffered last week, and, as previously mentioned, Stansly Maponga will see the field for the first time since the Baylor game. Injuries can throw off the rhythm on either side of the ball and create need for quick changes in game plan. West Virginia comes off a bye week, meaning the Mountaineers have had two weeks to not only prepare for TCU, but to rest their players. Fatigue has seemed to plague the Frogs, and losing players to injury is not something they can afford to do in what will likely be a fast-paced game against a rested Mountaineer team.