We’re back on track.
After consecutive bye weeks, West Virginia University and Marshall University are back to playing on the same day again.
In fact, WVU and MU actually are playing at the exact same time.
The Mountaineers host 11th-ranked Texas at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Milan Puskar Stadium, while the Thundering Herd travels to Middle Tennessee to play the Blue Raiders at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Murfreesboro.
Who’s going to win?
Here are my predictions:
n Texas is a juggernaut in every definition of the word. The Longhorns are averaging 41.8 points and 497.8 yards total offense. That is 16.3 points and 123.8 yards total offense more than what WVU has been allowing.
It’s a whole lot to compensate for, so what are the Mountaineers going to do?
“We’ve got to be more productive in our explosive plays,” said WVU coach Neal Brown. “That’s something we’ve got to improve on. You’ve got to be able to break tackles. You’ve got to be about getting north and south after the catch. That’s something we’ve got to do to move the chains.”
Meanwhile, Texas coach Tom Herman was lobbing a few bouquets of praise toward WVU’s head coach.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Brown,” said Herman. “I have admired him and what he has been able to do from afar. They are playing really hard for him. And they do a good job schematically on offense trying to get the ball to their playmakers.
“Defensively, they create some confusion with the things that they do with their standup defensive end. Anytime you’ve got your team playing hard and have a sound scheme that can cause some confusion for your opponent, you’ve got a chance for success.”
But does WVU really have a chance for success? I doubt it. The talent differential is simply too immense.
WVU will lose 38-17.
n Now, for Marshall.
For the third consecutive game, MU’s defense will have to contend with a dual-threat quarterback. That’s not good news.
It started with Ohio’s Nathan Rourke, who connected on 15 of 25 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns besides rushing for 118 yards and a TD on nine carries. Next, there was the University of Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns besides rushing for 48 yards on nine carries (5.3 yards per attempt).
Now, the Herd has to face Middle Tennessee’s Asher O’Hara, 6-foot, 190-pound redshirt sophomore. In four games against the likes of Michigan, Duke and Iowa, along with Tennessee State, Asher has completed 78 of 111 passes for 895 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions.
O’Hara also is the Blue Raiders’ leading rusher with 235 yards and a TD on 52 carries.
Rourke amassed 333 yards total offense vs. Marshall. Ridder had 269 yards total offense last week. And now here comes O’Hara averaging 282.6 yards total offense.
“He’s lined up against Michigan, Iowa and Duke and thrown for a bunch of yards,” said MU coach Doc Holliday. “He’s completing over 70 percent of his passes. He has rushed for over 200-some yards and that includes 11 sacks. All you have to do is turn on the tape for Michigan, Iowa or Duke and you can see they had a hard time tackling him.”
It won’t be easy. Winning on the road seldom is.
But MU will prevail 31-28.
n Season record: 7-1