Try as I might, getting a handle on WVU’s Thursday home game against 4-3 Baylor is difficult.
Part of the reason, of course, is the way the Mountaineers have played of late. Yet the biggest part is the way BU has played.
After a pair of wins over Abilene Christian and UTSA (come on, BU, step up that non-conference schedule), the Bears lost to Duke (40-27), beat Kansas (26-7), were drubbed by Oklahoma (66-33), downed Kansas State (37-34) and lost to Texas (23-17).
Feel me? Baylor’s total offense is actually ranked higher than that of WVU, averaging 475 yards (No. 26 nationally) to the Mountaineers’ 464.3 (No. 28). BU’s defense is No. 88 nationally, allowing an average of 407.9 yards, but understand Oklahoma had 607. (WVU’s defense, by the way, is No. 48 nationally at 359.8 yards.)
Makes it tough to decide if this is a good matchup for WVU, which could be in a fragile state. Las Vegas apparently loves the Mountaineers. The oddsmakers in the desert have West Virginia as a 14-point favorite.
Yet Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer is impressive. Although Texas held BU to 88 rushing yards on 34 attempts, he threw for 240 yards in the low-scoring affair.
Oh, and check out his receiving corps. Included is one of the Big 12’s best in 6-3 junior Denzel Mims. Also, BU boasts 6-4 Jalen Hurd, a transfer from Tennessee who started at running back for the Vols his first three years.
“They play hard,” said WVU coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday. “I had respect for how they played last year under Coach [Matt] Rhule. They gave Texas all they wanted [this season], four quarters worth, and beat a Kansas State team that was pretty determined to win. And they gave Oklahoma all they wanted for three quarters. So they’ve been improving. They’re well coached. They play with a lot of effort and physicality. It will be a huge test for our whole football team.”
Maybe the 7 p.m. game, which will be shown on Fox Sports 1, is set up for WVU and QB Will Grier to rebound in a big way. Let’s hope for the home team that’s the case. Yet I won’t be wagering on this one.
With WVU (and the Pittsburgh Steelers) off this past weekend, there was less screaming at the television set at our home.
But I did hear some shouts of joy around the state when Mountaineer basketball coach Bob Huggins landed five-star center recruit Oscar Tshiebwa, a native of Congo and current player for Kennedy Catholic High in Hermitage, Pa.
The Mountaineers landed Tshiebwa over schools like Kentucky, Baylor, Illinois and, to some degree, Kansas. Apparently, WVU assistant Ron Everhart first saw Tshiebwa while recruiting ex-WVU player Maceij Bender and the staff offered early, back in the summer of 2016.
According to whichever rankings you subscribe, Tshiebwa is either the most highly recruited player Huggins has recruited in Morgantown or one of the top two.
Rivals.com calls him No. 21 nationally, which would put him behind only Devin Ebanks back in 2008. The 247 Sports site has him No. 8 nationally at the center position and at the top for WVU since 2000.
Believe what you wish. Deniz Kilicli was once No. 47 nationally, according to ESPN. Yet, in my humble opinion, it is indeed exciting news for Huggins and WVU.
Why? A couple reasons.
First, there are reports like that of Rivals national analyst Eric Bossi, who told the Lexington Herald-Leader “he looks like he came out of Bob Huggins central casting” and that if “Bob Huggins could engineer an ideal player it would probably be Oscar.”
Tshiebwa averaged 21.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks on the Adidas summer AAU circuit.
Second, Tshiebwa’s commitment could signal elevated recruiting from Huggins and his staff. Is Tshiebwa the top commitment ever? Maybe not. There have been Parade All-America signings like that of Chris Brooks in 1986 and, earlier, Ron Thorn, Bill Maphis, etc. That Jerry West guy had more than a few offers.
Whatever the case there, though, WVU just could start benefitting from the college basketball scandal that’s cast shadows on programs like Kansas. If the so-called big boys are scaling back their behind-the-scenes shenanigans in light of the FBI case, Huggins and WVU might be in line to land more highly regarded players.
Time will tell.
Holgorsen on Monday stuck to his mantra the Mountaineers’ biggest failure against Iowa State was to “block and tackle.”
And since that Mountaineer disaster? Well, he likes the vibe.
“I think [the players are] pretty determined,” Holgorsen said. “This was a planned bye week, so we had recruiting plans. And this time of the year it’s always good to take a day or two and get away from it a little bit. But we had to work too. We had a couple good practices last week. We had a couple of good recruiting days. Now we’re on a short week. So there’s really not that much extra time when you calculate in having to recruit and the short week.”
Game time is 7 p.m. on Thursday.