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July 25, 2012
Opponent Breakdown: The new guys
The two Big 12 newcomers face off against each other Nov. 3 when TCU travels to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Last year's Big East champions made a statement in their final game of the season, blowing out Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Voters took that game under consideration and picked the WVU to finish second in their inaugural year in the Big 12.
This will be Head Coach Dana Holgorsen's second year at the reins of the Mountaineers, but he's no stranger to the Big 12. Holgorsen was Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator in 2010 and was on Texas Tech's coaching staff from 2000-2007.
After taking a look at the most eastern team of the Big 12, don't be surprised if they're a contender this season.
The West Virginia air raid offense will focus on senior quarterback and Heisman hopeful Geno Smith. In his first year in the conference, he's already been voted to the preseason First Team All Big 12 as well as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Smith set school single season records for passing and total yards. He threw for nearly 4,400 yards and 31 touchdowns, and managed to only toss seven interceptions. His 337 passing yards per game average beat all other Big East quarterbacks by more than 100 yards.
Returning with smith are two receivers who crossed the 1,000 yard threshold last season.
Junior Stedman Bailey reached nearly 1,300 yards last season as well as 12 touchdown catches, but even he isn't Geno Smith's favorite target. That honor belongs to senior Tavon Austin.
Smith and Austin connected for more than 100 catches last year totaling eight touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards. Austin joins Smith on the preseason First Team All Big 12 list as well as well as the First Team Defense's punt returner.
The Mountaineer running game is led by Dustin Garrison, a sophomore from Pearland, Texas. As a true freshman, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry for more than 700 yards and six touchdowns, and also brought in 200 yards in the air. Garrison may be held back at first due to knee surgery following last season.
West Virginia brings in a rush defense allowed a Big East worst 145 yards a game last season, but a pass defense that allowed a little over 200 yards a game.
It will be interesting to see the Mountaineer's 3-4 defense since every defensive coach, except for linebacker and special teams coach Steve Dunlap, has two years or less experience in the West Virginia program. Last year, WVU ran a 3-3-5 scheme.
I'll be interested to see if TCU goes more through the air, or if they attack a weaker rush defense with Waymon James and Matthew Tucker.
This will be a true late season test for the Horned Frog secondary in front of a loud Morgantown crowd.