This isn’t the first time a West Virginia game has been labeled a “must win,” but it’s really true at this point in the season. Up until kickoff Thursday night, the Mountaineers are 2-3 overall, and maybe even the bigger issue record wise, 0-2 in conference play.
What does WVU need to do to get the win in such a pivotal Big 12 game against Baylor? A win would instantly propel the Mountaineers above the Bears in the conference standings.
Take care of the ball
Minimizing, or ideally eliminating, turnovers is always important, but it will be even more so against Baylor. The Bears have a high powered offense led by quarterback Blake Shapen and are among the most aggressive teams in the country in terms of going for it on fourth down. Turning the ball over, especially when your defense struggles to flip possessions in your favor, will be devastating when facing a team that strives to maximize the number of possessions they get in a game and incorporate a mentality that’s common in video games.
Play well enough on defense
While WVU’s defense has had its issues this season, most notably in its two conference losses, this is not a game where you can ask for perfection. Playing a high tempo offense like Baylor means points are going to be scored. You know that going in. The hope is to contain what the Bears can produce, and maybe even force a turnover, which is something defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said he was going to improve upon in their preparation.
Both teams are going to score. That’s clear. The winner could very well just be the team with the defense that bends the least.
Wide receivers must win one-on-one battles
With so much conversation about the WVU receivers dropping passes, there’s pressure on the group to step up and have a big night. This is also a game that requires the entire offense around quarterback JT Daniels to be at its best. Baylor’s defense has its own problems, most notably in the secondary, much like the Mountaineers. That means if Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Kaden Prather, Sam James and company can all win any battles with corners and find space, the WVU offense would actually have an opportunity to have one of its better games all year. And yes, the same can be said about the WVU secondary winning battles too, but that happening enough to truly impact the game is highly unlikely.