|West Virginia RB Shawne Alston could return against TCU after missing several weeks due to a deep thigh bruise.|
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:00 p.m. ET (Fox)
Spread: West Virginia by 7
Watchability: It's a matchup of the Big 12's two newcomers, but it's not as compelling as many would have expected when the season started. Both teams have found life in the Big 12 tougher than their former conference homes. It's a chance to see which team can avoid going into a tailspin down the stretch.
Shining Stars: TCU -- DE Devonte Fields. He does it all for the Horned Frogs. The freshman is ranked fourth on the team in total tackles (36), has a team-high 14 tackles for loss, a team-high eight sacks, three pass break-ups, two quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The WVU offensive line has struggled the last two weeks against lesser defensive linemen. West Virginia -- WR Tavon Austin. There are fewer and fewer things the Mountaineers can count on offensively. QB Geno Smith has gone from Heisman frontrunner to back-to-back subpar efforts. WR Stedman Bailey has been limited due to injury. Austin will almost always be the best athlete on the field when he plays. Getting him the ball early and often will be key to WVU's chances.
Who could steal the show: TCU -- PR/KR Skye Dawson and Deante' Gray. One of the nation's premier kick return tandems, the two have combined to average 19.1 yards per punt return -- good for No. 4 in the nation. Opponents, by contrast, have only averaged 4.1 yards per punt return. When you gain 15 yards of field position with each exchange of punts, that is a serious weapon. West Virginia -- RB Shawne Alston. The senior has missed much of the season due to a deep thigh bruise, but he has practiced with the team in recent days and tweeted last week that he expects to play against the Horned Frogs. The Mountaineers have sorely lacked a physical element in their run game since Alston was forced out of action. He breaks tackles and gets downhill well.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Tickets are still available for Saturday's game, a sign that the locals are a bit apathetic after the Mountaineers absorbed back-to-back blowout losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State before having last week off.
Magic number for TCU: 14. The Horned Forgs have 14 takeaways in their last three road games. Since 2005, TCU has the nation's best record (68-3) when ahead or even in turnover margin, so those extra opportunities could prove vital.
Magic number for West Virginia: 40. It's key in two ways: the Mountaineers are 172-0 all-time when scoring 40 or more in a game, and with the defense allowing 39.9 points per game (118th in the nation), the team might need that many points to win anyway.
The game comes down to: Which West Virginia team shows up? The Mountaineers may be the biggest Jeckyll-and-Hyde act in the nation, completely disappearing on offense in their last two games after lighting up teams regularly in their first five outings. If that continues, WVU has no chance to win behind its weak defense. If it scores as its talent indicates it should, it can compete with anyone.
Prediction: West Virginia 38, TCU 35
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).