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WVU makes a lot of big pass plays, and Missouri prevents them. What gives?

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Let’s see what we can learn about Missouri’s chances from West Virginia’s depth chart.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl - Arizona State v West Virginia Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

While most of our own conversation of late has been about Missouri’s depth chart and what the Tigers might have to offer in Morgantown this coming Saturday, Mizzou’s opponent will play a pretty clear role in determining the outcome. Let’s see what we can learn by looking at West Virginia’s depth chart (.pdf).

Offense

Quarterback

  • Skyler Howard (6’0, 207, Sr.) — 2015: 3,145 passing yards, 55% completion rate, 26 TD, 14 INT, 7.1% sack rate, 6.8 yards per pass attempt; 126 carries, 698 yards (5.5), 6 TD
  • Chris Chugunov (6’1, 203, RSFr.)
  • William Crest Jr. (6’2, 210, So.) -- 124 passing yards, 44% completion rate, 1 INT, 3.8% sack rate, 4.2 yards per pass attempt; 19 carries, 121 yards (6.4), 1 TD

Howard is a play-maker. He is not nearly as efficient as your typical air raid quarterback; his completion rate was too low, and his sack rate was too high. That can obviously backfire at times — high-tempo three-and-outs are deadly for your defense. But the WVU passing game was also more explosive than your normal air raid offense.

The tension here is obvious: WVU has a big-play passing game, and Mizzou was maybe the best in the country at preventing big plays last year. If Howard is harried in the backfield, that could make a significant difference in this game.

Backfield

Running Back

  • Rushel Shell (5’10, 220, Sr.) -- 708 rushing yards (4.4 per carry, 40% opportunity rate), 8 TD; 20 targets, 16 catches, 101 yards (5.1)
  • Kennedy McCoy (6’0, 201, Fr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.8594
  • Justin Crawford (6’1, 190, Jr.) -- 247 Composite rating: 0.8793

Fullback

  • Elijah Wellman (6’1, 235, Jr.) — 73 rushing yards (5.2 per carry, 57% opportunity rate), 1 TD; 5 targets, 5 catches, 16 yards (3.2)
  • Michael Ferns (6’2, 245, So.) — Michigan transfer

WVU ran the ball far more than you might think last year. In fact, my use of “air raid” above was not totally accurate — it doesn’t really describe the current Mountaineer offense all that well, tempo aside. That said, the Mountaineers weren’t incredible at running the ball, and by far their most efficient back, Wendell Smallwood, is gone.

Shell is a former blue-chipper, and he has certainly shown potential, but his stats were not in any way dangerous last year. His ability (or inability) to carve out four- to five-yard chunks will be key, and he’ll be attempting to do this behind a pretty green line.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Receiving Corps

WR-X

  • Shelton Gibson (5’11, 195, Jr.) -- 80 targets, 37 catches (46%), 887 yards (11.1 per target, 41% success rate)
  • Gary Jennings (6’1, 207, So.) — 13 targets, 7 catches (54%), 116 yards (8.9 per target, 46% success rate)

IR

  • Daikiel Shorts Jr. (6’1, 204, Sr.) -- 66 targets, 44 catches (67%), 511 yards (7.7 per target, 58% success rate)
  • Jovon Durante (6’0, 165, So.) — 55 targets, 25 catches (46%), 395 yarsd (7.2 per target, 44% success rate)

WR-Z

  • Ka’Raun White (6’1, 198, Jr.) -- 26 targets, 15 catches (58%), 275 yards (10.6 per target, 46% success rate)
  • Devonte Mathis (6’1, 220, Sr.) — 12 targets, 6 catches (50%), 47 yards (3.9 per target, 33% success rate)

Tight End

  • Stone Wolfley (6’4, 247, RSFr.) -- 247 Composite rating: 0.8705
  • Trevon Wesco (6’4, 275, Fr.) -- 247 Composite rating: 0.8255

Gibson and White are scary play-makers out wide; they’re also terribly inefficient. The most important weapon here could be Shorts, the only returning receiver who managed even a 50 percent success rate last year. WVU will desperately need Shorts and Shell to generate efficiency, otherwise the Mountaineers are relying on big-play bailouts. Maybe they’ll get them, but it’s a hard thing to rely on.

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-West Virginia vs Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive line

LT

  • Yodny Cajuste (6’5, 300, So.) — 6 career starts
  • Sylvester Townes (6’6, 310, Sr.)

LG

  • Tony Matteo (6’4, 294, Sr.) — 2 career starts
  • Grant Lingafelter (6’6, 305, Jr.)

C

  • Tyler Orlosky (6’4, 296, Sr.) -- 29 career starts
  • Matt Jones (6’3, 316, RSFr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.8707

RG

  • Kyle Bosch (6’5, 310, Jr.) — 16 career starts
  • Rob Dowdy (6’4, 290, RSFr.) — 247 Composite rating: 0.8640

RT

  • Marcell Lazard (6’5, 306, Jr.) — 6 career starts OR
  • Colton McKivitz (6’7, 295, RSFr.) -- 247 Composite rating: 0.8202

With two-year starting guard Adam Pankey out, this is a pretty green line. Orlosky and Bosch started last year, and as you see, the other three starters have each started in spot duty. It’s green, but it’s not crazy-mega-super-green like Mizzou’s offensive line. Regardless, this is an opportunity for Mizzou advantage with its foursome of defensive tackles and Charles Harris.

NCAA Football: Towson at West Virginia Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports