A night spent watching his defenders struggle to contain TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin caused West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen to alter his thoughts about the nation’s best college football player.
After using that description on Baylor receiver Corey Coleman following a lopsided loss in Waco earlier this season, Holgorsen flipped the script following Thursday night’s 40-10 loss to TCU in Fort Worth.
“With all due respect to Corey Coleman, Trevone Boykin is the best player in college football. You can’t tackle him,” Holgorsen said. “He’s a phenomenal football player and I’m glad we’ll never have to see him again.”
Nor will the Mountaineers (3-4, 0-4 Big 12) have to play a remaining game against any of the four teams in the mix to claim a conference title and College Football Playoff berth: No. 2 Baylor (7-0, 4-0), No. 5 TCU (8-0, 5-0), No. 12 Oklahoma State (7-0, 4-0) or No. 14 Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1).
A bit of tough-luck scheduling caused West Virginia to become the first Big 12 team to complete its head-to-head meetings against the league’s four front-runners Thursday night. Following the loss to TCU, players and coaches weighed in with thoughts about which team made the biggest impression on them and the sentiments were split between TCU and Baylor.
Probably Baylor. Just because they can run the ball at will and they can pass the ball at will.
West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce, on the best Big 12 team he has faced this season
West Virginia fell to the Bears 62-38 on Oct. 17 before Thursday’s 30-point loss to TCU. Baylor and TCU, last year’s Big 12 co-champions, meet Nov. 27 in Fort Worth. Based on the experience of the Mountaineers, which team is more likely to prevail?
“Probably Baylor,” West Virginia linebacker Isaiah Bruce said. “Just because they can run the ball at will and they can pass the ball at will. They’re pretty balanced at both sides. It’s pretty hard to make them one-dimensional.”
I think TCU probably has an edge.
West Virginia cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, on which team he expects to win the 2015 Big 12 title
West Virginia cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell gave his nod to the Horned Frogs because of last week’s season-ending injury to Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, who led the nation in passing efficiency (189.7 rating) and touchdown passes (29) before suffering a fractured bone in his neck during a 45-27 victory over Iowa State.
“With Baylor losing their quarterback, I think TCU probably has an edge,” Mitchell said. “I really haven’t seen much of Baylor’s backup quarterback. But, who knows? On any given week, you could have an injury and that could change the whole dynamic on your team. There’s going to be some luck there.”
There’s also a lot of talent involved. Holgorsen made it clear that he is looking forward to watching the November race between the contenders rather than spending another game day matching strategic moves with TCU coach Gary Patterson or Baylor coach Art Briles.
“It’s going to be fun to watch. Big 12 football, it’s dang good football,” Holgorsen said. “Any predictions with those guys, I don’t know. I can’t get No. 2 [Boykin] out of my mind, making everybody on the field miss, right now. He’s pretty good and TCU is going to continue to get better defensively. Where they were at earlier in the year and where they’re at now is obviously a tribute to Gary and what they’re doing defensively.”
In terms of overall offensive talent, West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said: “I still think Baylor is harder to defend because they spread you so thin. Offense-wise, it’s still Baylor.”
But he agreed with Holgorsen in regard to where Boykin stands in terms of individual talent after watching TCU’s senior quarterback rush for 84 yards, pass for 388 and account for four touchdowns in an electrifying performance against the Mountaineers.
“Boykin, for what he does, is really hard to defend. He’s as good a player as there is anywhere in the country,” Gibson said.
West Virginia cornerback Nana Kyeremeh said all four of the front-runners in the Big 12 standings are “pretty tough,” with offenses that attempt to “do the same things but with a little different personnel.” In citing a clear-cut favorite, he followed the lead of most teammates and opted for neutrality.
“I might say TCU, but that’s probably because we just played them,” Kyeremeh said. “If we’d just played Baylor, I’d probably say Baylor.”
0-4 West Virginia’s record against the four frontrunners in the Big 12 standings: No. 2 Baylor, No. 5 TCU, No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 14 Oklahoma
But when it comes to singling out the best player, Holgorsen had the final word in regard to Boykin after slapping hands with the TCU quarterback on the Mountaineers’ sideline following Boykin’s elusive, circuitous 11-yard scramble in the third quarter. He said Boykin gets the nod over Coleman as the nation’s best player for more reasons than the position he plays.
“That obviously has something to do with it,” Holgorsen said. “He’s touching the ball every snap. But, again, he’s great with his feet. His offensive line gives him plenty of protection. He’s got great vision. He throws an accurate ball. His completion percentage is high. He can do whatever he wants to with his feet. He’s a special player.”
Boykin, like Coleman, projects to be an essential part of a November stretch run for the Big 12 title. But the Mountaineers, having seen all the contenders, remain divided about which team winds up with the trophy.