Series History: 1-1, last meeting in 1931
Time/TV: 7 p.m. ET, FOX
The 4th-ranked and undefeated Kansas State Wildcats visit the 13th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers this Saturday night in a big time Big 12 battle. Both of these teams reflect their two quarterback strengths. K-State relies on a ground and pound type offense led by QB Collin Klein. West Virginia has used the precision passing of QB Geno Smith to lead a high powered offensive game plan that has put eye popping numbers on the scoreboard.
The Mountaineers offense was derailed last week in Lubbock by Texas Tech and looks to rebound quickly at home. K-State was challenged at Iowa State last weekend, but emerged with a victory over an inspired Cyclones team. The challenge for both WVU and K-State is to play their type of game and not play into the others strength. It should be a fascinating contrast of styles, and a huge Big 12 victory for the winner. Here’s what to look for between the lines in Morgantown.
When K-State Has the Ball
Earn Every Yard: QB Collin Klein may not put up Youtube quality highlights every weekend, but he is as much of a threat as any QB in the nation. What seperates Klein from most is his ability to convert short yardage situations with his feet. Last week against Iowa State he ran for 3 touchdowns in the Wildcats close victory. Against Oklahoma, Klein converted many 3rd and short opportunities with sneak plays. While he has attempted less passes than his WVU counterpart has completed, he has an uncanny nack of hitting his receivers on 9 yard slant patterns, that has given teams like Oklahoma and Miami trouble to defend against. When Klein doesn’t elect to run himself, he has a very capable running back in John Hubert, who ran for 4 rushing touchdowns in a game against Kansas earlier this year. It would be tempting to steal Texas Tech’s gameplan against WVU last week, but the Wildcats will largely play their own style of ball. The offense can put huge numbers on the scoreboard, but I don’t think they can compete in a shootout with WVU. If Klien and Hubert can get their yards, they’ll force the WVU secondary to blitz, leaving the quick slant pattern as a good option for the offense.
When West Virginia is on Defense
Show Up: When Joe Deforest became WVU’s defensive coordinator this year, he eliminated the familiar 3-3-5 defense in favor of the 3-4 defense. The new defensive scheme has given up 49, 45, and 63 points in the last three games. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the defense hasn’t allowed a 100 yard individual rushing performance in 2012. That’s what has to happen again this Saturday. K-State will not beat WVU by passing the ball. K-State is ranked 11th in the NCAA in rushing, so it’ll be up to the defensive line and the linebackers to contain the ground game. If the Mountaineer defense can keep RB John Hubert and QB Collin Klein under 100 yards for the game, it’ll keep the score manageable. I do expect them to give up at least one big yardage pass, but that will be more the exception than the rule. The defense needs to hold up it’s end of the bargain compared to the offense, and K-State is the game that favors their run defense strength.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
Just Score Baby: WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen is a disciple of the Air-raid offense that was developed by Hal Mumme and perfected by Mike Leach at Texas Tech. QB Geno Smith has made the Air-raid offense his own personal video game, while putting up eye popping numbers almost weekly. The factor that sets Smith and offense apart in college football is the freedom the QB has to audible out of plays. Smith has almost complete autonomy on the football field, and has responded to the challenge with 25 TD’s and 0 INT so far in 2012. The Mountaineers like to employ a diamond formation where Smith has a single running back behind him, and two blocking backs on either side of him. With this formation, he can set a back in motion to either open up the power run, or create an individual match-up with a linebacker and a WR that he can exploit for a big gain. Smith also sells the play-action better than any other college QB and uses that to hold the safeties and LB in hopes of creating a big yardage play. Look for the Air-raid to continue Saturday night, as the offense looks to right the ship after it’s no-show against Texas Tech.
When K-State is on Defense
Pick Your Spots: In order to beat West Virginia, the K-State defense should look to the performance they had against Oklahoma earlier this year. It was a road game against a tough, veteran QB (Landry Jones) and they came away victorious. The game plan was simple, hit Jones in the mouth early, capitalize on turnovers, and go for the big hit against the wide receivers. After several bruising hits on the wide outs, it looked like Oklahoma’s WR’s were having second thoughts about going across the middle. What would absolutely be key in this match-up is to get an INT against Geno Smith. He hasn’t thrown one yet, but was having problems with his accuracy against Texas Tech. Smith is probably due for one, and if the K-State D could turn it into a score, it would take all the momentum out of the home crowd early and could snowball into an easy Wildcat victory. The one thing I’ve noticed about the secondary for K-State is that they seem to go all out for the big hit, and WVU’s receiving corp of Stedman Bailey and Tayvon Austin will make them miss if they’re undisciplined in their tackling.
Laying the Wood (Facts that will knock you off your feet)
The Football Mentalist Predicts
If these teams were cars, K-State would be a dependable pickup truck that gets the job done. WVU would be the Italian Sports Car that is amazing but can break down when you least expect it. I like WVU at home, finely tuned in front of a rabid, nationally televised crowd.
WVU 44, K-State 41
Josh Adams is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him @Joshthescribe.