Both teams are averaging more than 40 points per game, and have an offense that can make opposing defensive coordinators have sleepless nights trying to contain their respective quarterbacks – West Virginia and Geno Smith light up the scoreboard via the air, while Collin Klein and Kansas State feature one of the best rushing attacks in the nation.
It was expected that this matchup would be a meeting of two undefeated teams, but Texas Tech had other ideas, upsetting the then fifth-ranked Mountaineers, making Geno Smith look mortal in their 49-14 loss in which Smith was held below three touchdowns for the first time all season.
Tech did a marvelous job generating pressure with their front four, and made Smith look distressed more than any team had up to this point. The Red Raiders also did a great job of taking away the short passes underneath the deep coverage, which is evident by Smith’s 52.7% completion percentage.
He did not have the easy throws where his receivers, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin in particular could take a five-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard score.
The Mountaineers have struggled all year defensively, but those ills have been disguised by the efforts of Smith. When the offense struggles, as it did on Saturday, the Mountaineers are in real trouble.
What can West Virginia do to slow down an offense averaging greater than 40 per game, while they have given up a total of 157 points in their last three games?
No matter how prolific the Mountaineers offense is, they will find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard a few more times this season if they can’t keep their opponents under 40 points.
Kansas State held up their end of the bargain and escaped with a victory at Iowa State due in large part to the three rushing touchdowns by Klein, who finds himself in the Heisman conversation with ten rushing touchdowns.
I expect Bill Snyder and the Wildcats will employ a similar strategy that Tech did, and the real chess match will be what adjustments Dana Holgerson makes in the Mountaineer game plan.
Offensively, the Wildcats present a challenge for any team in the country with a rushing attack that averages nearly 250 per game. In addition to the rushing of Klein, running back John Hubert has been even better, averaging a full yard more per carry than Klein while finding pay dirt eight times.
Kansas State will not try to trick you or disguise what they are doing on offense and they make no qualms about that. What they do is tell you they are going to punch the ball down your throat and dare you to stop it. To their credit, no one has been able to stop them yet.
The best defense for Kansas State vs. this high powered offense (that will no doubt be angry and out to prove that last week was a fluke) is to pound the ball and control time of possession and keep the ball out of Geno’s hands.
But when West Virginia does have the ball, the Kansas State defense has proved that they’re more than capable of holding their own as they did in their win vs. Oklahoma, where they held the Sooners to a mere 19 points.
My prediction is that Kansas State holds on for a victory by a score of 38-37.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.