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NCAA Football Big 12 FootballWest Virginia Mountaineers

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Iowa State Cyclones Preview

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday for family, food and football unless you play NCAA division I football. Then, Thanksgiving Day is just about football.

While everyone is gathered around the table with their families for the holiday, the West Virginia Mountaineers will be traveling to Ames, Iowa, to face off against the Iowa State Cyclones.

The Mountaineers (5-5, 2-5 in the Big XII), enter the game ranked eighth in points scored per game, and ninth in yards per game. Defensively, the Mountaineers enter the game ranked 117th in total defense.

The Cyclones (6-5, 3-5 in the Big XII), enter the game 84th in points per game and 91st in yards per game. They are currently ranked 93rd in total defense.

What to watch for:

1) The Mountaineers are coming off of their fifth consecutive lost for the first time since 1986.

Last week, the Mountaineers nearly upset the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners, only to have the win pulled out from under them late in the fourth quarter. I mentioned in a previous article that these are the types of losses that sting. I think last week’s loss will have a critical impact on this week’s game.

Players can say they won’t be thinking about last week, but believe me, everyone associated with Mountaineer football will be thinking about last week. The team really needed that win for morale, and couldn’t get it done.

I’ll be curious to see if the Mountaineers can bounce back this week, as they looked to have any remaining life in them drained last week. If that’s not bad enough, Iowa State is riding high off of a blowout win against the Kansas Jayhawks.

2) The Mountaineers are not bowl eligible

Believe it or not, folks, WVU is not yet bowl eligible. This is a big deal. Sitting only at 5-5, the Cyclones actually enter the game with a better record than WVU.

The last time WVU did not make a bowl game was in 2001. The Mountaineers still need a win to make a bowl, and they know it. Look for an added motivational drive from the Mountaineers.

3) The last five players to win the Big XII Offensive Player of the Week Award played against WVU the week they won.

Seth Doege, Collin Klein, Josh Boyce, Josh Stewart and now Landry Jones were the last five players to win the Big XII Offensive Player of the Week award, in that order.

The Mountaineer defense has shown improvement since a few weeks ago, but is still not good by any stretch of the imagination. WVU allowed nearly 800 yards of total offense to Oklahoma, and most of it came after first contact.

Player to watch:

The player to watch for this game is WVU wide receiver/tailback Tavon Austin.

Austin is one of the most explosive players in college football. He was originally recruited as a running back, moved to wide receiver and played there for most of his career. Last week against OU, he was used as a halfback again, and averaged 16.4 yards per carry.

Now that WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen has seen what Austin can do as a tailback, I expect him to be used much more from the backfield. If Oklahoma couldn’t stop him, Iowa State certainly won’t be able to.

My prediction:

WVU is favored by one point in this game. A team that was ranked number four in the country is now only one point favorites over an Iowa State team with a better record.

The Mountaineers haven’t lost six straight games in a very long time, and I don’t see it happening in 2012. Tavon Austin was too much for the OU defense to handle, and Iowa State will have a hard time shutting him down.

Iowa State is not nearly as explosive on offense as OU, and the Mountaineer defense did enough to keep the offense in the game.

If the WVU defense plays well, WVU wins by a landslide. If not, WVU wins a close one.

I think the defense will play fine and the Mountaineers will end their losing streak.

WVU: 42

Iowa State: 24

Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeAtkinsonRS, like his Facebook page, or visit his Rant Sports Author Page.