Week 8 – Kansas State at West Virginia

Posted Oct 18, 2012

Week 8 Fearless Prediction – Kansas State at West Virginia

Kansas State (6-0) at West Virginia (5-1) Oct. 20, 7:00, FOX

Here’s The Deal: Kansas State got the break it needed with the No. 4 ranking in the first BCS rankings – being ahead of Notre Dame was huge - and now it’s time to start making some big statements. Beating Miami and Oklahoma might be nice, but a true national title contender has avoid all the major landmines including this one in Morgantown against an embarrassed team looking to come back roaring.

This was looking like the year of the Mountaineer. Geno Smith was already handed the Heisman, the team was coming off a thrilling win over Texas on the road, and everything appeared to be in place for a run to the Big 12 championship and the BCS title game with the big dates against Kansas State and Oklahoma at home and the only remaining road games at Oklahoma State and Iowa State. And then …


Texas Tech popped the balloon with a dominant 49-14 effort that pushed the reset button on the season. The defense hasn’t shown up all season long, but that was expected. It was the offense that was the big disaster with Smith struggling to find anything down the field and with the running game kept under wraps. Smith wasn’t awful, throwing for 275 yards and a touchdown without a pick, but it took 55 attempts to get there. One blink and it was 49-7 with three minutes to play.

But that was one game and there’s still plenty of time for the Mountaineers to redeem themselves. The schedule still works out well in terms of home field advantage, the offensive pieces are still in place, and there’s no reason to shoot for anything less than the Big 12 title. A national championship might be a stretch, even at 11-1, but a dominant performance over a top five team might get those wheels in motion again.

This is only the second time the two programs have met. Kansas State won 19-0 in 1931 to get revenge for the 23-7 West Virginia win in 1930.

Why Kansas State Might Win: Ball control. West Virginia might have a quick-strike attack, but it’s also good at keeping the chains moving. The problem is that Geno Smith can’t put up big numbers when he’s sitting on the bench, and Kansas State should be able to go on march after march with Collin Klein hitting on his third down plays. The Wildcats are tenth in the nation in third down conversion percentage connecting 52.2% of the time. It’s West Virginia’s biggest problem – it can’t get off the field. Teams are converting 50% of their third down chances, and only ten teams are allowing more. Who’s No. 1 in third down conversion percentage? Texas Tech who converted on five of the ten tries and on both of its fourth down tries.

Defensively, Kansas State has done a terrific job of throwing excellent passing games a bit off kilter. Miami is averaging around 300 yards per game, but Stephen Morris was only able to throw for 215 yards and failed to generate anything more than two field goals until it was way too late. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones threw for 299 yards, but it took a lot of work to get there and the Wildcat defense held firm in key moments. In both games against the high-powered passing teams, Kansas State absolutely dominated the time of possession holding the ball close to ten minutes more against the Sooners and close to 15 minutes more against the Hurricanes. Again, it’s all about third downs, and the Wildcat offense should be able to win those.

Why West Virginia Might Win: Can Kansas State mount a comeback if it has to start pushing the ball a bit? No one has been able to get the upper hand on the Wildcats enough to make them change their game plan, but after all the problems against Texas Tech, there’s a chance the Mountaineers come out roaring and far, far more effective on their first few drives. Overall, the Kansas State pass defense hasn’t been all that special allowing six touchdown passes over the last five games while giving up 239 yards per game. Smith should be able to get his yards and he should be able to hit his receivers in places where the can do something with the ball, and if he can lead the way to a 14-0 lead, Kansas State can’t be Kansas State.

While it might not seem like it considering Oklahoma, Iowa State and Miami were on the slate, but Kansas State actually hasn’t faced anyone yet who can disrupt things behind the line. The Sooners don’t attack in the backfield as much as you might think, and the Hurricanes can be blown over with a soft breeze. West Virginia’s defense might be squishy-soft, but it’s great at getting behind the line averaging seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks per game. If you can get to Klein before he can get the running game started, you can slow down the Wildcat offense.

What To Watch Out For: Call this the Heisman elimination game. In the absence of several top candidates, Smith and Klein are on everyone’s list of top five candidates in the race, and the one who loses this game is probably out.

If the most valuable player in college football right now isn’t Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, it’s Klein, who has been brilliant so far running for over 100 yards in each of the last two games with five rushing scores, while not throwing a pick in the last three weeks. While he’s a better passer than he gets credit for, and he rarely turns it loose, he’s at his best when he gets to grind out the offense and take over the game by himself. When the Iowa State game got tight, it was Klein, Klein and more Klein. This week, though, it should be Klein through the air against the porous Mountaineer secondary.

Smith still leads the nation in passing efficiency despite the problems against Texas Tech. Yes, he has a loss on his résumé, but he’s still throwing darts with 25 touchdown passes and no interceptions. It wasn’t his fault that the team lost to the Red Raiders, but he’s the leader and he’s the star of a team good enough to challenge for the Big 12 title, and if he can’t get the win over Kansas State at home, his great numbers won’t matter in the Heisman discussion.

What Will Happen: Even though West Virginia will come out playing much, much better, Kansas State might have the perfect setup to win in Morgantown. By controlling the clock on offense, and keeping the big plays to a bare minimum on defense, the Wildcats will make a statement with a strong, tough win after running out the final few minutes to keep Smith from getting one last shot.

CFN Prediction: Kansas State 38 … West Virginia 35
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) West Virgina -2.5 O/U: 73
Must Watch Rating (5 – Seven Psychopaths, 1 – Here Comes the Boom): 4.5