The Kansas State Wildcats’ No. 4 ranking and BCS hopes are in the balance at West Virginia, where Geno Smith and his Mountaineers await.
This matchup will dictate the Big 12 race, first and foremost. Kansas State stands as the last undefeated team in the Big 12, and a loss will turn the conference into open season.
West Virginia is also looking at a bounce-back opportunity after a 48-14 upset at the hands of Texas Tech. Once an offense at a record setting pace, Geno Smith and Tavon Austin will have to get back to their high-scoring ways to have a chance to upset the Wildcats.
Kansas State has been a battle-tested team in their season’s first half, beating Oklahoma in Norman and going blow for blow in a 27-21 victory over Iowa State. They will be on red alert throughout this matchup with a likely Top 10 foe.
Scroll down for game information and predictions.
When: Saturday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Mountaineer Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Watch: FOX (Check Local Listings)
Live Stream: ESPN3
Radio: Free Football Radio
Spread: West Virginia -2.5 (via Bovada)
It seems odd seeing the No. 4 team in the country as a three-point dog on the road, but a number of legitimate factors are in play here. This Big 12 clash is essentially a pick-em, with West Virginia getting the courtesy two and a half points for being at home.
There is cause for concern, however, for those willing to back West Virginia by three or more. Their defense would give up points to a Pop Warner team.
In comes Collin Klein and their balanced attack, unlike anything these Mountaineers have seen this year. The K-State defense is no slouch, either; they only surrendered 19 points against Oklahoma.
Currently, 72 percent of the public has taken West Virginia (via Beyond the Bets).
Just like the rest of the country, Vegas expects a shootout in Morgantown. 72.5 may be a shocking number to some, as West Virginia has scored 70 on their own,
Kansas State’s aforementioned defense is in play here, so there should be some defensive stands once or twice in this one. Plus, the Wildcats like to use time of possession to their advantage, which should slow down the game a bit.
If there’s an inclination that the Mountaineers will rebound in high-scoring fashion, you know what side to take.
Injury Report (via CollegeInjuryReport.com):
No injuries to report
RB Shawne Alston- QUESTIONABLE- Thigh
What’s at Stake:
Kansas State currently sits at No. 4 in the BCS rankings and a win over West Virginia will leave no doubt of crowning them a Top 5 team. It's unclear how far they would rise depending on the results of some other games this weekend, especially South Carolina against Florida.
West Virginia, on the other hand, needs to run the table from here on out to be in the Big 12 and national title conversation. They'll need some lucky breaks, but a one-loss record in their conference will likely give them a Big 12 Championship bid. Too many games away, though, to start predicting those outcomes.
This very well may be a clash of Heisman finalists as well. Smith, along with K-State QB Collin Klein, will try to outscore the other Saturday evening.
The two signal-callers bring contrasting skill sets to their respective offenses: Geno the big-play gunslinger and Klein as “Tebow 2.0”.
Klein’s Heisman resume is without blemishes and could take the outright lead with a win. Smith has the jaw-dropping numbers, but needs a rebound performance that screams “Heisman” to reclaim the top spot in voters' minds.
What They’re Saying:
Being undefeated is relatively uncharted waters for Kansas State, which has had its best success under coaching maestro Bill Snyder. Consider this stat pulled by ESPN Stats and Info:
1st time since 1999-2000 that No. 6 Kansas State starts 6-0 in back-to-back seasons. Next week? Wildcats are at No. 5 West Virginia— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 13, 2012
The Wildcats are finally in this national spotlight. Whether it lasts or not will be a different story to tell.
ESPN’s David Pollack only needed until Wednesday to make his prediction. Friendly wagerers take note:
Regardless of the pregame hype, Bill Snyder will not take this West Virginia team lightly. He praised West Virginia’s team wholeheartedly.
“They have a very talented football team, and it is not just Geno Smith,” head coach Bill Snyder said. “They have extremely fine receivers. They have a very talented offense. They have good specialists. They have good return guys who also serve as wide receivers. I know their numbers have not been as good on defense, but they have been able to outscore people. They have been able to play well on defense when they have to.” - via Dallas Morning News
Maybe he’s looking for a less hostile environment when he walks into Mountaineer Stadium. Good luck with that, coach.
Prediction: West Virginia 42 Kansas State 41
The Mountaineers are a different team at home than in somebody else’s stadium. That will propel this West Virginia team ahead and show why they’re favored in this one.
As for the spread, however, Kansas State is the play; they know how to grind out games better than any other team in the Big 12. My money is on Collin Klein and Co. to keep the game close.