West Virginia is going to win this Kansas State game.
Unless you’re among the half of the bettors on the Kansas State game in Morgantown who are taking WVU and giving the Wildcats 2-1/2 points, you probably don’t think of the Mountaineers as the favorite in this Big 12 Conference big game.
In fact, how could anyone with enough football sense and sanity call for a West Virginia victory over a Kansas State team that is within rock-throwing distance of a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game?
Worse still, this West Virginia team is the West Virginia team that was simply dismantled by Texas Tech in windy Lubbock, that is, dismantled with the parts thrown back into the fuselage of the jet WVU rode in on.
How is the defeat of Kansas State at this juncture of the team’s season possible at all? This K-State team is a team of well-coached, talented football players. WVU is a team, or perhaps a gathering, of more talented yet undisciplined ragtags, according to the last time we saw them on the flat screen.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is responsible for Lubbock’s halftime weather report from the turf at Jones AT&T Stadium that went something like "windy, really windy, maybe 40 miles per hour."
Coach Holgorsen is also responsible for the Mountaineers falling apart like an old Sears Roebuck suit.
You can bet (there’s that word again) the unraveling at Texas Tech embarrassed Dana, and that’s why I think West Virginia’s going to cover, and more, against Kansas State. To the uninitiated, that’s gambling code for, “I think West Virginia will win convincingly over Kansas State.”
It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to happen.
Two Wildcats will make it difficult to put their team away on offense. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, 6’5” and 235 lbs, and running back John Hubert, 5’7” and 185 lbs, have the rushing game cornered and marketed.
Klein leads the K-State offense using what I call a modified single-wing/option scheme. I can attest, as I am old, that the combination is lethal. So, you’ve got Klein effectively going anywhere, while Hubert can run the ball between the tackles for significant yardage. That means Hubert can take it outside, which of course sets up Klein to do even more damage on the ground.
Just when you think you’ve stopped the run, Klein stands up with his 6'5" frame and moves the ball with pinpoint throws. He’s not nearly the passer Geno Smith has become, but Klein’s short to mid-range accuracy is tough to handle. Klein gets tougher still in the red zone, as he is essentially throwing darts into a short field with WVU linebackers stacked in the box to defend the run.
Look for Kansas State’s offense to hold the ball and effectively light the scoreboard with a steady, safe attack.
This means Dana Holgorsen will have to put together an offense that can outscore the Wildcats.
That’s not going to easy, either.
Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown, small but hard hitting at 6’1” and 223 lbs, and safety Ty Zimmerman, 6’ 1” and 202 lbs, lead a defense that has not allowed over 21 points this season. They hold back the run and the long ball well, but can be had with passes underneath.
This balanced Wildcat defense effectively resembles the Kansas State offense in that it is also set up to both hold and attack as the field gets crowded.
So, you’ve got a red zone team that does well on all sides of the ball. How can Holgorsen adjust to make certain a Texas Tech debacle doesn’t happen again?
On defense, 1) stress the importance of “manning up,” meaning “just beat the guy in front of you,” and 2) get the Mountaineer defenders to hold their positions and read quickly for the directions the Kansas State offense is going, then 3) swarm.
On offense, 1) fellow Bleacher Report contributor George O’Bryan has suggested that Geno Smith should “get under the fingernails” of the Wildcat D by passing into hooks, curls, and comeback routes Holgorsen can install in the basic offense, and 2) Holgorsen should, according to O’Bryan, use his big receivers, like Ryan Nehlen or even fullback Ryan Clarke, to take the heat off Tavon Austin and the banged-up Stedman Bailey.
West Virginia 49, Kansas State 35. Enjoy your weekend.