The reeling West Virginia Mountaineers (5-5) will travel west to Iowa this week to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (6-5) in a Big 12 showdown.
The Mountaineers have dropped five in a row to erase a brilliant 5-0 start to the year, and are in serous need of a win to guarantee bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, the Cyclones are bowl eligible for the second straight season and third time in four seasons under head coach Paul Rhoads after routing Kansas on the road last Saturday.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for Friday afternoon's conference clash.
Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
When: Friday, November 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Listen: 101.9 FM (Morgantown), 105.1 FM (Ames)
Live Streaming: ESPN3
Betting Line: Iowa State (+1) according to Covers.com
The top storyline in Friday's matchup has to be the incredible collapse the Mountaineers have experienced over the last six weeks.
Despite a 5-0 start to the year and many projecting it to contend for the BCS National Championship, West Virginia has dropped five in a row in conference play, and could actually miss out on a bowl game if it doesn't win one of its last two.
West Virginia Injury Report
*According to USA Today
LB Isaiah Bruce (Leg), questionable for Friday
S Travis Bell (Shoulder), out for season
DL Jewone Snow (Shoulder), out for season
CB Avery Williams (Neck), out for season
Iowa State Injury Report
*According to USA Today
DB Jansen Watson (Knee), questionable for Friday
LB Jake Knott (Shoulder), out for season
OL Shaban Dika (Undisclosed), out indefinitely
Iowa State already has six wins this season and therefore is bowl eligible. A seventh win on Friday would only boost the Cyclones' resume and likely earn them a more prestigious bowl bid at season's end.
For West Virginia, Friday's game is critical to its shot at playing in a postseason bowl game. If the Mountaineers win they will be eligible, but it they lose they will need to beat Kansas in their regular season finale in order to guarantee eligibility.
What They're Saying
Dana Holgorsen made headlines after last week's bitter 50-49 loss at home to the Oklahoma Sooners for a sideline explosion that took place in the third quarter.
Clearly Holgorsen is frustrated with the Mountaineers' lack of success over the past few weeks. West Virginia has not won a game since October 6 at Texas.
On the other side, Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads had a unique response to West Virginia playmaker Tavon Austin's huge day against Oklahoma (via MetroNews' Allan Taylor):
We got back and put the tape on and saw where he was lining and how he was gaining all those yards. Then soon after that, uh, we vomited.
Austin rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns against the Sooners, and added another 82 yards receiving. The senior wide receiver from Baltimore has more than 1,000 yards receiving and nearly 450 yards rushing in 2012.
West Virginia Player to Watch
Although West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has fallen off the Heisman Trophy wagon over the past month or so, he's still lighting it up for the Mountaineers.
The senior leads the nation's fourth-ranked passing attack into Jack Trice Stadium on Friday. The Mountaineers are averaging nearly 345 yards through the air this season. Smith has thrown for more than 3,300 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2012 and there are still two regular season games left to play.
Also keep an eye on the guy he'll be throwing the ball to plenty, Tavon Austin. The senior wideout accounted for more than 420 total yards last weekend against Oklahoma.
Iowa State Player to Watch
Senior cornerback Durrell Givens has three interceptions this season, including two against Oklahoma. Givens is also the team's third-leading tackler in 2012 with 77 total.
The Long Beach, California native has also recorded double-digit tackles in four games this season, proving to be the real deal on the outside of Iowa State's defense. With West Virginia fielding a dynamic passing attack on Friday, look for Givens to be tested more than usual.
The key matchup to watch for on Friday afternoon will be West Virginia's aerial attack vs. Iowa State's suspect secondary. Although the Mountaineers are the worst team in FBS when it comes to defending the pass, the Cyclones aren't much better, ranking just 113th in the nation and giving up more than 283 yards through the air per outing.
One has to like West Virginia to win this matchup given the experience and ability of Geno Smith and his superb group of wideouts.
On the Hot Seat
Dana Holgorsen's and West Virginia's first season in the Big 12 Conference has been miserable to say the least. After leading the Mountaineers to a 10-3 record, Big East Championship and Orange Bowl victory in 2011, Holgorsen finds his team at 5-5 with two games left to play.
The former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator is off to a 2-5 start in the Big 12 and needs to win on Friday in order to secure bowl eligibility heading into the last week of the season. If the Mountaineers lose their sixth straight game this Friday then Holgorsen's seat will be scorching in 2013.
One thing is for sure whenever West Virginia takes the field, there will be plenty of points scored. Given the Mountaineers' tremendous offensive prowess and desperation at this point in the season, I expect them to come out on top on the road, ending their losing streak and becoming bowl eligible.
West Virginia 41, Iowa State 35
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