The day after Thanksgiving, one team taking the field in Ames, Iowa will still be starving.
West Virginia began the season 5-0 with national title aspirations, but has lost its last five games, leaving it ravenous for the taste of victory.
Iowa State, meanwhile, finally attained bowl eligibility with a win over Kansas last week, and will host WVU for its senior day season finale.
The game will be the first ever meeting between the new Big 12 Conference rivals, but ISU head coach Paul Rhoads is certainly familiar with the program in Morgantown.
The ISU head man coached at Pitt—West Virginia's hated rival—for eight years, finishing 4-4 against WVU during his tenure with the Panthers.
The Cyclones will look to improve their coach's record against the Mountaineers without starting linebacker Jake Knott, who was lost for the season with a shoulder injury in October.
Can ISU stop the vaunted WVU offense without its leader in the middle? Can West Virginia finally end its losing streak to become bowl eligible?
Let's find out:
QB: Geno Smith, 12 (Sr.)
Paul Millard, 14 (r-Fr.)
WR (X): Stedman Bailey, 3 (r-Jr.)
Ryan Nehlen, 80 (r-Sr.)
IR (H): Connor Arlia, 83 (So.)
Dante Campbell, 15 (r-Fr.)
LT: Quinton Spain, 67 (r-So.)
Nick Kindler, 79 (r-Jr.)
LG: Josh Jenkins, 77 (r-Sr.)
Pat Eger, 76 (r-Jr.)
C: Joe Madsen, 74 (r-Sr.)
John Bassler, 60 (r-Sr.)
RG: Jeff Braun, 57 (r-Sr.)
Pat Eger, 76 (r-Jr.)
RT: Curtis Feigt, 62 (r-Jr.)
Nick Kindler, 79 (r-Jr.)
IR (Y): Tavon Austin, 1 (Sr.)
Jordan Thompson, 10 (Fr.)
WR (Z): J.D. Woods, 81 (r-Sr.)
Devonte Robinson, 85 (Fr.)
RB (A): Cody Clay, 88 (r-Fr.)
Ryan Clarke, 32 (r-Sr.)
Donovan Miles, 30 (r-Sr.)
RB (B): Andrew Buie, 13 (So.)
Dustin Garrison, 29 (So.)
Shawne Alston, 20 (Sr.)
DT: Jorge Wright, 99 (r-Sr.)
Korey Harris, 96 (Fr.)
NT: Shaq Rowell, 90 (Jr.)
Christian Brown, 95 (Fr.)
DE: Will Clarke, 98 (r-Jr.)
Kyle Rose, 93 (r-Fr.)
BUCK: Josh Francis, 4 (Sr.)
Tyler Anderson, 53 (r-Jr.)
STAR: Terence Garvin, 28 (Sr.)
Wes Tonkery, 37 (r-So.)
WILL: Jared Barber, 33 (So.)
Doug Rigg, 47 (Jr.)
SAM: Isaiah Bruce, 31 (r-Fr.)
Shaq Petteway, 36 (So.)
FCB: Ishmael Banks, 34 (r-So.)
Brodrick Jenkins, 23 (r-Jr.)
FS: Karl Joseph, 8 (Fr.)
K.J. Dillon, 9 (Fr.)
BS: Cecil Level, 24 (r-Sr.)
Darwin Cook, 25 (r-Jr.)
BCB: Terrell Chestnut, 16 (r-Fr.)
Pat Miller, 6 (Sr.)
Nana Kyeremeh, 7 (Fr.)
K: Tyler Bitancurt, 40 (r-Sr.)
Corey Smith, 44 (r-Sr.)
P: Corey Smith, 44 (r-Sr.)
Michael Molinari, 48 (r-So.)
KO: Corey Smith, 44 (r-Sr.)
Tyler Bitancurt, 40 (r-Sr.)
LS: John DePalma, 87 (Fr.)
Jerry Cooper, 86 (r-So.)
H: Michael Molinari, 48 (r-So.)
PR: Tavon Austin, 1 (Sr.)
Jordan Thompson, 10 (Fr.)
KR: Tavon Austin, 1 (Sr.)
Stedman Bailey, 3 (r-Jr.)
TE: Ernst Brun, 84 (r-Jr.)
Ricky Howard, 81 (r-Sr.)
Kurt Hammerschmidt, 86 (r-Jr.)
LT: Carter Bykowski, 71 (r-Sr.)
Brock Dagel, 72 (r-Fr.)
LG: Ethan Tuftee, 64 (r-Jr.)
Bob Graham, 78 (r-So.)
C: Tom Farniok, 74 (r-So.)
Sam Tautolo, 67 (Sr.)
RG: Kyle Lichtenberg, 69 (r-Jr.)
Oni Omoile, 77 (r-Fr.)
RT: Jacob Gannon, 65 (r-So.)
Jamison Lalk, 76 (r-Fr.)
QB: Steele Jantz, 2 (Sr.) -or-
Sam Richardson, 12 (r-Fr.)
RB: Shontrelle Johnson, 21 (Jr.) -or-
James White, 8 (r-Jr.)
Jeff Woody, 32 (r-Jr.)
DeVondrick Nealy, 20 (r-Fr.)
WR: Quenton Bundrage, 9 (r-Fr.)
Jerome Tiller, 11 (r-Sr.)
Tad Ecby, 6 (r-Fr.)
WR: Chris Young, 15 (r-Sr.)
Jarvis West, 1 (r-So.)
WR: Aaron Horne, 3 (Sr.)
Albert Gary, 18 (r-Jr.)
LE: Willie Scott, 50 (r-Jr.)
David Irving, 87 (So.) -or-
Cory Morrissey, 48 (So.)
DT: Cleyon Laing, 90 (r-Sr.)
Henry Simon, 98 (r-Sr.)
Ben Durbin, 15 (Sr.)
NG: Jake McDonough, 94 (r-Sr.)
Brandon Jensen, 93 (r-So.)
Walter Woods III, 95 (r-Jr.)
RE: Roosevelt Maggitt, 38 (r-Sr.)
Nick Kron, 69 (r-Fr.)
Rony Nelson, 31 (r-Sr.)
SLB: Deon Broomfield, 26 (r-Jr.)
C.J. Morgan, 27 (r-So.)
MLB: Jeremiah George, 52 (Jr.)
Jevohn Miller, 55 (So.)
WLB: A.J. Klein, 47 (Sr.)
Matt Morton, 39 (r-Sr.)
RCB: Cliff Stokes, 7 (Jr.) -or-
Sam Richardson, 4 (r-Fr.)
LCB: Jeremy Reeves, 5 (Sr.)
Kenneth Lynn, 6 (r-Fr.)
SS: Durrell Givens, 24 (r-Sr.)
Jared Brackens, 14 (So.)
FS: Jacques Washington, 10 (r-Jr.)
Deon Broomfield, 26 (r-Jr.)
P: Kirby Van Der Kamp, 13 (Jr.)
Brett Bueker, 8 (r-Sr.)
DS: Spencer Thornton, 49 (r-So.)
Brett Bueker, 8 (r-Sr.)
H: Brett Bueker, 8 (r-Sr.)
PK: Edwin Arceo, 41 (Jr.)
Cole Netten, 1 (Fr.)
KR/PR: Jarvis West, 1 (r-So.)
Aaron Horne, 3 (Sr.)
Josh Lenz, 19 (Sr.)
Albert Gary, 18 (r-Jr.)
Last week, West Virginia suffered its fifth consecutive loss after beginning the season on a five-game winning streak.
The Mountaineers nearly touched 800 yards of total offense, but it wasn't quite enough, as a last-minute touchdown drive led by Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones sunk WVU, 50-49.
Tavon Austin had the best running day and likely the best overall game of his career. Alone he totaled 572 yards of total offense, including 344 on the ground.
Quarterback Geno Smith threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns—all of which ended up in the hands of Stedman Bailey. The junior receiver also had his second-straight 200-yard game.
Jones, however countered with a career day of his own, tallying 554 yards and six touchdowns through the air, while his favorite target Kenny Stills hauled in four touchdowns as well.
The Sooner efforts dropped WVU to 5-5 on the year, as the kids from Morgantown are still searching for bowl eligibility.
Last week, Iowa State was able to nab its coveted sixth win, reaching bowl eligibility with a 51-23 drubbing of Kansas.
Reserve quarterback Sam Richardson had a breakout game in just his second appearance for the Cyclones. The redshirt freshman was nearly flawless, finishing 23-of-27 for 250 yards and four touchdowns.
On the day, 12 different receivers hauled in a Richardson pass, while four different targets shared his four touchdowns. Senior Josh Lenz led the way with six receptions for 78 yards and one of those touchdowns.
On the ground, junior power back Jeff Woody bruised his way to his best game of the season, totaling 89 yards and a touchdown off of just nine carries.
Meanwhile, the ISU defense held Kansas to just six second-half points, as the Cyclones pulled away late to snap a two-game losing streak.
Both teams are in a similar situation in Big 12 Conference play.
ISU is sitting at No. 7 with a 3-5 record in league play, just ahead of WVU at 2-5.
For the Cyclones, this game will be senior day and the final game of the regular season, as they will look to head into the bowl season above .500.
WVU, meanwhile will also need this game to finish above .500, with its final game coming on Dec. 3 against Kansas. However, the Mountaineers are victory-starved and still in need of a win for bowl eligibility.
West Virginia would do just about anything to reach bowl eligibility at this point.
In the long run, both of these teams will be in contention for similar bowl bids, so whichever team wins this game could end up with the selection from a more prestigious bowl.
Tavon Austin has been one of the best players in all of college football this season.
West Virginia's No. 1 put up 572 yards of total offense last week in his first game since high school, while playing primarily out of the backfield as a running back.
He humiliated the would-be tacklers from Oklahoma, nearly high-stepping his way into NCAA history, as he fell just six yards short of the FBS record for all-purpose yardage in a game.
WVU will need to put the ball in his hands early and often in order to win this game.
It hasn't been revealed whether he will stay in the backfield primarily or move back to the outside, but it will likely be based on what kind of looks the ISU defense sends his way.
Either way, Austin must make plays for West Virginia to find success against the stingy Cyclone defense.
A.J. Klein is the leader of the Iowa State defense and one of the best linebackers in the Big 12.
He was just one part of ISU's two-headed beast at linebacker, but he has been the lone ranger since the injury to his bash brother Jake Knott last month.
He has a team-high 84 tackles on the year along with one sack, one interception, two pass deflections and three quarterback hurries.
The senior will be vital in corralling WVU's Austin whether he is in the backfield or catching passes in the slot.
The Mountaineers are better when they can establish the run, no matter who is in the backfield, so if Klein and company can make them one dimensional, it will be a much easier ride for ISU.
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen on the ISU philosophy:
Iowa State is a team that is solid on all three sides of the ball. I don’t think there is really anything flashy about anything they do. If you look at their stats, nothing really jumps out to you. You watch them on film and nothing really jumps out to you. It is just a very solid, well coached, effort-oriented team that is very technically sound and plays with just a bunch of effort. They don’t beat themselves.
Holgorsen on the ISU defense:
Their schemes are fairly simple to figure out. They are back in the mold defensively. They are going to play off you. They are going to do a lot of the things that we saw against Kansas State and TCU. The biggest thing is putting the thing in play and making some people miss in the open field...They are stingy on defense now, especially in the red zone. They give up yards, and then they get real stingy in the red zone. They get you to turn it over and one of the stats that stands out is how they do in the red zone defensively and they change what they do. They start pressuring you and start heating you up a little bit.
Holgorsen on the ISU offense and QB shuffle:
They are not overly complicated with what they do offensively. They are going to spread you out, they are going to run the zone, they are going to zone read, which they did with him, and they are going to get the ball out of their hands. They are excellent at not getting caught with the ball in the backfield, and all three quarterbacks do the same thing. From a scheme standpoint, it is not really going to make a difference to us who they play at quarterback.
Holgorsen on traveling to Ames and the short week:
We have a short week, and we have to get back to work. We travel Thursday on Thanksgiving and get there and play a game. It is a tough place to play. I have been there twice...It will be rowdy and it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to their kids. It will be a challenge if we think we can relax at all. It is one thing we have been preaching to them for the past 24 hours since the game got over. Oklahoma was a huge challenge, and we gave a tremendous amount of effort and had a chance to win and we didn’t. If we don’t give that kind of effort this Friday, then we won’t win the game because Iowa State is going to be a huge challenge and they are already bowl eligible and they play with great pride. It should be a fun week though, and we are looking forward to it.
Quarterback Geno Smith on WVU's mindset during losing streak:
We are strong willed around here. We have the right leadership in place, and we have the right amount of effort. We all want to win very badly. Guys are not going to hang their heads. We understand that we are in a rough stretch, but we know the only way to pull out of it is to win games. We are going to continue to prepare as hard as we can to put ourselves in situation to win on Friday.
ISU head coach Paul Rhoads on how dangerous WVU is despite its losing streak:
They're not any less dangerous. I think what happened to them was the Big 12. This is a great, great football league. They're a very good football team. They're a very dangerous football team. In my personal opinion, that Oklahoma football team that just escaped in Morgantown was the best football team we've played all season and they needed last-second heroics to come out of Morgantown with a victory. So, yeah, they're a very dangerous football team.
Rhoads on Tavon Austin:
He's an unbelievable football player—one of the best I've ever seen in my coaching career. He's phenomenal in space both as a ball carrier and as receiver. He makes a lot of very good football players miss. In this league that's hard to do. He's a special player.
Rhoads on the WVU run defense:
They're very good (against the run). If you're gonna play good defense it starts there. We talked about that this morning as a staff: people's approach to defending West Virginia's offense. Some guys line up to stop the pass—you can't do that. Stopping a team's offense always starts with stopping the run, and West virginia's defense is very effective at that. They have a very good front.
Rhoads on ISU quarterback Sam Richardson and his status as the starter:
He obviously hasn't given us that kind of performance in practice. It gives you a glimpse of what he's capable of under the lights. Sam played a heck of a football game, but we'll get through the week and see (who's the starter). (Does he have an edge?) I'd say probably so.
Rhoads on senior night and his time with the senior class:
It's been fast—really fast. (It's like) it was just yesterday I was in the Quad Cities watching Josh Lenz play basketball. It was just yesterday Jake Knott was committing to me over the table. It was just yesterday I was having steaks at the Klein household. Now they're playing their last regular season game at Jack Trice Stadium. These guys have defined the culture of the modern era of Cyclone football—that's pretty neat. I've been really privilege to have been associated with them through this time.
West Virginia will win if it can establish a strong ground game, which will all start up front.
Tavon Austin shredded Oklahoma on the ground because the Sooners dropped back their defenders against the pass, putting less pressure on the the WVU offensive line to open holes.
In previous games, when opponents had more players in the box, the Mountaineer run game was halted at the line. This has been partially because of WVU's inability to open holes for the running backs, but also because of the lack of health at the running back position.
It will be interesting to see if it is Austin receiving the brunt of the carries against ISU, but whether he does or not, the Mountaineers need to find success on the ground to take some pressure off of Smith and the passing game.
Defensively, they must ratchet up the pass rush and prevent whoever is under center for ISU from establishing a rhythm.
This is the only way West Virginia's maligned passing defense will have a chance at successfully defending against the hoard of Cyclone receivers.
Iowa State will in win if Sam Richardson plays like he did against Kansas.
As good as the redshirt freshman was against KU, he could be even better if he establishes a rhythm against WVU, the worst pass defense in the nation.
Meanwhile, ISU defensively will need to force the West Virginia offense to become one-dimensional.
If the Mountaineers struggle to run the ball like they did in losses to Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State, their passing attack will be much easier to stop.
ISU also must pressure Geno Smith and prevent him from keeping the chains moving, which will disrupt the offensive tempo.
Finally, the boys in the cardinal and gold will need to strictly follow one cardinal rule: always account for Tavon Austin.
West Virginia has been so close to winning in each of the last three weeks. Against Iowa State, the team that is starving for a victory will finally break through.
Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey have had the WVU offense clicking and looking increasingly impressive in each of the last three weeks.
Despite the losses, that group has remained confident. They will take that confidence and find a way to win in Ames.
ISU's tough defense will halt its share of WVU drives, forcing the Mountaineer defense to make some plays as well.
Whoever is at QB for the Cyclones will find some success through the air, but WVU will come up with a couple of timely turnovers and defensive stops, which will prove to be just enough for the Mountaineers to eek out a victory in what will be a very tough environment.
Prediction: West Virginia 40, Iowa State 35