Kansas Jayhawks vs. West Virginia Mountaineers: Complete Game Preview
West Virginia and Kansas will meet on a football field for the first time since World War II on Saturday in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers are newly bowl-eligible and looking to add another win to their resume in preparation for the postseason.
Kansas, meanwhile, is looking to secure its first Big 12 Conference win of the Charlie Weis era and spoil the senior day festivities in Appalachia.
The teams last met in Morgantown in 1941, with the Mountaineers emerging victorious by the final score of 21-0.
A bit more offense is expected from both sides this Saturday.
Here's what else you can expect from KU and WVU:
Kansas at West Virginia | Big 12 Conference Game
When: Saturday, Dec. 1 | 2:30 p.m. EST
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000) | Morgantown, W. Va.
TV: Fox Sports Network
Live Stream: No official live stream available
Live Stats: WVU Gametracker
What Happened to West Virginia Last Week
Last week, West Virginia finally became bowl-eligible.
The Mountaineers were 5-0 to start the season and in the carpool lane on their way to a BCS berth. Then came a bit of a road block.
Traffic backed up on WVU as it dropped five straight games, each more disappointing than the last.
Then, in Ames, Iowa, against an Iowa State squad that is no stranger to derailing high-flying opponents, Tavon Austin and the Mountaineers found a gap in the traffic and zipped past the Cyclone defense for a 31-24 win.
Two penalties on the final ISU drive made it seem like West Virginia was about to find a way to lose its sixth straight game, but safety Darwin Cook forced a Jeff Woody fumble inside the 5-yard line to put the game back in the hands of the WVU offense.
Thanks to outstanding efforts from Austin and a revived running back Shawne Alston, the Mountaineers left Ames with a victory and now look forward to a senior-day date with Kansas.
What Happened to Kansas Last Week
Last week, the Jayhawks had a bye week. This was a good thing, because unlike the previous seven weeks, Kansas did not lose a football game.
In a season of rebuilding, KU is yet to defeat a single FBS team, much less win a Big 12 Conference game. The 1-10 Jayhawks most recently lost to the same Iowa State team WVU defeated last week.
The Jayhawks started strong in this one, holding a 14-10 lead in the second quarter until ISU's third option under center, freshman Sam Richardson, entered the game and caught fire.
The Winter Park, Fla., native accounted for four straight touchdowns in that second frame, as the Cyclone rout was on.
Richardson ended up 23-of-27 passing with 293 total yards and five total touchdowns.
Iowa State ended up with a 51-23 victory on senior day in Lawrence.
Now, KU will look to salvage its season with the one game it has left.
What This Game Means for Both Teams
For Kansas, this is the last opportunity to salvage an otherwise disastrous season.
This is the Jayhawks' Super Bowl—the "Morgantown Mega Bowl" if you will.
For West Virginia, winning this game will prevent a poor season from becoming a disastrous season. A win and a bowl win will put WVU at a relatively respectable 8-5 record—much more respectable considering this team's five-game slide.
A loss to a Kansas team that hasn't beaten a single FBS team this season would be devastating for the team and the program.
The Mountaineers will likely make a bowl game regardless of the outcome, but a win would help them reach a more prestigious bowl game in a more desirable destination.
Additionally, WVU would like to send its seniors—like Geno Smith and Tavon Austin—out with a win in their final game at Milan Puskar Stadium.
WVU on KU
WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen on the KU offense:
They tried (throwing more) earlier in the year and weren’t that successful with it. That is why they settled in to being a zone read team. They have two really good backs. Their starter, Sims, is going to be a 1,000-yard guy after he didn’t play in the first two or three games. They are going to give it him quite a bit because he is one of their better plays. The Pierson kid looks like Tavon (Austin) because he plays a lot of different positions. They get him the ball in a variety of ways. If they split him out and throw it to him, we are going to have to cover him.
Holgorsen on playing a team that is winless in the conference:
That is the nature of the conference we are in. Last year, we played three or four teams in this situation. Now, we don’t get to play any. Our last eight games have been against ranked teams that will play in a bowl game. Every team that we have played this year has been motivated to play. Last year, it was different. I don’t think we have lined up and played an unmotivated football team this year. The fact that we are going to line up and play a motivated team for the 12th time this season is the way they should be.
Holgorsen on the KU defense:
They are pretty basic and sound. They are well-coached. They play a lot of zone, so we have to find those holes. They play hard. They are technically sound. They do a good job of getting off of blocks. They are better than Iowa State in the red zone. They have been giving up a lot of yards, but then they tighten up in the red zone. That is a sign of good coaching. They bow up and play good defense in the red zone. We did a good job of getting points in the red zone last week, and we will have to do more of the same this week. Kansas does a lot of similar things to Iowa State. It is a bend, but don’t break defense. Field goals were important last week, so if we need to settle for the points, we will.
KU on WVU
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis on the WVU defense:
They really have two personnel groups they use. One is a 3-4 personnel group where they start with an odd configuration and then they go to multiple fronts and multiple coverages off of that odd configuration. And the other one is, they will go to a 2-4 personnel grouping when they want to go against all of these teams who are using four and five wide receivers on a regular basis. I expect to see more of the 3-4 grouping against us. (Shaq) Rowell is the big nose tackle. They really use Rowell, (Jorge) Wright and (Will) Clarke as the three down linemen. Clarke is usually the field end and Wright plays the three-technique and Rowell handles the nose. And then they add (Josh) Francis as their boundary end when they decide to turn it a four-man rush. When they want to play odd or diamond, which is the ‘Bear’ defense to a lot of you guys, but I call it diamond. When they want to do that, Francis is the guy who gives them versatility to go in and out of packages.
Weis on the WVU offense:
(Geno Smith) can sling it against everyone. They are averaging 345 passing a game, so it is not like people have come in and just shut them down, but the thing is, their running game has become so much more a part of their offense that he does not have to win the game by himself. In the past I think it has been more dependent on him winning the game by throwing the ball and I think their offense has been more complimentary where they can now run it more efficiently.
Weis on what a win would do for KU moving forward:
If you win the game, just the psychological lift would be, more than anything else, the benefit. Sometimes these guys play with that burden, the weight on your shoulders that would be lifted, and then okay, let’s go, let’s move on. There are still things that have been left unanswered that, until you answer them, they are going to be question marks psychologically. I think that the framework will already be different and will already be more positive, but still until they do it, they still have not done it.
West Virginia Will Win If...
West Virginia will win if Tavon Austin is unleashed.
Almost every one of WVU's opponents has proven that Austin cannot be stopped, and Kansas will be no different.
The Mountaineers' ultimate weapon is one of the best players in all of college football, and if he finds open space against Kansas, the Jayhawks will most certainly finish the season at a putrid 1-11.
In charge of distributing to Austin, Stedman Bailey and the rest of the WVU playmakers will be quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith will need to continue his ways of protecting the football in order for the Mountaineers to succeed.
Defensively, West Virginia will need to pressure the young Kansas quarterback and contain running back James Sims.
Sims is one of the more underrated backs in the conference, but he can pose a serious threat to any defense.
Kansas Will Win If...
The key for Kansas will like in the hands of freshman quarterback Michael Cummings and running back James Sims.
How this duo does in the zone read offense will dictate how KU hangs in this game.
Completely stopping the WVU offense is almost out of the question, especially given its recent play. So, the Jayhawks will need to score points to keep up.
West Virginia had done well against the run so far this season, so the odds are stack a bit more against Kansas.
Defensively, KU will need to key in on Austin and blanket the WVU receivers.
This will be easier said than done, but it has been done.
West Virginia will avoid another heartbreak, topping Kansas with relative ease.
In Geno Smith and Tavon Austin's final game in Morgantown, the duo will put up some huge numbers against a suspect Jayhawk defense.
Cummings and Sims will see some success for KU, as the running back will likely top the 1,000-yard mark for the season in this game.
Still, it won't be enough, as the WVU offense will prove to be too much for Kansas.
Prediction: West Virginia 56, Kansas 31