The Big XII’s game of the year will take place in Morgantown, West Virginia today and to say there is a lot on the line would be a major understatement.
With a win, Kansas State can put themselves even further into the lead for the conference title and quarterback Collin Klein will likely surpass Mountaineers signal-caller Geno Smith as the Heisman frontrunner.
This contest is also the biggest hurdle remaining in the Wildcats quest to remain in the national title hunt, as they know any loss would eliminate them from contention.
West Virginia also has a ton to play for today as they look to bounce back after last weekend’s stunning blowout loss to Texas Tech. Smith is still the Heisman frontrunner with his 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season and a Mountaineer win would put them back in a strong position to win the Big XII in their inaugural year in the conference.
By now everyone knows that this matchup will be a game of contrasting styles as the Wildcats will want to slow the tempo down and pound the ball, while the Mountaineers will want to speed things up and attempt to win a shootout.
West Virginia has been a completely different team at home then they have been on the road this season, averaging 56.7 points per game in Morgantown and 34.7 points per game away from home.
A big key in this game will be K-State’s ability to create turnovers against the Mountaineers, who have turned the ball over just three times all season, the third best mark in the country. The Wildcats defense has forced 15 turnovers this year, 19th best in the country, and the three turnovers they forced against Oklahoma earlier this year proved to be the difference in that game.
The last time Kansas State faced an offense with the explosiveness of the Mountaineers was in last season’s Cotton Bowl, when the Wildcats fell 29-16. The biggest difference in this game will be the defenses as the Razorbacks boasted a much stronger defense than West Virginia has this season.
The Mountaineers defense currently ranks 117th in total defense out of 124 teams, while Kansas State’s defense is 32nd in the country.
The Wildcats offense should be able to control the clock in this game, as they have done for the majority of this season, and by doing so the Kansas State defense should be well-rested and ready to slow down the Mountaineers aerial attack.
If West Virginia loads the box to stop K-State’s rushing attack, their 122nd ranked pass defense will be put in an even tougher position to stop Collin Klein and the Wildcats receivers from moving the ball threw the air.
Kansas State’s pass defense hasn’t been great either this season, ranking 76th in the country, but their ability to create turnovers has masked that to a large extent.
Smith is due to throw his first pick of the season in this game and the Wildcats should only need a few stops to win this game with their ability to control the clock and to score themselves.
Collin Klein should find the end zone at least a few times once again today and a win will likely put him in the pole position for the Heisman trophy.
Look for Klein and the Wildcats opportunistic defense to be the difference as they win their toughest contest of the season in the toughest environment they will face this season.
The pick: Kansas State 41-38