After holding off Iowa State for a 20-16 victory last Saturday, West Virginia suddenly finds itself back in the Big 12 championship conversation. The Mountaineers, who end conference play with what could be a potential first-place showdown with Oklahoma in Norman, must take care of business before that, however ,starting with Saturday afternoon’s contest at Kansas State.
The Sooners and TCU are tied for first place in the Big 12 with 5-1 records and play Saturday night in Norman. West Virginia, which is 4-2 and hosts Texas next week, could still finish in a tie for first if it wins out and Oklahoma defeats the Horned Frogs. Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen, who said the Big 12 is “as competitive as it’s ever been,” says his team must focus on winning this week’s game at Kansas State -- where it’s lost in both of its previous visits -- and not on potential title scenarios. “There isn’t a whole lot of Big 12 championship talk around here,” Holgorsen said. “It’s everybody’s goal going into the season. But it’s important to get ready to play the next game. Everybody in the Big 12 knows every game is important.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2. LINE: Kansas State -2.5
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (6-3, 4-2 Big 12): In a conference that features 2016 Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and prolific Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, Mountaineer quarterback Will Grier gets overlooked a bit on the national level. Still, the Florida transfer is putting up some eye-popping numbers, completing 217-of-334 passes for 3,068 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Wide receiver David Sills V has 51 receptions for 793 yards and leads the nation with 16 touchdown receptions while senior linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton ranks fifth in the Big 12 in tackles (77) , including 12.0 for loss, and anchors a Mountaineers defense that held Iowa State to just 101 rushing yards last week.
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (5-4, 3-3): The Wildcats come in off a 42-35 overtime win at Texas Tech that was highlighted by the play of third-string redshirt freshman quarterback Skylar Thompson who came off the bench to complete 5-of-8 passes for 96 yards, score on a one-yard run at the end of regulation to force OT, and completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Byron Pringle to win it. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he would wait until later in the week to name his starting quarterback which could be starter Jesse Ertz, who has missed four games with a knee injury and is listed as questionable. Cornerback D.J. Reed, who has eight pass breakups and three interceptions, leads a secondary that has been burned for over 400 yards passing for three straight weeks.
1. West Virginia sophomore WR Marcus Simms leads the Big 12 and ranks 17th nationally in all-purpose yards with an average of 137.8 yards per game.
2. Kansas State PK Matthew McCrane has connected on 17-of-21 field goals which leads the Big 12 and ranks fourth nationally.
3. West Virginia is 11-of-15 on fourth down conversions (73.3 percent) which leads the Big 12 and is tied for eighth nationally.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 23, West Virginia 20