West Virginia has bounced back nicely from a tough 31-24 season-opening loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech, scoring a total of 115 points in back-to-back wins over East Carolina and Delaware State. The Mountaineers, knocking on the door of the Top 25, will try and make it three in a row when they travel to Kansas for the Big 12 Conference opener for both schools Saturday afternoon.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen’s toughest task may be getting his team to focus on a Kansas squad that comes in off back-to-back losses to Mid-American Conference teams , including a 42-30 setback at Ohio last Saturday. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead en route to an eventual 48-21 victory over the Jayhawks a little over 10 months ago in their last meeting in Morgantown and cruised to a 49-0 win at Kansas two years ago, their last trip to Lawrence. So its shouldn’t come as any surprise that Holgorsen went out of his way to praise the Jayhawks, who opened the season with a 38-16 victory over FCS Southwest Missouri State before back-to-back losses to Central Michigan (45-27) and Ohio. “I’ve been studying all three sides,” Holgorsen said. “They look better. I know they’re disappointed in the outcomes of the last two games, but they were incredibly competitive games. A couple of breaks here and there, and they could be sitting at 3-0.”
TV: Noon ET, ESPNU. LINE: West Virginia -21.5
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (2-1, 0-0 Big 12): The Mountaineers rank No. 6 nationally in total offense, averaging 581.3 yards per game, including an average of 369.3 yards passing. Will Grier, a transfer from Florida, has stepped right into the starting quarterback job previously handled by Skyler Howard, ranking 10th nationally in passing yards (1,027), 11th in passing yards per game (342.3) and 12th in passing efficiency (178.6) while running back Justin Crawford ranks 22nd nationally in rushing (108.7 yards per game). Safety Kyzir White, who had six tackles and two interceptions in the win over Delaware State, and linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, who added three tackles for loss and a sack, lead the defense.
ABOUT KANSAS (1-2, 0-0): Junior Peyton Bender is off to the best debut by a Jayhawk quarterback in the 127-year history of the program, passing for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns, the first Kansas quarterback to top 1,000 yards in his first three games. Six players have at least 10 receptions, led by freshman wideout Quan Hampton (15) while junior Steven Sims Jr. leads the squad with 202 receiving yards to go with two touchdown grabs. Linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. ranks third in the nation in total tackles (38) and fourth in tackles for loss (7.0).
1. West Virginia has thrown for 300 or more yards 37 times and 400 or more yards 12 times in six-plus seasons under Holgorsen.
2. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series 5-1 and have won three in a row since the Jayhawks ended a 27-game Big 12 Conference losing streak with a 31-19 home victory in 2013.
3. West Virginia has scored 50 or more points nine times in 80 games under Holgorsen.
PREDICTION: West Virginia 44, Kansas 21