Yesterday I laid out how Maryland was effective in hindering West Virginia (pressure Geno Smith!), and sat smug in knowing K-State would win. Today I ventured out and found the guy in the office (Wayward Kerry) that actually roots for West Virginia (the reason being something about his dad’s alma mater and growing up in Long Island where college football doesn’t exist). While the verbal exchanges have intensified over the past few days, we actually took the time to examine my theory that West Virginia is in trouble on Saturday – particularly if it can’t handle the pass rush:
Dave: So Kerry, West Virginia essentially let the entire nation down when it was deprived of a meeting between top five teams this weekend after handily losing to Texas Tech. K-State held up its end of the bargain by winning at Iowa State, so what gives? I observed that Maryland only allowed West Virginia to score 24 points on offense earlier in the season, and this spread attack seems vulnerable when the opposition puts pressure on Geno Smith. I don’t know if you heard, but K-State’s front seven was eating the Oklahoma offensive line’s lunch all day, and made Landry Jones look pedestrian. Can West Virginia step up and protect its quarterback on Saturday?
Wayward Kerry: There is no denying that West Virginia enters this week’s matchup bruised emotionally and physically. While upset-specialist Tommy Tuberville robbed West Virginia of its national title hopes and a national audience of its undefeated matchup, the importance of this game cannot be overlooked. A WVU win would tear the Big 12 race wide open, with four talented teams posting one-loss records. Additionally, we get to see the two presumptive Heisman favorites face off head-to-head in Collin Klein and Geno Smith. These factors, combined with the lingering embarrassment of last week, should be enough to light a fire under WVU mentally, but the Mountaineers have several key injuries to compensate for. The already anemic defense must deal with the loss of cornerback Broderick Jenkins, adding more pressure on the offense to put up big numbers. Doing such will prove to be difficult, not only due to the aforementioned K State pass rush, but also as RB Shawne Alston and WR Stedman Bailey appear questionable for Saturday.
The key lies with solid pocket protection and quick, efficient throws– the longer the West Virginia offense can remain on the field, the longer they can keep their uncertain defense and Klein’s arm (and legs) off. Making the pedestrian Landry Jones look pedestrian may earn you points in Manhattan, but the quarterback and offense the Wildcats will see Saturday is unlike anything they have this season. If the offensive line holds its own and Tavon Austin can account for the banged-up Bailey, expect the offense to get back on track. The scoreline Saturday may very well look similar to that posted in Maryland earlier in the year, but this Mountaineer offense has the potential to draw any team into a shootout. And if that’s the case, Dave, then the Mountaineers have the Wildcats right where they want them.
So there you have it folks – according to the office West Virginia fan, avoid a shootout, and Saturday could go pretty well for the Cats. However, it’s important to note that Collin Klein can draw pretty fast in one of those too. If you’ll remember last year, K-State engaged in a couple shootouts itself while losing a close game to Oklahoma State but beating Texas A&M and Baylor. Against this defense, even in a high-scoring game, there’s a lot of reason for optimism on the K-State sideline.