Fearless Picks: WVU – Iowa State
We saw a bit of separation in the standings last week, as two members of the panel absorbed the first losses seen in several weeks in our selections. Greg jumped up a notch with his miss of just seven total points and the correct selection in the Oklahoma State game, but Matt maintained his lead in the one-loss bunch with another solid pick. Andy and Chris continue to pace the field undefeated, with the former pushing his lead out to a good, but not insurmountable, 43-point spread.
Last Week: W Season Record: 8-0 Point Differential: 105
This week’s opponent , Iowa State, is the antithesis of the Mountaineers. The Cyclones play smart, disciplined, mistake free football. They own a plus ten turnover margin and rank fifth in the nation with only 3.88 penalties per game. Since Senior QB Kyle Kempt took over as starter, Iowa State has won four games in a row, including victories over Oklahoma and TCU. They have held Big 12 opponents to 13.6 points per game while WVU has allowed Big 12 teams to score an average of 37.2. If the Mountaineers can protect the ball and cut back on the penalties, the Blue and Gold have a solid shot at the upset.
West Virginia 27-24
Last Week: W Season Record: 8-0 Point Differential: 144
Iowa State comes to town riding high, currently sitting in first place in the Big 12 and bowl eligible after last week’s win over TCU. Matt Campbell is the runaway choice for Big 12 Coach of the Year right now, and has done an incredible job of establishing a winning culture on and off the field in Ames in just two seasons. The Cyclones may not be as explosive offensively as Oklahoma State or TCU, but they’re just as good if not better on defense. Were it not for a late play against Iowa, they’d be 7-1 right now. West Virginia, meanwhile, has struggled the past two weeks with inconsistency on both sides of the ball. Everything trends towards Iowa State in this one. So I’m pulling a Costanza and going with the opposite of every inclination. Will Grier and the offense get back on track in this one.
West Virginia 31-24
Last Week: W Season Record: 7-1 Point Differential: 104
This one has me a bit stumped, not the least of which is because Vegas has West Virginia as a favorite. They’ve hit it pretty close out there in the desert thus far, and that leans me more toward the Mountaineers. Iowa State is overachieving, but can it keep it up? The Cyclones have yet to lose a fumble this season, so the odds swing to WVU getting one. But what’s the mindset of West Virginia? Can it showcase itself physically and hit the rest button for the final four games? I simply don’t know. I have little feel for this game, save that it will be tight. I’m not even sure I believe it, but I’ll take the home team against the rationalization that the more physical, disciplined squad typically wins close games.
West Virginia 30-27
Last Week: W Season Record: 7-1 Point Differential: 114
Any team that can go into Norman and knock off the Sooners, as Iowa State did several weeks ago (38-31),and defeat then-No. 4 TCU is capable of doing the same to West Virginia. The Cyclones are winning with excellent defense (20.4 ppg), but the Mountaineers can score on most anyone (43.3 ppg). Iowa State doesn’t have a dominant offense (35.0 ppg), though, which should come as a relief for WVU’s young defense (29.0 ppg).
West Virginia 35-27
Last Week: W Season Record: 7-1 Point Differential: 128
Too early for a must win? Maybe. But it sure feels that way for West Virginia following a disappointing effort last week against Oklahoma State. In years past a matchup against Iowa State could be just what the doctor ordered for a struggling team, but that’s not the case this season. The Cyclones are easily one of the surprise teams in college football, ranked 15th in the nation with a 6-2 record. I envision a more focused Mountaineer team this week – and the faithful better hope that to be true. Moving forward life in the Big 12 will only get tougher.
West Virginia 28-24
Last Week: L Season Record: 6-2 Point Differential: 130
Last week I chose to double down on the Oklahoma State game and pick the opposite of what I thought the rest of the group would select. That plan failed miserably and I’m likely looking up from the bottom of the standings. So with no where left to go but up… or dig the hole deeper, I dive into this week’s pick. Last week should be looked at as an aberration with Will Grier’s four interceptions . He’ll get back on track. The Achilles heel this year is the defense, which has not been able to stop enough plays to allow the offense to win games. Coming into the season, no one believed that the defense was going to win games for this team, but we hoped that as a work in progress they would gel enough to get better down the stretch. WVU has given up over 150 points in the last four games. That is a huge number to try to keep up with on offense and I don’t see the defense really getting any better into the final stretch of the season. Look for a tight game but with enough offense to capture a win.
West Virginia 38-35
Last Week: L Season Record: 6-2 Point Differential: 141
West Virginia and Iowa State have essentially switched spots in this late season matchup at Mountaineer Field. In pre-season polls, most had West Virginia pegged as the team that would be battling for a spot in the Big XII title game. But instead, WVU will be playing the role of potential spoiler when the Cyclones and Mountaineers hook up on Saturday afternoon. So far on the season, WVU has shown flashes of brilliance on offense. Defensively, the team has looked shaky at best. Special teams have improved from last year, but still not great at flipping the field. Overall, the team has shown a lack of consistency that has hurt them on all three sides of the ball. Add in a lack of toughness, penalties and generally unfocused/undisciplined play and the results are a 5-3 record and now in a battle just to get that sixth win and qualify for a bowl. Iowa State, on the other hand, is doing their best Kansas State impersonation this season. Solid just about everywhere, they are the antithesis of West Virginia. I really hope I’m wrong but I can’t pick a win this week.
Iowa State 34-24