Match-Ups & Unit Battles As WVU Faces Iowa State
West Virginia vs Iowa State
West Virginia rushing offense vs. Iowa State run defense
WVU’s ground game was humming along through its first four games, averaging 231.0 yards per outing. But then it hit a speed bump, and that average was more than halved in the next three games (101.3 ypg). Justin Crawford, who went over the 100-yard mark in each of WVU’s first five games, didn’t reach 50 in the next two. ISU’s defense has been strong against the run (120.4 ypg), but allowed an average of 152.5 in its first two losses.
West Virginia passing offense vs. Iowa State pass defense
The Cyclones have one of the best run defenses in the Big 12, but its passing defense is more middle of the pack, allowing 232.9 ypg. It gave up 250+ to four of its first seven foes, though it did limit high-powered Texas Tech to just 207 passing yards. Will Grier and his Mountaineer aerial compatriots have thrown for better than 340 yards in each of their first seven games. WVU is fourth nationally in passing yards, averaging 364.0 per game.
Advantage: West Virginia
Iowa State rushing offense vs. West Virginia run defense
Typically this season, this is a category where West Virginia’s opponents have the advantage, considering WVU has the second-worst rush defense in the Big 12, allowing 198.7 ypg. But the fact is, Iowa State’s rushing offense hasn’t been very good either. It is among the worst in the FBS ranks, averaging just 121.4 ypg, and that includes easily a season-best 208 vs. Texas Tech. WVU allowed each of its first seven foes at least 140 rushing yards, but the ISU offense hasn’t averaged even that (121.4 ypg).
Iowa State passing offense vs. West Virginia pass defense
In a pass-happy league like the Big 12, Iowa State’s passing average of 279.0 ypg looks pedestrian. But ISU threw for over 190 yards in each of its first seven games, including three over 310. Kyle Kempt has replaced Jacob Park at QB for the Cyclones, and all he’s done is complete 70 percent of his passes with seven TDs and only one INT in his first four games. WVU’s pass D (261.3 ypg) has allowed a Big 12-low 55.6 percent completion rate.
Advantage: Iowa State
Iowa State special teams vs. West Virginia special teams
WVU leads the Big 12 in kickoff returns (27.1 ypr), but that may be negated by the fact that two-thirds of ISU’s kickoffs result in touchbacks. Most of the rest of the special teams comparisons between the two are close to equal.
WVU holds a 4-1 edge in the series with Iowa State and it has won comfortably in the three most recent meetings, including a 30-point blowout last year in Ames. But those were vastly different Cyclone teams compared to this one, which earned a Top 25 ranking a couple weeks ago – the first time in a dozen years that ISU was in the AP poll. Coach Matt Campell has Iowa State playing with a confidence level this program has rarely experienced.
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).
Predicted Score: West Virginia-35 Iowa State-27