Match-Up Preview: West Virginia-Kansas State

Unit & Individual Battles As West Virginia Travels To K-State


 

Match-Up Preview
West Virginia vs Kansas State
West Virginia rushing offense vs. Kansas State run defense
After averaging 231 rushing yards per game through its first four contests, WVU’s ground attack sputtered in the next four, averaging just 91.5 yards per outing before a solid show vs Iowa State. In K-State, WVU faces a rush defense that is solid (127.4 ypg, 5th in Big 12), but not as good as TCU (77.2 ypg) and OSU (109.6 ypg), which each limited WVU to fewer than 65 rushing yards. But Oklahoma (209), Texas (166) and Central Arkansas (223) each had rushing success vs. K-State.
Advantage: Even

West Virginia passing offense vs. Kansas State pass defense
WVU’s passing offense is averaging 354.1 ypg, which is the fifth-best mark in the FBS ranks. It was held to a season-low 285 passing yards by Oklahoma State, though. In K-State, West Virginia will be facing a pass defense that has struggled some this season, giving up 282.1 yards through the air, which is the eighth best average in the Big 12. In their first five Big 12 games of ‘17, the ‘Cats allowed an average of 339.2 passing yards.
Advantage: West Virginia
 
Kansas State rushing offense vs. West Virginia run defense
The KSU defense hasn’t been quite as good as expected this season, but it’s rushing attack is still very potent. It averaged 199.5 ypg and ran for over 185 yards in six of its first eight games. It’s a collective effort, as three different Wildcats averaged between 63 and 68 yards per game, including its main two quarterbacks, Jesse Ertz (67.2) and Alex Delton (63.8). But freshman Skylar Thompson splashed on the scene a week ago, leading an 11-point fourth quarter rally to beat Texas Tech in overtime. WVU is eighth in the Big 12 in rushing defense (204.6 ypg) and hadn’t held any of its first eight foes to less then 127 rushing yards with four going over 189.
Advantage: Kansas State

Kansas State passing offense vs. West Virginia pass defense
Jesse Ertz, who had started at QB for K-State in 2016 and the first half of 2017, injured his knee and missed three games. When healthy, Ertz is a strong runner (74.9 ypg in 18 career starts) and fair passer (57 completion percentage). Ertz’s replacement, Alex Delton, is also a good runner (142 yards vs. OU) but only a marginal passer (53 completion percentage). Now, WVU has to worry about a third in the red-hot Thompson. As a whole, K-State is last in the Big 12 in passing offense (174.9 ypg), but WVU’s pass defense has plenty of issues of its own (255.6 ypg).
Advantage: Even

Kansas State special teams vs. West Virginia special teams
There’s no Tyler Lockett or Morgan Burns returning KSU kicks, but D.J. Reed gives the Wildcats another strong returner (16.8 on punts and 36.4 on kickoffs, which is the second best in the FBS). West Virginia’s coverage teams have been pretty solid this year, but this will be their biggest challenge to date. 
Advantage: Kansas State
Intangibles
WVU was 0-4 as a Big 12 member against K-State before West Virginia escaped with a 17-16 victory at Mountaineer Field last year, thanks to a missed 42-yard field goal by KSU’s Matthew McCrane with 2:03 left to play. WVU is 0-3 all time in Manhattan and has been outscored in those three losses 78-45.
Advantage: Kansas State
 
Prediction
With eight offensive and six defensive starters returning for Kansas State from last year, many expected more from the Wildcats in 2017. But three of K-State’s first four losses were by one score or less, and its defense (23.5 ppg) hasn’t lived up to projections. Still, WVU always seems to have matchup issues with Bill Snyder’s program, which has held WVU to an average of just 17.2 points in its five meetings.
 
Predicted Score: Kansas State-28   West Virginia-27