Mountaineers will try to contain a Cyclones team that may be hitting its stride
WVU gave a game effort last week versus the Texas Longhorns, but ultimately came up short. The loss ran the Mountaineers' overall record to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play. Given that the one win came against lowly Kansas, they can't count on many more this year.
Meanwhile, ISU blew out TCU last week. The win also put the Cyclones at 3-2 and 1-1 in conference play, but their thorough domination of the Horned Frogs suggests Iowa State will compete at the top of the Big 12.
Here's what to watch when the two teams hit the field in Morgantown on Saturday.
Iowa State at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -10.5
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The Cyclones looked like they finally started to find their offensive groove versus the Horned Frogs. Quarterback Brock Purdy completed 19 of his 24 passes for an efficient 247 yards and two touchdowns. Deshaunte Jones stepped forward as his primary target, catching 10 balls for 110 yards. Purdy also had to carry the load on the ground with 12 rushes for 102 yards and two more TDs. ISU head coach Matt Campbell would surely prefer to roll with a different option there in the future.
The Mountaineers have battled all year on defense despite playing shorthanded. They're susceptible to getting pounded on the ground, so look for the Cyclones to hand the ball off to running back Johnnie Lang early to test WVU's run defense. If the Eers don't show any signs of slowing him down right off the bat, they are staring down a long afternoon on the gridiron.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
Quite simply, WVU QB Austin Kendall can't keep throwing interceptions if the Eers are going to win any more games. Texas picked off the Oklahoma transfer four times a week ago, raising Kendall's total to seven in five games this season. The Clones will try to bait him into bad throws again on Saturday to steal a few possessions for their offense.
Unfortunately for WVU, Iowa State doesn't give up much territory via the ground. WVU head coach Neal Brown can't rely on his rushing attack to take the pressure off of his QB. It will be up to Kendall and receivers like Sam James and T.J. Simmons to move the ball consistently through the air.
So Kendall can't afford to turn the ball over, and he will likely have to throw the ball a lot for the home team to have a shot at winning. See the issue here?
To date, the Mountaineers have offered little reason to believe they can handle a team like Iowa State. The opportunistic Cyclones know how to exploit opponents' miscues, and WVU seems to make a lot of them.
The Eers should look to create some chaos of their own — crashing down against the run, jumping pass routes, and taking chances on defense to create negative plays by the Clones. Otherwise, they will struggle to stand up to Brock Purdy and ISU's methodical offense.
Barring multiple catastrophic errors on the part of the Cyclone offense, ISU should wear down WVU over the course of the game. Look for the Clones to break the contest open after halftime and secure a comfortable win.
Prediction: Iowa State 34, West Virginia 21
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.