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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Kansas State Wildcats Preview and Prediction

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Just like last week’s matchup between Oklahoma and Texas, Saturday’s game between Kansas State and West Virginia will play a key role in helping to clear the Big 12 title picture. The conference crown won’t be decided this week, but there’s a clear pecking order starting to form. The Wildcats are the Big 12’s only unbeaten team and scored a huge road win over Oklahoma earlier this season. The Mountaineers watched their national title hopes fade in a disappointing loss to Texas Tech last Saturday. However, all is not lost for West Virginia, as it remains a viable Big 12 title contender and should be in the mix for one of the at-large BCS bowl spots.

These two teams have met only twice, with the last meeting occurring in 1931. West Virginia won 23-7 in 1930, while Kansas State claimed a 19-0 victory in 1931. Both games in this series have been played in Morgantown.

Storylines to Watch in West Virginia vs. Kansas State

Will Stedman Bailey play this Saturday?
Lost in the shuffle of West Virginia’s loss to Texas Tech was the injury to receiver Stedman Bailey. The junior caught six passes for 56 yards and one touchdown in the first half but did not play in the final two quarters due to an ankle injury. Bailey is one of the nation’s top deep threats and helps to stretch the field, which allows Tavon Austin to work underneath. If Bailey cannot go, West Virginia will need contributions from a couple of young players. Freshmen Travares Copeland, Jordan Thompson and Dante Campbell have combined for 15 receptions but could be counted on for a bigger role this Saturday. Bailey's status isn't officially known but most signs out of Morgantown seem to indicate he will be able to play in some capacity aginst Kansas State.

Does West Virginia have an answer for Kansas State’s offense?
The Mountaineers have struggled to get stops in Big 12 play this season, giving up at least 45 points in all three of their conference games. To emphasize how bad this defense has been: West Virginia ranks 114th nationally in total defense, 109th in points allowed and 118th in pass defense. Kansas State will present a different challenge than the ones the Mountaineers have played so far, as the Wildcats are a run-first team and aren’t as prolific through the air. Kansas State is averaging 31:47 minutes in time of possession each game, and coach Bill Snyder hopes to control the clock and keep West Virginia’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. The Mountaineers’ rush defense ranks 43rd nationally but opponents have scored 12 touchdowns on the ground. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is averaging 264 total yards per game and will be a tough assignment for West Virginia’s defense. The Mountaineers need to load the box and force Klein and the Wildcats to win this game through the air. If Kansas State controls the time of possession, it will wear down West Virginia’s defense.