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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Kansas State Wildcats Preview and Prediction

Wendell Smallwood

Wendell Smallwood

This game has lost a little of its luster given that Kansas State will be bowl eligible no matter the outcome on Saturday. The Wildcats are coming off two straight wins, one of which was a come-from-behind victory over Iowa State two weeks ago.

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The Mountaineers are riding a four-game winning streak looking to finish the season 8-4 after having a record of 3-4 at the end of October.

While it seems West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen cooled any hot seat talk there is a possibility this may be Bill Snyder’s last regular season game as Kansas State's head coach. Snyder announced on Monday he will decide his future after the conclusion of this season.

West Virginia at Kansas State

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: West Virginia  -6

Three Things to Watch

1. It will be a slow game
Kansas State will undoubtedly try to slow the tempo of the game by staying on the ground. Likewise, West Virginia has established itself as a “ground and pound” offense over the month of November. You can expect scoring but if you are looking for fireworks this may not be the game for you.

2. Can Kansas State stop the Mountaineer run game?
The Wildcats are third in the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing only 158.8 rushing yards per game. The defense's ability to stop the run has kept this team in many contests.

However, the Mountaineers are averaging 241 yards per game on the ground and it is coming from more than one person. Skyler Howard has become a threat out of the backfield and Wendell Smallwood is having a record-breaking season. Add Elijah Wellman and Rushel Shell and the Wildcats will be faced with a rushing attack the likes of which they have not seen this season.

Iowa State attempted to force Howard to throw last weekend, stacking the box against the run. It did not work out so well for the Cyclones. The Wildcats though have been able to continue slow down opponents' running games. This could be the biggest matchup to watch, the West Virginia rushing attack vs. the Kansas State run defense.

3. Field position

In a game where moving the ball consistently could potentially be a change, field position is normally key to a team’s success. This game will feature the best punter in the Big 12, West Virginia’s Nick O’Toole, and the best punt returner, Kansas State’s Morgan Burns.

The Mountaineers will wear you down by consistently running right at you. If the Wildcats are going to be able to keep the score close it will depend greatly on field position, a part of the game in which the Wildcats may very well have the advantage.

Final Analysis

Both teams are heading into the postseason so the necessity of winning is for the sake of improving their bowl destination. Kansas State would love nothing more than to get out of the 5-7 eligibility discussion while the Mountaineers are looking to finish 8-4 and fifth in the Big 12.

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The Mountaineers have never defeated the Wildcats as members of the Big 12. Both teams will look to establish a run game. Expect the Mountaineers to give the Wildcats a heavy dose of Wendell Smallwood, the second-leading rusher in the Big 12. Likewise, expect Kansas State to establish its ground game.

This game will be closer than the spread has predicted. Dana Holgorsen circled this game on his calendar for a reason: Bill Snyder is not an easily defeated coach.

Prediction: West Virginia 31, Kansas State 30

— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.