West Virginia (3-4) at Kansas State (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 26, 3:45 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000) -- Manhattan, Kansas. Television: FS1. Home Record: WVU 3-1, KSU 2-2. Away Record: WVU 0-2, KSU 0-2. Neutral Record: WVU 0-1, KSU 0-0. Conference Record: WVU 1-3, KSU 0-3. Series Record: Kansas State leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The West Virginia Mountaineers take a break from playing against nationally-ranked opponents this week as they face off against the Kansas State Wildcats in Big 12 Conference action at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.
West Virginia, which has clashed with four teams ranked 17th or higher already this season, has taken on three consecutive opponents that are among the nation's best and aside from a stunning 30-21 upset of Oklahoma State at home on Sept. 28, has come up short in those matchups. Last weekend, the Mountaineers were pitted against 16th-ranked Texas Tech and, for the most part, kept up with the Red Raiders before bowing in a 37-27 final at home.
Now just 1-3 in conference play, tying them with TCU for sixth place in the standings, the Mountaineers have fallen in two straight games and three of the last four overall.
As for the Wildcats, outside of consecutive victories over Louisiana and UMass back in September, very little has gone right for the squad here in 2013. In fact, KSU is now trying to bring an end to a three-game slide following a 35-25 setback against high-flying Baylor back on Oct. 12. On a positive note, the Wildcats only lost by 10 points against an opponent which leads the nation in scoring with a staggering 64.7 ppg.
As far as the all-time series between these teams is concerned, the Wildcats own a 2-1 advantage over West Virginia after destroying the Mountaineers last season in a 55-14 final in Morgantown. The lone win for WVU was a 23-7 final way back in 1930.
Against a high-powered offense like that of Texas Tech, the Mountaineers actually ran one more play than did the Red Raiders (82-81), but managed just 437 yards overall, compared to 573 yards for the visitors. Playing from behind much of the time, WVU leaned on young quarterback Clint Trickett who converted 27-of-43 passes for 254 yards and a score, while Dreamius Smith tacked on two rushing TDs on 16 carries.
Defensively, the Mountaineers managed to apply very little pressure at the line of scrimmage, coming up with only two tackles for loss and not a single sack. Isaiah Bruce finished with just two stops, but was able to tally a forced fumble and a recovery in the setback.
WVU has posted just nine sacks this season, three each coming from Brandon Golson and Will Clarke. Golson, responsible for 4.5 tackles for loss, has produced four forced fumbles in his pursuit. Darwin Cook has also been a master at forcing turnovers with his team-best four interceptions and one fumble recovery.
Trickett, one of three players to have lined up under center for the Mountaineers this season, is completing just 48.8 percent of his attempts, leading to three touchdowns and just as many interceptions. Unlike last season when WVU had a pair of top-notch receivers that could easily stretch the field, no one has more than 28 catches to this point.
Dreamius Smith and Charles Sims give the team some measure of consistency coming out of the backfield with four rushing touchdowns apiece and averages of at least five yards per carry, but the Mountaineers need so much more than that to compete against the high-scoring teams in the Big 12 right now.
Cutting Baylor's point production in half had to be seen as a moral victory at least for the Wildcats two weeks ago, but still Kansas State had to absorb the loss even as Daniel Sams ran for a career-high 199 yards, the second-highest total by a quarterback in KSU history. Sams carried the ball 30 times and scored three touchdowns on the ground, in addition to converting 4-of-7 passes for 41 yards with and an interception.
Even though KSU was dealt the setback, the fact that the Wildcats held Baylor to less than 21 minutes of possession is a huge positive for the squad.
Sams now leads the team in rushing with 522 yards and seven touchdowns, although his effort as a passer is not quite as encouraging with only two TDs and four INTs on 32 attempts. Then again, Jake Waters isn't much better with four aerial scores and five picks for an offense that is averaging 30.2 ppg.
According to the latest stats, Kansas State does excel at one specific aspect of football, placing first in the country in punt returns with an average of close to 25 yards per opportunity, but the defense will have to come up big this weekend in order for the Wildcats to put that part of their game to good use.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 31, Kansas State 27
10/23 10:34:02 ET