We probably shouldn’t talk about it, but let’s face it, it is inevitable.
The West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0) face the Kansas State Wildcats (2-1) this Saturday at 3:30 PM on ESPNU, the same Kansas State team that is 4-0 against WVU since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 four years ago.
However, with that being said, the most important thing WVU can do is treat this weekend’s contest like any other game. They can’t worry about what happened in 2012 when the Colin Klein led Wildcats rolled into Morgantown and pounded WVU 55-14, and they can’t think about last season in Manhattan when the Mountaineers controlled the whole game until KSU quarterback Joe Hubener got hurt and they put in a third string wide receiver who led them to a comeback 24-23 win. That game is still fresh in the minds of WVU fans, but the players need to put it out of theirs.
Here are this week’s top three matchups that will be key to a Mountaineers victory:
WVU Offense vs KSU Defense
Yes, this sounds cliche’. But these two units are polar opposites on the field. Kansas State’s defense is ranked number one in the country (part of that helped by last week’s 35-0 win over Missouri State that was called at halftime due to weather) and they are always very disciplined and very rarely make mistakes.
The WVU offense is 18th in the country in passing offense and is clicking on all cylinders in all facets on that side of the ball. It will provide an exciting matchup on the field. If Skyler Howard continues to make good decisions and can find Shelton Gibson, Daikiel Shorts, Ka’Raun White and company, WVU will have running lanes for Rushel Shell, Justin Crawford and Kennedy McCoy.
The Wildcats have held their first three opponents, including 7th ranked Stanford, to under 300 hundred yards. It’s the first time they have done that to start a season since 2007.
WVU’s Offensive Tackles vs KSU DE Jordan Willis
Dana Holgorsen seems set on starting senior Adam Pankey at left tackle and rotating Colton McKivitz and Marcell Lazard at the right side. Whichever of the three have to line up against Willis needs to be ready and focused on the preseason All-Big 12 defensive end.
Willis has five sacks in his last seven games dating back to last season and two of those are from this year. The athletic senior will be on a mission to disrupt Howard in the backfield in hopes of forcing him into quick, bad decisions that could result in turnovers. The WVU o-line has only allowed one sack all year. The ability or inability to keep Willis contained will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Dana Holgorsen vs Bill Snyder
This, without a doubt, is the most important head to head battle of the game. Holgorsen has yet to defeat Snyder even though he has had opportunities to do so a couple times including last year’s debacle that is WVU’s only loss in their last nine games.
Snyder is one of the better coaches in college football history. He does more with less arguably better than anyone. KSU’s recruiting classes are never regarded highly on paper, but they continue to be a consistent winner under the future hall of fame coach.
This is quite possibly Holgorsen’s most important game at WVU since he became head coach. Fans have had this one marked on their calendars since the summer. A win here would give the Mountaineers a 4-0 record, a top 25 ranking next week and lots of momentum heading into their second bye week.
Will this finally be the year the Kansas State monkey is removed from West Virginia’s back?
Saturday will bring us that answer.
Featured image credit Shanna Rose, BGS