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WVU vs. Kansas State 2018 College Football Preview

The West Virginia Mountaineers take on the Kansas State Wildcats to open Big 12 conference play for the 2018 college football season. WVU is ranked 12th in the nation and is 2-0, with Kansas State is 2-1. The Mountaineers didn’t get to play last week at NC State due to Hurricane Florence’s presence. There’s a lot on the line in this game. Both teams are looking to kick off conference play on a positive note. The Wildcats can receive a boost by beating a nationally ranked team, while the Mountaineers are looking to break into the top-ten. With both teams having their certain strengths and weaknesses, this should be a good game to watch.

The Mountaineers and Wildcats have faced each other eight times. Kansas State leads the series 5-3, but WVU has taken the last two games. Bill Snyder will coach in his 325th game for the Wildcats in Morgantown on Saturday. His .656 all-time win percentage shows his experience and composure in big games. Dana Holgorsen leads the Mountaineers into this game with a 55-37 overall record since taking over the team in 2011.

Key Players to watch for Kansas State:

Skylar Thompson (QB): Thompson can beat you with either his arm or feet. The junior has completed 57 percent of his passes in 2018 for 360 yards. He also has 158 yards on the ground and averages 4.3 yards per carry. Not only is Thompson the leader of the Kansas State offense, but he’s also the leading scorer on the team. Five total touchdowns in three games. His athleticism will make it hard for the Mountaineer defense to stop him.

Alex Barnes (RB): Barnes is the leading rusher for the Wildcats and has had his moments so far this season. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry and is handy in the passing game as a safety outlet. Look for Barnes to use his size to pound the front seven on the Mountaineer defense. His career 5.9 ypc shows he can get the chains moving for the Wildcats.

Isaiah Zuber (WR): Zuber has 3 touchdowns for the season and 223 yards. He uses his speed to beat secondaries and is a serious threat in the passing game. Zuber will be a true test for the WVU secondary. Give him an inch, and he can beat you by a mile!

Key Players for WVU

Will Grier (QB): The Heisman hopeful has been deadly accurate in his first two games completing nearly 77 percent of his passes. His passer rating (229.4) is third in the NCAA and he ranks in the top ten in passing touchdowns. Grier is a quarterback that can destroy defenses with his big play capabilities. Expect another 300-yard plus passing performance.

David Sills (WR): A Biletnikoff finalist last year, Sills has started off slower this season. Defenses can’t be fooled by that though. He’s a touchdown machine when he finds his groove and he’s due. Sills has 9 catches, for 173 yards, and 2 touchdowns early this college football season.

Gary Jennings (WR): Surprisingly, Jennings has become the leading receiver for the Mountaineers in 2018. The senior has already matched his touchdown totals from the three previous seasons. Jennings silently caught for over 1,000 yards last season, but he’s making some noise this year. He’s running better routes and can burn anyone with his speed.

David Long (LB): Long leads WVU with 13 solo tackles and is ranked 9th in the NCAA with 6.5 tackles per game. He’s great at stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback. Long is the backbone of the defense, so expect to see his name called on a lot of plays.

The Fans: Ok, so this technically isn’t a player, but the fans could play a huge part in this game. It gets loud in Morgantown. Very loud to be precise. With Kansas State fielding a young (but good) quarterback, the crowd will play a pivotal role in keeping the young passer rattled. And when opponents struggle, the fans get louder and wilder.

When Kansas State has the ball:

The ground game has been the bread and butter for the Wildcats this season. Expect to see them pound the ball with Barnes and let Thompson scramble for big gains. Kansas State will try to exploit this Mountaineer defense that ranked 106th last year in total defense. Zuber along with Dalton Schoen will need to take advantage of coverage in the secondary breaking down, which happens a lot with the Mountaineers. A hot start is a necessity, so expect the Wildcats to come out swinging.

When WVU has the ball:

It will be business as usual with the Mountaineers. Holgorsen will try to establish the running game early to open up the passing game even more for Grier. Leddie Brown, Martell Pettaway, and Kennedy McKoy are three running backs capable of doing just that. Sills will draw double teams and that will give more opportunities to Jennings along with T.J. Simmons and Marcus Sims. WVU can often stall early trying to get the ground game going. This may be a good time to give Grier a few more opportunities early in the game.

Game Prediction:

Kansas State has a great coach in Snyder, but the Mountaineers are just too dangerous on offense. Especially when the Wildcats are giving up nearly 400 yards per game. While Thompson has the ability to scramble for big gains and to also keep drives alive, the 3-3-5 defense of WVU is designed for speed. I look for the game to be close early on, but we’ll see the Mountaineers pull away as the game wears on. My prediction: 38-20 WVU.

The game is set to kickoff at 3:30 pm (est) at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV. You can tune in to ESPN to watch the game.