West Virginia – Kansas Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers (2-1)
Kansas Jayhawks (2-1)
|Points Per Game||23.7||26.3|
|Points Allowed Per Game||26.0||17.7|
|Pass Yards Allowed||177.0||185.7|
|Rush Yards Allowed||182.7||182.0|
Kickoff: 4:30 est
Location: Lawrence, KS (David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium)
Announcers: Dave Lamont (play-by-blay, Mike Golic Jr (analyst) and Lericia Harris (sideline reporter)
Weather: 44% chance of thunderstorms at with a high of 81º
West Virginia and Kansas will face each other for the ninth time in their brief history on Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers began the series with a 21-0 win in 1941 during homecoming weekend. These last seven games have been inside Big 12 play and WVU has dominated the Jayhawks 6-1 with an average margin of victory of 30.3 points.
That lone loss the Mountaineers suffered during the 2013 season broke the Jayhawks 27 Big 12 Conference game losing streak that mid-November. The Mountaineers were 4-6 following a tough overtime loss at home to Texas that seemingly took the air out of an inexperienced – injury battling squad that got beat 31-19 in Lawrence to a Kansas team that finished the season 3-8. Nonetheless, WVU has ripped off five-straight against KU.
The Jayhawks are coming off a surprise performance last weekend in Boston. Kansas was coming off an embarrassing 13-7 home loss to FCS program Coast Carolina before beating an undefeated Boston College team 48-24.
Head coach Les Miles tinkered with his offense after only averaging 312 yards the first two games against FCS opponents. In place of the more old school approach to the offense, Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning went to the spread with the run-pass option RPO) that exploded to a 24-point win.
It appears the new offense is more suited for quarterback Carter Stanley. His decisiveness last week made the offense tick, going 20-27 for 238 yards and three of his five touchdowns on the year.
Kansas is led by arguably the best tandem of running backs in the Big 12 and spreading the defense out opened the run game for Khalil Hubert and Pooka Williams. They lit up Boston College last week for a combined 308 yards and two touchdowns.
Andrew Parchment was the beneficiary on the outside. 6-2 180-lb receiver, grabbed eight of his 19 receptions on the year last week for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jayhawk defense doesn’t reflect the LSU defenses during Les’ tenure in Baton Rouge. Well, if you consider his final year in 2016, they moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4, in theory. Like so many other defenses that have adapted to the wide-open offenses, they have names for different safeties and linebackers that are a hybrid of the sort.
Miles still likes to be aggressive, show movement and bring the pressure. Jack linebacker Azur Kamara and defensive end Darrius Moragne have combined for 4.5 of the teams seven sacks on the season.
Linebackers Dru Prox (leads the team in tackles with (30) and Kyron Johnson (T-3rd in tackles with 15) sure up the middle of the defense and Hawk-safety Bryce Tornedon and free safety Mike Lee sure up the back end.
West Virginia is arguably coming off one of their best non-conference in recent years and it was the first win over an ACC opponent since 2015 (September, 25 Maryland 44-6) defeating NC State 44-27.
The Mountaineers found their ground game rushing for 173 yards after only rushing for 64 in the first two games. The dramatic change came from their approach. The loosened the edges on jet sweeps and quick screens and running backs Leddie Brown and Kennedy McKoy ran aggressively and attacked the defense combining for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
A lot of those yards had to do with the better performance of the offensive line. Redshirt freshmen James Gmiter and Briason Mays along with sophomore John Hughes made up the middle of the o-line and guard Chase Behrnt had one of his best games splitting reps with Hughes at guard. Starting right guard Josh Sills (injury) and left guard Mike Brown (illness) was out last week after missing practice
Wide receiver Sam James was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the week after nine receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, defensive linemen Darius and Dante Stills are tied for second in sacks in the Big 12 with three each, while Dante is second in the conference in tackles for a loss with 5.5 and Darius is fourth at five TFL’s.
The secondary has been called thin due to the youth in the two-deep. However, at times the freshmen have stepped up, most recently, Kerry Martin Jr. He came in in played free safety after Norwood was ejected for targeting in the first half and was solid. Corners Keith Washington and Hakeem Bailey have been holding their own on the outside and freshmen Nicktroy Fortune has shown some flashes of his ability to play at this level.
The linebacking core might get a little more relief as Shea Campbell is getting back in game shape to help Dylan Tonkery in the middle. Weakside linebacker Josh Chandler leads the team in tackles (24) and has been improving at getting stops near the line of scrimmage.
Being that’s its still a young season and both programs are under new coaching staffs and coming off surprising wins, it’s hard to tell if either team can replicate what they did last week. Kansas redid their whole offense while West Virginia opened-up their playbook.
As cliché as it sounds, this is a big game for both teams. Neither program had high expectations coming into the season, but Kansas has to steal another win to make up for that home loss to Coastal Carolina and get the Les Miles foundation started soundly.
West Virginia needs to win the games they’re supposed to and this is one, according to Vegas (-4.5), they’re expected to.
If the Mountaineers can corral the running game and hold the Jayhawks to field goals while still showing improvement on offense, WVU should win with ease.