Most of the nation will be tuning into the top five matchup between Alabama and Auburn, but Iowa State (2-9) and West Virginia (4-7) fans will be tuned in to their teams’ final game of the season.
Neither team will be going to a bowl game, but the Cyclones will try to build off some late season success after routing Kansas while the Mountaineers will try to rebound from losing to those same Jayhawks.
Iowa State Cyclones vs West Virginia Mountaineers
Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium | Morgantown, West Virginia
Kick-off: Saturday, 3:00 PM CT | TV: FOX Sports 1
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What will aid West Virginia in their rebound attempt is an additional week of rest as they’re dealing with a wealth of injuries.
First, the question will be whether or not Clint Trickett or Paul Millard will start. Trickett has been cleared to play, but head coach Dana Holgerson hasn’t named him the starter. Millard completed 23 of 42 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. That was his best day passing the ball with 25 or more attempts since the opening game against William and Mary.
There will be no question on Iowa State’s end – Grant Rohach will start after passing for 300 yards in the Cyclones’ lone Big 12 win over Kansas last week. It’s incredible how much running the ball does, and that success with Aaron Wimberly and the seniors gave the offensive line a break and Rohach more time to throw. That, and the Jayhawks simply couldn’t bring in much pass rush all game.
The Cyclones have shown they could win on the road, and it will remain to be seen how many people will be Milan Puskar Stadium. West Virginia has played much better at home this season, winning three of their four games there including an upset over Oklahoma State.
What to watch for
The team that establishes the run most will come out of Morgantown with a victory. It would be a benefit to see the Iowa State seniors step up like they did a week ago, but Aaron Wimberly looked healthy enough to lead the team for their season finale.
On the other side, Charles Sims is the fifth leading running back in the Big 12, and he’ll try to be the second consecutive running back to pass over the 1,000-yard mark against the Cyclones. David Sims did it early in the game last week, but ISU was able to shut him down throughout the second half. Charles Sims is 54 yards away.
Either team that successfully moves the ball and controls the clock will have an upper hand at exposing the lack of pass rush on these teams. Statistically, Iowa State ranks better, but that won’t matter if they can’t bring down Sims.
West Virginia has a ton of injury problems, more so than Iowa State is currently facing. The question will be who exactly shows up this week – will it be a Mountaineer team that would like to rebound and finish the season strong, or will it be a team that doesn’t care?
If Rohach can generate the amount of success he had throwing the ball against Kansas, he’ll be able to do that against WVU – they rank 101st nationally in pass defense. They didn’t have to worry about a threat of passing by Kansas, but they’ve given up 394 or more yards in the air in three of their last six games, including TCU who had that exact number and have had QB injuries of their own.
Balance is key. Wimberly and the running attack should get well over 100 yards on the ground. That will be enough to keep the offense on the field on most drives, and the Iowa State defense has improved all month long. They’ll still be tested, taking on an offense that may have only scored 19 points against the Jayhawks, but put up 40 against Texas and 30 against TCU in recent weeks.
Last year, the first-ever meeting between the teams resulted in a fun game on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Jeff Woody fumbled the ball near the goal line, ending a chance for the Cyclones to tie. This game has all the makings of another classic, and Iowa State has improved enough throughout the month to gain their biggest win of the season and end a disappointing year with some momentum going into the offseason.
IAST 30, WVU 28 (Odds: IAST +7.5, O53.5)