Breaking Down the WVU-Iowa State Matchup By Position
Can WVU bounce back from a disheartening loss?
By Franklin Markel
West Virginia is slated to play the Iowa State Cyclones in Morgantown this Saturday. Last week, both of these teams had big games at home. For West Virginia, it was a showdown with the eleventh ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. The weather was sloppy and the Mountaineers played even sloppier, falling 50-39. Iowa State beat the fourth ranked TCU Horned Frogs in Ames and the Cyclones moved up to number 14 in the country this week. This is a huge game for the Mountaineers to prove themselves. Here is where the Mountaineers and Cyclones have their advantages:
West Virginia Advantages
For the first time this season, Will Grier really struggled all game. He threw a career high 4 interceptions and fell out of most Heisman watch lists. He still does lead the country in touchdowns and because of his earlier success has proven he is a NFL caliber quarterback. His counterpart on Saturday might have one of the best stories in college football. Kyle Kempt has been through it all. He started as a backup QB at Oregon State, later found himself at a junior college, and now is slicing up the Big 12, beating TCU and Oklahoma already. He has shined for 859 yards and 9 touchdowns in the 4 games he’s played, all wins. Because of his success the road to the Big 12 championship currently goes through Ames, Iowa. Grier has proven himself, Kempt is still just testing the waters. These QB’s can both be great but the more experienced one gets the advantage.
Justin Crawford had another rough week vs the Cowboys. He was held to only 13 carries for 45 yards on the ground and the lack of a run game left Grier out to dry (or to get soaked as it was pouring). Kennedy McKoy saw some success adding 30 yards and a touchdown. The WVU run game started the season so well but is having a really tough time these past couple of weeks. They’ll need to do better for WVU to be successful on Saturday against a very good ISU defense. For Iowa State, David Montgomery does most of the work in the backfield, He has 156 carries this year as a sophomore. He takes those carries for 717 yards and 8 touchdowns. Looking at the depth chart, Mike Warren will see some time but isn’t a big part of the rush game. Both teams have great RB1’s but WVU’s depth gives them the advantage at this position.
The WVU wide receivers struggled to catch the ball last week. Their drops were a big part of why the game was sloppy. David Sills failed to catch a TD so his season total stays at 15. Marcus Simms had 80 yards and 1 touchdown, Ka’Raun White had 78 and a touchdown too. Sills had 44 yards on 3 catches and Gary Jennings had 58. These 4 basically see all the playing time because of the thin depth at this position. As for Iowa State, Allen Lazard is the leader of the group, he has 477 yards and 5 touchdowns in his senior year. Trever Ryen adds a solid 321 yards and 1 touchdown and Hakeem Butler, the redshirt sophomore has been outstanding this season with 4 touchdowns and 405 yards. Marchie Murdock, the Illinois transfer, has 320 yards and 4 TD’s. After playing for Temple earlier in his career, Matt Eaton has put up 4 touchdowns as well and is a red zone threat at 6-4. Both these groups have a lot of talent but lack depth, this is a toss up but the experience gives WVU the advantage.
The WVU offensive line continues their struggle and are starting to fall in my rankings, but for now, they have a advantage over Iowa State. Kyle Bosch continues to play well and the sophomore Matt Jones keeps locking down the defensive line. The freshman Josh Sills is going to get another start on Saturday. The Cyclones offensive line is very inexperienced and young. The left side is talented with seniors Jake Campos and Robby Garcia. The right side is less so. Center Julian Good-Jones is Julian Good-But he’s young and just a sophomore. Josh Knipfel and Bryce Meeker are sophomores too. Both teams have talent at this position but both have room to improve and neither have really impressed lately. The experience of WVU gives them the advantage.
West Virginia has a rare advantage here. For the first time in weeks they sweep the trenches in a game. They had a rough game last time out giving up 246 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns from the ground game. The trio of Adam Schuler, Lamonte McDougle, and Reese Donahue need to improve and hold David Montgomery to minimum gains. For the Visitors, JD Waggoner, the red shirt senior has 26 tackles this season. Vernell Trent is also a redshirt senior and only has ten tackles. Both teams have very weak defensive lines but I give the Mountaineers the advantage because they’ve shown more potential and have had times in which they’ve looked solid. This is a very close one but West Virginia has the advantage on both sides of the trenches.
Iowa State Advantages
David Long had a crazy game last week. He recorded 18 tackles, that’s not a typo, 18 tackles and 7 for a loss. Those unbelievable numbers help make the horrible performance of the defense look a little bit better. Al-Rasheed Benton added 8 tackles and his season total is now 68 tackles this season. This is a good group for WVU but is a great group for Iowa State. Their Linebacker core is unreal. Joel Lanning, whos seen some action at QB this year, has 87 tackles this season. That, by far, leads all players in this week’s game. Marcel Spears Jr. has 70 tackles this season and he’s just a sophomore and Willy Harvey had 78 tackles last year and already has 49 this season. The WVU defense carries talented linebackers but the ISU group is simply better.
WVU really held Mason Rudolph in check last week. While it seemed like he was torching the defense he only had 216 yards. Mike Daniels and Kyzir White both recovered fumbles and combined for 10 tackles. Dravon Askew-Henry had 6 tackles and Kenny Robinson had a pick six. This group really is a question mark, sometimes they’re great, and sometimes it looks like they couldn’t cover a cone. It will be interesting to see how they play this week. The Iowa State defensive backs really make plays. Kamari Cotton-Moya has 5 interceptions in the last two seasons and 3 this year alone, he ran back a INT for a pick six last week. Brian Peavey has 49 tackles and 2 interceptions this year and the Georgia transfer Reggie Wilkerson has 57 tackles on the season. This is a very talented group for Iowa State and they have the big advantage.
WVU again loses a special teams battle, Mike Molina has never missed a extra point in his career, however he has missed 3 field goals this year on only 8 attempts. The special teams continue to haut WVU as in years past. The Iowa State special teams are solid. Garrett Owens is perfect on point afters and 9 for 13 of field goal attempts. The punter Colin Downing averages 41 yards a kick and the returners Mike Warren and Landen Akers both average 20+ yards per return. Iowa State has a clear advantage.
Iowa State lives on toughness. If West Virginia is able to rock the boat and disrupt things for the Cyclones, they should walk out of this game with a dub. That, however, is a big If. WVU has a great offense and ISU has a great defense and in matchups like these I tend to pick the offense over the defense. The tables were turned last year when the strong Oklahoma offense scored 56 in Morgantown against the dominant WVU defense. I think WVU has a solid chance to win. As long as the defense plays well WVU will get the upset win and knock off a ranked team. 31-24 WVU.