With victories last week, unranked West Virginia and No. 22 Iowa State took a step forward in the Big 12.
Those wins set up what could be a crossroads collision Saturday afternoon in Morgantown, W.Va.
The host Mountaineers (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) are coming off an impressive 29-17 victory at TCU that ended a three-game skid and rejuvenated their post-season hopes while the Cyclones (5-2, 3-1) knocked off previously unbeaten Oklahoma State 24-21 to jump right back into the conference race.
The Cyclones are one of three teams with one league loss behind undefeated Oklahoma. Baylor and Oklahoma State are the other one-loss clubs in the Big 12.
This is pretty much where the Cyclones, No. 7 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25, were expected to be prior to the season. But this isn’t where some saw Iowa State after the Cyclones suffered losses to Iowa and Baylor in September to fall out of the Top 25.
“I think we’re catching them playing their best football of the year,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “They’re a team that gets better.”
The matchup will feature four of the top offensive players in the Big 12.
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy is the second-leading passer in the Big 12 with an average of 235.4 passing yards per game. Only West Virginia’s Jarret Doege, who leads with a 243 yards per game, has averaged more this season among league passers.
Iowa State’s Breece Hall is the No. 2 rusher in the conference with his 818 yards. He has scored a touchdown in 19 consecutive games.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s probably in the Heisman Trophy race,” Brown said of Hall. “He was last year, and he’s playing his way into it this year.”
West Virginia’s Leddie Brown doesn’t have numbers as big as Hall’s but is No. 8 in the conference with 533 yards. Brown rushed for 111 yards in last week’s win over TCU and is tied for third in the league in total touchdowns (10) and is tied for fourth in rushing scores (nine).
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell calls Brown an “elite” tailback.
“You’re talking about a guy who a year ago was neck-and-neck, him and Breece, for the conference rushing title,” Campbell said. “You’re talking about a young man who’s got elite vision, big powerful, strong, and can really run.”
Campbell expects to have leading tackler Mike Rose available. The senior linebacker was in and out of last week’s game and is dealing with what Campbell described only as a “structural” issue.
“He seemed really good yesterday,” Campbell said during Tuesday’s meeting with the media. “We feel very confident that he’ll play in the football game. I don’t think it’s an issue that is going to be very long.”
This will be West Virginia’s first home game since a 23-20 loss to Texas Tech on Oct. 2. The Mountaineers lost 45-20 at Baylor, beat TCU and had an open date the last three weeks.
“We’re glad to get back home,” Brown said. “It seems like we haven’t been here in a really long time.”
–Field Level Media