The no. 6 West Virginia Mountaineers will try to remain undefeated as they face a tough road challenge this week against the Iowa State Cyclones. The game is scheduled for 7:00 EST on Saturday, October 13, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. Fans will be able to watch the game on FS1.
By checking the Week 7 college football odds, we see that West Virginia is favored by 6.5 points on the road. However, early betting has favored the Mountaineers, who opened the week as 5.5-point favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 57.5 points.
It’s been so far so good for the Mountaineers, who began the season with high expectations. With their game against N.C. State (who is also undefeated) being canceled due to Hurricane Florence, West Virginia is 5-0 and 3-0 in Big 12 play. Along with Texas, they are the only Big 12 team that’s still unbeaten in conference play.
However, the Mountaineers are still being overlooked in the College Football Playoff discussion. Two of their three conference wins have come against teams that are winless in Big 12 play. WVU’s non-conference win over Tennessee isn’t all that impressive either. In short, West Virginia’s greatest challenges are still ahead of them, starting with a tricky road game in Ames on Saturday night.
Iowa State got off to a rough start this season, winning just one of their first four games. However, the Cyclones reminded everyone how tough they can be last week when they won at Oklahoma State, doing so with third-string quarterback Brock Purdy coming out of the bullpen to lead the team.
That win gave Iowa State a huge boost as they try to replicate last year’s 8-5 campaign. The Cyclones still need to win at least four of their last seven games to qualify for a bowl game. However, they’ll get five of those seven games at home. That kind of schedule sets up favorably for them, especially if they can pull off an upset over West Virginia this week.
Of course, the Mountaineers have won five of the six meetings between these teams since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012. However, last year’s game was a defensive slugfest that the Mountaineers were lucky to win at home 20-16, so Iowa State should be confident in their ability to pull off the upset this time around.
Leaning toward West Virginia in this game means taking a leap of faith in the Mountaineers, and I’m just not ready to do that. I’m still skeptical that they’re legitimate CFP contenders, and considering the level of difficulty that comes with playing in Ames, I’ll side with Iowa State to at least make this a close game, much like they did last year in Morgantown.
Offensively, West Virginia is one of the best in the country, and I won’t dispute that. Will Grier is in the mix for the Heisman, and for good reason. He’s completed 71% of his passes this season and has already collected 21 touchdown passes in five games. But on the other side of the coin, he has thrown five interceptions in the team’s three conference games. More importantly, none of the Big 12 teams he’s faced are as good defensively as Iowa State.
The Cyclones saw Grier last season and they won’t be intimidated to face him again. In fact, they’ll be looking forward to facing Grier and the Mountaineers with the home crowd behind him. Iowa State has already faced both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season, so facing West Virginia’s high-scoring offense is just another day at the office. After holding Grier and company to 20 points last season, I feel good about the ISU defense heading into this game.
I also have some doubts regarding West Virginia’s rushing attack. On paper, the Mountaineers have a productive ground game, but when the level of competition has gone up, that productivity has declined. If there’s one thing the Cyclones have done well in just about every game this season, it’s stopping the run. To be fair, Grier doesn’t have a problem putting everything on his shoulders. But shutting down the run game and forcing the Mountaineers to throw the ball will make it a little easier for the Iowa State defense.
On the other side of the ball, I’m curious to see Purdy in his first career start. The Iowa State offense struggled this year prior to last week’s game against Oklahoma State, and so the presence of Purdy at quarterback can’t be a coincidence. He gives the Cyclones a dual-threat option, which they need with how much they’ve struggled to run the ball this year.
Outside of their game against Texas Tech, the Mountaineers haven’t faced a lot of quality offensive teams. Also, keep in mind that Texas Tech played most of their game against WVU with their backup quarterback. It’s tough to guarantee that Purdy will replicate his performance last week. But he certainly looked like the real deal, and I think the West Virginia defense will have their hands full.
In the end, I like the idea of taking the underdog when they’re at home and the more talented defensive team. As mentioned, the Cyclones have played several quality teams this year, so I think they’ll be well-prepared to face West Virginia. Purdy remains the wild card, but I think the Iowa State defense will slow down the Mountaineers enough to keep this game close and beat the spread.