A Big 12 battle is on tap for this weekend as the West Virginia Mountaineers are set to take on the Iowa State Cyclones. The game gets started at 4:00 EST on Saturday, October 12 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. Fans can catch all of the action on ESPN.
Oddsmakers list the Cyclones as 10.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 54 points. Be sure to click out a full list of this week’s college football odds.
As expected, there have been some ups and downs for Neal Brown in his first season at West Virginia. The Mountaineers suffered an early setback when they were blown out by Missouri 38-7. But they responded with wins over NC State and Kansas, only to lose to Texas at home last week. At 3-2, West Virginia is still in good shape to at least get to a bowl game this year. However, the Mountaineers face back-to-back road games against Oklahoma and Baylor after this week’s home game with the Cyclones. They could be staring down the barrel of a four-game losing streak and a winless October if they don’t pull out a win this week. Such a scenario would surely put their bowl hopes in doubt.
The Cyclones have endured similar ups and downs this season. They lost a heartbreaker to rival Iowa early in the year and then rallied to take a lead in the fourth quarter against Baylor, only to give up a late field goal and lose 23-21. ISU’s two losses this year have come by a combined three points, so they’re not far from being 5-0. Alas, they are 3-2 and will play on the road in three of their next four games. The Cyclones should be able to win some games on the back end of their schedule to help secure a bowl bid. But after finishing tied for third in the Big 12 last year, they’ll feel like they still have a chance to push for a spot in the conference title game. However, Iowa State will have to prove that they can win on the road, starting with this week’s visit to Morgantown.
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Mountaineers have taken five of their seven head-to-head meetings with Iowa State. But the Cyclones pulled off a 30-14 upset win over West Virginia last year and also won in Morgantown in 2013.
I’ll be honest, I was expecting more growing pains out of West Virginia this year. But they’ve played well the past few weeks and stayed tight with Texas last week despite turning it over four times. The Mountaineers are always tough at home, so I don’t think a double-digit loss is in the cards. I like Iowa State to win, but against the spread, I’ll take West Virginia and the points.
It took a few weeks for Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall to settle in, but he’s coming around. Obviously, the four interceptions he threw last week are a big concern. But he also threw for over 350 yards and three touchdowns against the Texas defense. He also didn’t take a sack, which is a good sign that the West Virginia offense can move the ball against Iowa State and make it tough for the Cyclones to hold a double-digit lead.
To be honest, I’ve always had a lot of respect for the Iowa State defense under Matt Campbell. But they’ve yet to put together a truly dominant performance the way they did at times last season, including the game against West Virginia. Both Baylor and TCU have scored over 20 points against the Cyclones in recent weeks. Even if TCU did most of their damage in garbage time, I’m not convinced the ISU defense can hold down the Mountaineers all game.
If West Virginia manages at least 20 points, covering the 10.5-point spread won’t be that easy for Iowa State. Brock Purdy remains one of my favorite quarterbacks in the Big 12. But the ISU running game has suffered without David Montgomery. Through five games, Purdy is the team’s leading rusher and is the only one on the team with over 200 rushing yards on the season. Even if Purdy has been outstanding as a passer, that’s still a red flag. The Cyclones don’t have a workhorse back who can wear down defenses or salt the game away when they have a lead.
A lack of balance is why I think Iowa State will have a problem pulling away and covering the spread in this game. In a close game, I trust Purdy to make game-winning plays. But I don’t think the ISU offense is dynamic enough to run up the score. Plus, the West Virginia defense has played high-level quarterbacks like Kelly Bryant and Sam Ehlinger this season, so they won’t be fazed by going against Purdy.
In the end, I think West Virginia will give Iowa State all they can handle. The Mountaineers need this game and I think the WVU offense will create some big plays to keep them in the game. The Cyclones should pull out a win, but I don’t think they’ll cover the 10.5-point spread.