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Bloggers from The Smoking Musket and Bring on the Cats preview Saturday's matchup between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Kansas State Wildcats
This week, we continue our Staring Down The Musket... series with Ahearn Alley from the Kansas State SB Nation blog Bring on the Cats. Having not played the Wildcats since 1931, most WVU fans are unfamiliar with Bill Snyder's team. As we welcome #4 K-State to Morgantown, what are some keys to this week's game if WVU wants to get off the schneid?
Country Roads: Sitting at 6-0 and ranked #3 in the BCS, K-state fans have to be feeling pretty good about the team, right? We all know Bill Snyder is actually a medieval sorcerer who wins games with mutated JUCO fiends, voodoo dolls of opposing quarterbacks and enchantments that cause fumbilitis, high-speed winds and Ron Prince syndrome, but is this team really built to run the table? Or are you guys like WVU fans and always cognizant that the next kick in the nads might be lurking around that Lubbock (or Morgantown) city limit sign?
Bring on the Cats: We don't get to this position often. Just once in Kansas State history, actually, that of course being 1998 and no, I don't want to talk about how that ended. So I would certainly hope that no one is taking anything for granted, and I think we understand that K-State could lose any of the games remaining on our schedule. Well, except for Texas. Because we own them.
The thing about Snyder teams is they don't often lose the games they're supposed to win, so that's a big positive. Looking at this squad in the long-view, it probably isn't good enough to go 12-0. But if I look at the schedule week-by-week, I'm picking Kansas State to win every time. This team just has a unique combination of perseverance and determination, best exemplified by Collin Klein, that allows it to win virtually every close game. They've had some bad quarters or even bad halves against lesser competition, but they always rise to the occasion, and I'm certainly not betting against them.
CR: Michael Bishop, Ell Roberson. Optimus Klein. Who are you picking first for your Turkey Bowl team? And is Klein doing this basically on his own, or are there wide receivers who like, catch passes and stuff? Because if you have wide receivers, WVU won't know how to cover them and they'll probably just be running free all over Mountaineer Field all helter-skelter like. Or are you going to just line it up and run option plays every 30 seconds until fans finally get bored and just leave?
BOTC: Ell Roberson does not belong in that trio. He was good, but also had a lot of flaws in his makeup and his talent. I certainly don't want to speak for other K-State fans, but I think I'd take Bishop in this one just because of his freakish athletic abilities. No doubt Klein is the smarter player and all-around better person, but especially if I'm picking for a team that doesn't have time for a lot of preparation, Bishop is the choice without a moment's hesitation.
The folks at BOTC can tell you I'm not nearly as high on this receiving corps as many of them. The depth is nice, I guess, but there's no one in this group that would even sniff the top ten on a list of Big 12 receivers, in my mind. Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are deep threats with some speed and Chris Harper when you need yards or in jump-ball situations, but there' s just no standout in this group. That's why in a game as big as this one in a hostile environment, we're most likely to stick with the various option looks and QB or HB draws to until West Virginia stops them, with an occasional play action to keep the D honest.
CR: Unless you were off burning a couch or doing whatever Wildcat fans do to celebrate closer-than-they-should-be wins on the road that kick at noon, you were probably watching with glee as Texas Tech gave you your blueprint on how to completely shut down Geno Smith and company. Via the transitive property, K-State beat Oklahoma, who demolished Tech, who obliterated WVU. Thus, I am at a complete loss to think of a word for how utterly complete your domination of the Mountaineers should be. Any reason for concern over this one? How do you think you match up both offensively and defensively with the Mountaineers?
BOTC: Perhaps I'm just being paranoid, but it's a little concerning to me that we don't really have a clear idea of how well the WV run defense will do against a team like K-State, who brings a lot of different looks that all have John Hubert and Collin Klein daring you to stop them. They'll get some solid chunks of yardage for sure, but I'm not sure they'll gash the WVU defense like Nick Florence, David Ash and Seth Doege did with their arms. It's hard to imagine Wildcat receivers consistently getting open and Klein finding them all day long, but I suppose it's possible.
Defensively, I think we're well equipped to handle the WVU attack as long as the coaches stay aggressive and send the linebackers on blitzes enough to keep Smith off-balance. Honestly, our best defense is probably our offense, meaning that they can hopefully stay on the field and keep the Mountaineers offense on the sideline as much as possible. I like that our defense basically never gives up big plays, but I really don't like that Smith never throws interceptions. Turnovers are often a key to K-State stopping high-powered offenses and shootouts aren't really our thing, so this one does make me a little nervous.
CR: I've watched plenty of K-State games over the years, but I honestly don't know that much about the program as a whole. How well do you all travel? Will there be plenty of purple-clad visitors in Morgantown this Saturday? For those of you who are making the trip, what are your expectations both for the fans and for the state of West Virginia?
BOTC: I don't think I'm being too much of a homer if I say K-State's fanbase is one of the most underrated in the country when it comes to traveling to road games. It seems like every year, some talking head questions K-State as a team for some bowl game because they're not a national brand, but I think the facts will show Kansas State actually travels very well. And yes, we'll all be wearing purple.
I'll be making the trip, so I'll just answer the last part of your question from my own personal perspective. On the whole, the state of West Virginia makes me a little nervous and seems far too country for my taste (most of KS rubs me the same way, for the record), but I have to imagine Morgantown is a little more sophisticated and won't be all that different from most other Big 12 college towns. My one experience in the state featured a Marshall basketball game last January 1 where there was a 40-minute delay before the tipoff because the rim was broken and then the Thundering Herd played awful and got upset by Akron in front of a small and listless crowd. Obviously the playing awful part would be fine, but let's see if we can top the rest of the experience.
[Ed: Whatever may have compelled you to spend New Years Day at the Henderson Center in Huntington, please don't judge the entire state on one Marshall basketball game.]
CR: Somehow the Vegas line shows WVU as a 3-point favorite. I watched our game Saturday, and given that line, I'm not sure anyone in Vegas was tuned in to the same channel. Then again, we were a 4-point favorite over Tech and, well, yeah.... The over/under is 71.5. Where's your money this week?
BOTC: I'll say Kansas State wins a close one, but that may just be because I plan to arrive in time for 3-4 hours of tailgating on Saturday and will undoubtedly interact with some of you West Virginia folk. See you Saturday. Please be nice.