Preview/Prediction: Iowa State @ West Virginia

Chris Williams

Publisher

Grant Rohach in the spring of 2013.

What: Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) @ West Virginia (4-7, 2-6)
When: Saturday, Nov. 30 at 3 p.m. 
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.V.
TV: Fox Sports 1

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From an Iowa State perspective, Saturday’s season finale at West Virginia can be summed up by one major storyline in my opinion.

Can/will Grant Rohach parlay last week’s 15-for-20, 300-yard performance in a 34-0 win over Kansas and give himself a clear-cut edge on Iowa State’s quarterback competition heading into spring football 2014?

I say this because as you all are well aware, Iowa State is not in contention to qualify for a bowl game this season. From here, it is all about building for the future. And as is always the case in the sport of football, quarterback play is critically important to successful teams.

Throw every other variable out the window for a moment. Iowa State has to be better at quarterback in 2014 and beyond. There are no ifs, ands or buts to add to that statement. If it is Rohach, Sam Richardson, Joel Lanning or Trevor Hodge, somebody has to be that guy if this program is going to get to where everybody wants it to be.

The difference in Sam Richardson’s coming out party vs. Kansas a year ago and Rohach’s last week could not be more different. Both men looked like All-American’s against a crappy Kansas defense, but that is the only similarity. Richardson’s debut literally came out of nowhere. Richardson, who replaced a concussed Steele Jantz, had never taken a meaningful snap before that balmy November evening in Lawrence.

Rohach on the other hand has steadily seen playing time ever since Iowa State’s embarrassing 71-1 loss to Baylor in mid-October. Rohach, a redshirt freshman, has taken his lumps along the way and to his credit, gotten better every week despite not having a whole lot of help around him.

The question leading up to Saturday is simple: Did Rohach thrive against Kansas simply because the Jayhawks are that bad, or did that “light” actually come on?

We will all find out together on Saturday at 3 p.m. 

The Mountaineers will win if…

…Dana Holgerson will have his team ready to play. That’s a HUGE “if.”

I’ve written this before, but Holgerson’s crew looked about as excited to be in Lawrence two weeks ago as I am to enter Hobby Lobby with my wife.

This has been the problem with West Virginia all season long. When they want to play, the Mountaineers aren’t a bad football team. They aren’t what I’d call “good,” but they aren’t bad either. Take a 30-21 win over Oklahoma State (OSU’s only loss this season) on Sept. 28 as an example. West Virginia proved that in Morgantown, this program had enough talent to beat anybody in the Big 12. The Mountaineers also took Texas to overtime on Nov. 9.

This team can beat anybody in Morgantown on any given Saturday. But this isn’t any given Saturday.

This game comes after a horribly placed bye week, after losing to flipping Kansas; during Thanksgiving break (no students) against lowly old Iowa State.

How hungry will West Virginia, who also isn’t playing for a bowl game, actually be? 

That is what this comes down to in my opinion. If Holgerson can somehow rally the troops, the Mountaineers should beat Iowa State. If he cannot, then I like Iowa State to win this game outright.

Quotable: Dana Holgerson scouts Iowa State…

“They will try to take the run away and we will try to take theirs away. We've had relative success with that. There's a trend where a lot of teams' rushing yards are coming from their quarterbacks. A lot of rushing yards Iowa State is giving up are from quarterbacks. We obviously don't have that ability right now. We're not going to try to get 300 yards rushing with the quarterback. We're going to do what we do, which is try to establish the run.” 

The Cyclones will win if…

…Last week’s performance by the offense was legit and you know, not just a “they played Kansas” type of situation. My guess is that what we all saw on that freezing cold night was somewhere in the middle. 

Rohach is clearly getting better every time he takes the field. The offensive line is as healthy as it has been since September. Aaron Wimberly is back running at 100 percent. No doubt, this group is trending up but is Iowa State’s offense good enough to win a Big 12 game on the road?

I’m still not sure about that. 

Three key storylines to watch for:

West Virginia quarterbacks – Junior Paul Millard and junior Clint Trickett have split reps this week during practice. The two have posted nearly identical stats on the season and I don’t see West Virginia’s game plan being any different depending on which one is in the game. Still, it is something to keep an eye on.

Fire – As we’ve already established, neither of these football teams is playing for a warm holiday trip and postseason play. Which team wants this game more?

“Iowa State is the best 2-9 team in the country,” Holgerson said earlier this week.

That’s been his approach with his team this week. He is hyping up the Cyclones, but what good will it do?

Saturday will be Senior Day for the Mountaineers so perhaps that will give them a slight boost.

Coordinators – Thefutures of both coordinators, Wally Burnham (defense) and Courtney Messingham (offense) are up in the air (for different reasons). Would a scoring outburst and two wins in a row save anybody’s job? Who knows? But this could be the last game for both of Iowa State’s coordinators. Or, it might not.

Prediction

I picked Iowa State to win this game in August and based off of the current circumstances, I’m sticking with my pick. In fact, I actually think this could be a Texas Tech, 2011 type of performance by Iowa State – a blowout, out of nowhere. 

The Pick

Iowa State 27, West Virginia 20 

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