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History shows K-State, WVU will be close

September 23, 2018

Staff and wire report

MORGANTOWN - Kansas State throttled West Virginia University when the schools first met as Big 12 football opponents in 2012.

Collin Klein, then the K-State quarterback and now the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, shredded the Mountaineers for 323 yards and three touchdowns while completing 19 of 21 pass attempts in a 55-14 win for K-State in Morgantown.

Since then, however, the series between the Mountaineers and Wildcats has been one of the most closely contested in the Big 12 on an annual basis. In their last four meetings, the average margin of victory has been just 3.25 points -- including a one-point win for K-State at home in 2015 before WVU returned the favor with a one-point win the following season in Morgantown. When they met last season, the Mountaineers escaped the Sunflower State with a 28-23 win.

So if recent history is any indicator, throw out the records - and in this case the betting line favoring the Mountaineers (2-0) by at least two touchdowns - when Kansas State (2-1) makes the long trip east to meet WVU on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown (3:30 p.m., ESPN).

The Mountaineers enter the 2018 Big 12 opener as one of the top offensive teams in the country. WVU is converting 60 percent of its third-down opportunities - best in the nation - and averages 8.7 yards per play.

That all starts with Will Grier at quarterback. The senior Heisman Trophy contender has completed 46 of 60 pass attempts (76.67 percent) for 761 yards and nine touchdowns in two games. But it is not just his arm that has Kansas State coach Bill Snyder worried. Grier isn’t known for pulling the ball down and piling up a bunch of yards on the ground, but he uses his legs to keep plays alive.

Snyder has seen that ability bite his Wildcats in person. With 10 seconds to play in the second quarter during their meeting last season in Manhattan, Kansas, Grier took a snap at the Wildcats’ 30-yard line, scrambled around behind the line of scrimmage with several K-State defenders in pursuit, bought himself and his receivers some time and fired a strike to Ka’Raun White for a touchdown as time expired in the half. It proved to be the difference in a five-point win for WVU.

K-State has used two quarterbacks - Skyler Thompson and Alex Delton - to guide their run-first attack. K-State averages 4.2 yards per run and 177.7 per game with the quarterbacks and running back Alex Barnes handling the bulk of the carries.

Meyer’s back, but Buckeyes managed fine without him

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, watching on TV at home while serving a suspension, got so worked up during the TCU game last week that he had to leave the room when the Buckeyes struggled.

“I only watched the good plays,” Meyer said this week. “I couldn’t take it. My daughter kept me updated.”

Ohio State came from behind to beat then-No. 15 TCU in Dallas, giving Ryan Day a 3-0 record as acting head coach. Meyer will get to watch his No. 4 Buckeyes (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) from the sideline again Saturday when they host Tulane. He’s now done with his university-imposed three-game suspension for mismanaging former assistant Zach Smith, who was accused of domestic violence and other bad behavior.

The Green Wave (1-2) come in as five-touchdown underdogs, so it should be a happy homecoming for Meyer and another tune-up game for the Buckeyes before playing Penn State at Happy Valley next week.

Ohio State’s All-American defensive end Nick Bosa will be out after suffering a groin/abdominal injury early in the third quarter against TCU. Meyer said Thursday Bosa has had surgery on a “core muscle” and will be out indefinitely.

Mississippi State, Kentucky run into SEC matchup

LEXINGTON, Ky. - No. 14 Mississippi State and Kentucky boast two of the Southeastern Conference’s top three rushing offenses, and the similarities don’t stop there.

The Bulldogs (3-0, 0-0 SEC) and Wildcats (3-0, 1-0) also boast mobile quarterbacks in Mississippi State senior Nick Fitzgerald and Kentucky sophomore Terry Wilson, creating the potential for a fast pace in Saturday night’s showdown between the unbeaten schools.

The Bulldogs’ dominance has shown up on both sides of the ball as they rank either first or second in nine SEC statistical categories, including the second-best scoring offense at 50 points game. MSU ranks third in total offense at 587.7 yards per contest.

Kentucky, meanwhile, gained 245 yards in its 48-10 blowout of Murray State and stands third in SEC rushing at 282.3 yards per game. Wilson got things going with a 42-yard TD run and enters the game averaging 205 yards from scrimmage.

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