Betting the Big 12: Week 13
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving last week. I know Iowa State fans did. All of a sudden, the pandemic season is winding down, as a couple of teams finish off their regular seasons this week. What helps us this week is knowing the motivations of the teams involved. Hopefully that gives a lean on how to responsible place our wagers. Fresh off a (slightly) profitable weekend, we’re ready to charge into the end of the season hot after our cold spell in the middle of the year.
#15 Oklahoma State (6-2) at TCU (4-4)
Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: ESPN2 | The Line: Pick ‘Em
I’d be interested in TCU as an underdog, but this line has moved so much that I’m back on the other side. Okie State found something with the 3rd string running back last week, and they’ll carry that momentum to a win, especially since they need this one to have any shot at the conference championship.
Pick: Oklahoma State PK
Texas (5-3) at Kansas State (4-4)
Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: FOX | The Line: Texas -7
How many players have opted out for Texas by this point? K-State is a program of pride, and they’re going to cover here against a team that couldn’t have quit on the season fast enough.
Pick: Kansas State +7
Kansas (0-8) at Texas Tech (3-6)
Kickoff: 11:00am | TV: FS2 | The Line: Texas Tech -27
Oh my god. I.... I just.... I’ve got nothing. This is the worst game I can imagine, but if Kansas is ever going to cover, this is the game. I think the Jayhawks score around 20 points and that’ll be just enough to get the job done.
Pick: Kansas +27
West Virginia (5-3) at #9 Iowa State (7-2)
Kickoff: 2:30pm | TV: ESPN | The Line: Iowa State -6
Iowa State wears black to funerals. Breece Hall is going to run wild and Iowa State clinches the Big 12 regular season title outright in style.
Pick: Iowa State -6
Baylor (2-5) at #11 Oklahoma (6-2)
Kickoff: 7:00pm | TV: FOX | The Line: Oklahoma -21.5
Oklahoma is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. Baylor might be coming off a nice win against Kansas State, but the Sooners are in another class. No way Baylor slows Spencer Rattler and his high powered offense.
Pick: Oklahoma -21.5
BEST BET FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Ohio State -24 at Michigan State
Ohio State’s argument for the College Football Playoff essentially boils down to “the eye test proves we’re one of the best four teams”. The only problem with that is they haven’t exactly shown it yet. Michigan State is not good, so this is the perfect time to back the Buckeyes to win a game by 50 and convince every national outlet that they should get in regardless of how many more games they play.
NFL PICK OF THE WEEKEND
Patriots -1 at Chargers
I’ve seen enough awful in-game coaching by Anthony Lynn this year that there’s no way I’d trust the Chargers against Bill Belichick. That’s really all there is to it.
PROP OF THE WEEK
How many not-yet-open jobs will Matt Campbell be linked to this weekend?
SEASON RECORD: 39-31-2 (+4.9 units)
Offensive Player To Watch: Breece Hall
Your 9th ranked Iowa State University Cyclones face off this weekend against what could be the best defensive unit they’ve come across this weekend against West Virginia. The Mountaineers rank 1st in the Big 12 in yards per game, points allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and 3rd in rush yards against per game. The Mountaineers also lead the Big 12 in INTs with 10. So, they’re no joke.
On the other hand, Breece Hall leads the nation in rushing, and the Cyclones lead the Big 12 in rushing. Hall, although snapping his streak of consecutive 100 yard games, is now top 10 in a whole lot of in-season and career records.
His 9 straight games with a rushing touchdowns puts him just behind Troy Davis for second in school history, his 16 rushing touchdowns on the season ties him at 4th with Davis, 25 career rushing scores puts him at 10th, 1,260 rushing yards ties him with George Amundson and Mike Strachan for 7th, and 17 total touchdowns ties him with Dwayne Crutchfield for the 3rd most in a single season in ISU history. A lot to take in, I know.
Anyway, to this week’s game we go. Breece has been nothing short of spectacular in every game this season, to say the least. Going up against West Virginia’s defense, the argument of an unstoppable force running into a immovable object, similar to when the Cyclones traveled to Stillwater earlier this season.
One thing that is worth mentioning is the quarterback play from Brock Purdy has completely flipped since the last time ISU faced this good of a defense. While Iowa State very well could be considered a ‘run-first oriented’ team, Purdy can keep the defense honest now more than any other time this season. That opens up the run game for Breece (and any other back, for that matter) and with the addition of speedster receiver, Tarique Milton being back is just another point to make the case that the offense is the most well-rounded unit we have seen in awhile.
Defensive Player To Watch: Latrell Bankston
This is the second time Latrell Bankston has been chosen, but he has finally started to fit what we always envisioned for him at Iowa State. Bankston is coming off a massive performance against Texas that ultimately landed him as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. Not only was he award this honor, Bankston has been playing his best football over the last two weeks since his arrival in Ames.
Against Kansas State Bankston did not record a tackle but he was very instrumental in taking on the Wildcat offensive line and allowing the rest of his teammates to dominate. Then against Texas Bankston recorded recorded five total tackles including two sacks. One of which was very pivotal at the end of the game that pushed Texas further back that led to the missed 57 yard field goal.
This week against West Virginia Bankston is going to be needed once again as Iowa State looks to close out the regular season on a strong note. The Mountaineers are much improved compared to a season ago and they have been about average on the offensive side of the ball.
They are towards the lower end of division I in terms of rushing yards per game but they are top 25 in passing yards per game. Iowa State is going to need push up front to disrupt the passing game and not allowing West Virginia to have a breakout game on the ground. Bankston will be right in the middle of it.
Iowa State virtually has the trip to the Big 12 Championship locked down but make no mistake this is still a big test for Iowa State. Stay tuned to WRNL as we move closer to gameday.
WRNL Interrogates: The Smoking Musket
1- We are in year two of Neal Brown and the Mountaineers are a team that has greatly improved this season compared to last. What has been the biggest reason for the turn around and what will be the reason WVU continues to make the climb?
The improvement comes two fold. First the coaches and players emphasized the running game, which improved from one of the worst in the country last year to well above average. (It is tough to gauge how well some teams are playing when they have 2 or 3 games under their belts compared to 8 or 9 for other teams). Still, the Mountaineers run game has improved across the board, from running back Leddie Brown’s vision and patience to the offensive lines blocking to the wide receivers. Its a total team effort that has seen the team be able to run the ball much more effectively and therefore control the clock. On the defensive side, the defense asa whole improved and specifically improved their turnovers. Last year the team was below 20% on interceptions to pass breakups. That has improved and we’ve taken the ball away much more effectively which has cost opponents possessions.
2- Jarret Doege has been one of the most impressive QBs in the conference this season. What makes him so lethal?
Jarret plays within himself. He still struggles on deep passes but within 10-yards, he is very accurate and throws a very catchable ball. I say this as the most complimentary of tones, he is a game manager. He knows when to take a sack, he knows when to throw the ball away and he knows when to force a pass. With our current defense, he doesn’t have to go out and win games, he can simply play a field position battle and force a team to play against our top defense. Pushing a team back inside their 10 and making them drive 90 yards against the Stills brothers and Jeffrey Pooler is a tough task for most college teams.
3- I think one of the bigger surprises has been this mountaineer defense, they are just plain solid all the way around. Is this something we can get used to seeing? What has been the catalyst to the success on defense?
The success starts with Darius Stills who was named preseason Big 12 DPOY and IMO he’s played exactly like it. He forces a team to scheme around him and he has been disruptive all year. But more importantly the Mountaineers have play makers at every level of the defense. The defensive line is stout with Darius and Dante Stills, plus Jeffrey Pooler and Akheem Messidor. At linebacker, Tony Fields, the Arizona transfer has been a tackling machine. He is 16th in the nation in total tackles and covers sideline to sideline. Then on the backend, the Mountaineers have Tykee Smith, who is going to be playing on Sundays. He plays as our spear backer, mostly a nickel corner and he just makes plays.
I think the scheme is solid and you can expect the Mountaineers to be a solid defense, I’m not sure you can expect them to field a top ten defense yearly. The Stills brothers were a decade type player who just dont come along very often in WV Prep Football. So I think there will be drop off but the scheme is solid.
4- Give us one player that Iowa State fans may not know yet, but will know come Saturday.
Assuming you already know Darius Stills and Leddie Brown, let’s talk about Tykee Smith. Per PFF College, Tykee has been the second highest graded cornerback this season behind Patrick Surtain II. “At that position, you’ve got to be able to run because you’re lining up with probably the fastest person on the field in the slot,” Smith explained. “And you’ve got to be able to play in the box and help in the run fits…I like the position because it allows me to showcase my talents in multiple ways.” When I think of a football player, Tykee Smith is what I think about (and being a former strong safety I can live vicariously through him). Smith excels at matching up in the slot and despite only being a sophomore he has no problem getting his nose dirty and playing the run. You may remember former Mountaineer Karl Joseph. Smith doesn’t have the “boom” power that Joseph had but when the Mountaineers need a big play, Smith seems to be right in the middle of the play.
5- What is your prediction and why?
I really want to pick the Mountaineers. They haven’t played well on the road but I think they match up with the Cyclones very well. A good run defense against a good run offense. I think we have the defensive line to be able to clog the run lanes and be disruptive. And Purdy is dangerous but he isn’t the runner that some of the other Big 12 QBs are (not to say he can’t hurt us). I think its going to be a close game. Because its a home game for you guys and your run defense is also very good, if it comes down to making the two quarterbacks pass, I like Purdy more than I like Doege. I’m going to say ISU 23 - WVU 20 and I’m not comfortable with that selection at all. Something to keep an eye on, WVU has never gotten a lead on the road but has never relinquished at home. If WVU gets ahead, the game might be over but if you can keep it tied, we can’t lean on the defense.
Opposing Player to Watch: Tony Fields II
Last week’s win over Texas seemingly cemented Iowa State football’s destiny this season, but don’t tell that to the West Virginia Mountaineers. The ‘Eers come into Saturday afternoon’s tilt having won four of their last six games, are hungry for an upset, and have playmakers that lead the league on both sides of the ball.
Tony Fields II will almost certainly make things difficult for the ISU offense all game long. The senior linebacker leads the conference with 79 total tackles this season, three more than Iowa State’s Mike Rose, despite having played one less game. Fields II has been almost unstoppable as of late, recording 14, 12, and 15 tackles over his last three games.
West Virginia’s defense in general presents a challenge for the Cyclones, considering it ranks in the top tier of all NCAA defenses this season. The Mountaineers rank fourth in total passing yards allowed per game (161.5), fifth in total team defense (274 total yards per game), and 22nd in rush defense (112.5 yard per game.)
A transfer from Arizona, it’s been speculated that Fields II has a good chance at earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors.
HONORABLE MENTION Don’t sleep on WVU quarterback Jarret Doege, whose 2,219 passing yards this season are second only to Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler. Doege has not thrown an interception since October 17, a span of 173 passes, and will be critical against a Cyclone defense that allows 252 passing yards per game.
2020 Game X: #12 Iowa State vs. West Virginia Football Preview
I don’t know about you Cyclone fans – but we have been in for one helluva ride! While last week’s game against Texas was a heart-throbbing, pull-your-hair-out, white-knuckle affair, it was finally good to see a field goal attempt go the way of Cyclone Nation.
Speaking of you - the fans, I echo all the sentimental and emotional ride this has been up the mountain-top. We are Cyclone fans for a reason, and I hope you have enjoyed every second of this 2020 season! If Matthias’s video didn’t pull at your heart strings, then I don’t know what will.
All I can say is – Iowa State has continued to stare adversity in the face, and beaten it. Last week, we went 1-0. Take it one game at a time.
Now, on to West Virginia.
When we last left off….
Going down 0-10 to Texas right off the bat, I wasn’t worried. In fact, I even jumped online and made a bet on Iowa State. That’s how confident I was that the Cyclones could make in-game adjustments and eventually they would pull through.
You noticed it on the field too. No let downs. No frantic adversity. Just “Trusting the Process.” Texas played the game like they were a desperate drunk who found out the bartender shut him off, unable to convert on 4th-and-1 in the red zone, and even trying a fake punt in ISU territory. I don’t know about you, but I could make a case for a game ball to Rory Walling for that tackle.
Texas punched Iowa State in the mouth, and we punched right back. That last touchdown-leading drive was a dandy, and will go down as one of the greatest moments in history.
On paper, it was about as even as identical twins, but the Matt Campbell coaching prowess won out over Tom Herman.
West Virginia Tidbits
The Mountaineers were picked by the media in the preseason to finish 8th under 2nd year coach Neal Brown, and while they have had their ups and downs, I am incredibly impressed on tape by a smothering defense. They are 5-3 on the year, and have won all their games at home, and lost all on the road.
They lost a few key contributors in the offseason, namely the running back room, the majority of offensive line, and even three of their top cornerbacks. To add more salt in the wound, defensive coordinator Vic Koennig “mutually parted ways” in the offseason, after allegations of mistreating players and making racist remarks.
While coach Brown comes from the Hal Mumme “air raid” coaching tree, he has maintained a balanced attack, with very efficient quarterback play, and the 2nd leading rusher in the Big 12 in Leddie Brown.
But the offense has been this 2020 Mountaineers’ worst enemy, as they have not nearly lived up to the prowess of the defense. That unit “came out of the shadows”, and has over-exceeded all expectations, as they lead the Big 12 in scoring defense, and the entire country in pass defense.
West Virginia is a solid 5-3, but in 20 games of the Neal Brown era, have only WON ONE GAME over a team with a winning record (K-State in 2019).
West Virginia leads this short-lived series 5 games to 3, yet the Cyclones have won the last two. In fact, Iowa State has held the Mountaineers to less than 200 yards of total offense in both of those wins.
You may remember when a certain Heisman-contending quarterback came to Ames with a #6 ranking a few years ago….
Iowa State Offense
This last 2.5 game stretch for Brock Purdy has been one of his best in a Cyclone uniform. I thought he showed great poise against Texas, and with both Xavier Hutchinson and Breece Hall taken out by the Longhorns, he calmly took the reins, and led us to Victory.
First Key to Victory – Gotta Start Fast out of the Gate
Iowa State can ill afford to play from behind in this one. In games where WVU takes an early lead, their defense dictates the tempo and can wreak havoc. West Virginia has to limit possessions and play old school, physical football. I think the first few scripted plays by Tom Manning will go a long way in how this battle will be won.
Breece Hall just kept chugging along in Austin, and while he made most of his mark on that last drive, he still ended up with a 4.5 yard-per-carry average, and was the main reason why our tight ends had a freakin’ hey-day. Look for Breece to squeeze through holes against a 3-man front of WVU, but don’t expect many breakaways, as the ‘Eers are fantastic at open-field tackling.
I’m expecting Charlie Kolar to continue his dominance down the seams, and boy oh boy was it good to see Sean Shaw, Jr. step up! I have been waiting for “Robin” to step up and help X’s “Batman” all year. This will be a very physical matchup for our outside receivers, so look for Xavier Hutchinson to get back on track and be Brock’s go-to man.
I see a tough day for our offensive linemen, as WVU can create pressure with just four, and it will be important to communicate effectively in pass-protection. Look for the Mountaineers to load the box, and make our receivers create their own separation. One very under-rated player in the Texas game was Tarique Milton. Having him back changes the landscape of this offense with his down-field speed and ability to keep the safeties honest.
West Virginia Defense
This may be the best defense in the Big 12 folks. The Mountaineers simply don’t have a weakness on this side of the ball, as they lead the conference in interceptions, can force pressure, and only allow 3.3 yards per carry on the ground.
They run a very similar style of defense to Iowa State’s with a 3-man front, but also have a stand-up defensive-end/outside-linebacker (they call it BANDIT). They carry three safeties on the field, and have a tremendous amount of talent throughout.
Big 12 Defensive Preseason Player of the Year Darius Stills starts it all up front. The defensive tackle went off against Baylor, with 7 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks earlier this year. His counterpart on the end Jeffrey Pooler is solid, and another up-and-coming freshman - Akheem Mesidor is waiting in the wings. He comes in on passing downs ala Will McDonald, and leads the team with 5 sacks.
The linebacking corps is fast, and is led by Big-12 leading tackler Tony Fields II, who came over as a grad transfer from Arizona. This defense may not be as exotic as ISU’s, but they are just as multiple. Quite possibly the best athlete on the team, their nickel-back (SPEAR) Tykee Smith has made a name for himself. After being selected to the Freshman All-American Team by FWAA last year, the sophomore has been all over the field, as he is second on the team in tackles and tackles-for-loss and first in picks.
While the front six is good, the back end is better. Coach Brown brought in a few transfers, and have some ball-hawks in the secondary. This unit is led by free safety Alonzo Addae, who, according to our friends over at The Smoking Musket, rattles bones when he tackles.
All in all, this defense has yet to give up more than 27 points, and have slowly been improving every week. In their last three games, they have given up 10, 17, and 6 points respectively, and no, Kansas was not one of them. They lead the Conference in total defense, scoring defense, and most impressively the nation in pass defense (162 yards per game).
The Verdict – WVU
This is going to be an absolute dog-fight. I hope you brought your hard hats. We are going to see physicality at its finest, as Iowa State will play their game, but also have a few wrinkles up their sleeve. I don’t expect many big gainers, but we all know that Iowa State doesn’t need explosive plays to score.
Look for a heavy dose of Breece, mixed in with a lot of underneath throws and Brock running the ball more than we have asked him all year. Efficient plays on first down will be key in maintaining drives.
Iowa State Defense
This ISU defense has been one of the most consistent units all year. They continue to hold their ground, and there is no one, probably in the country, better at in-game adjustments than Professor Jon Heacock.
West Virginia will not beat you with downfield passes, but they will also not turn the ball over. They have a very talented running back, and this offense goes wherever Leddie Brown takes them. It was unfortunate to not have Isaiah Lee at nose tackle last week, as he was out with injury. He has been an unsung hero for this defense, and his ability to maintain control at the line of scrimmage does not go unnoticed.
While Joshua Bailey got the start over Lee, I thought Latrell Bankston played his best game in Cardinal and Gold. He deservedly earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors, and adds another dimension with aggressive vertical penetration.
Look for our linebackers to roam all over the field, as WVU likes to throw to their running backs in space. It will be nice to get Mike Rose back at 100%, but you know as well as I do, he is strapping on the jersey regardless. He would have to break a bone to get taken out!
West Virginia has a plethora of speedy and athletic receivers, but have yet to take the top off the defense. Their claim to fame has been yards-after-catch, so it will be important for the likes of Greg Eisworth, Datrone Young and Tayvonn Kyle to wrap up in the open field.
I love this defense. They play so well as a team, and even with the backups in, we don’t lose a step. If Lee can’t go, look for maybe Enyi Uwazurike to slide over inside a bit. I expect the patented 3-safety look with a cloud zone coverage all day, and with a quarterback and 11 starts to his name, some very timely-played blitz packages.
West Virginia Offense
Jarret Doege played a few games last year for the Mountaineers, but he has taken the keys from OU transfer Austin Kendall and never looked back. Doege never wows you with his arm, nor his legs, but has been uber-efficient thus far in 2020. In fact, he completes 65% of his throws, and passes for the 2nd most yards per game in the Big 12 (277).
Second Key to Victory – Slow Down Leddie Brown
It’s actually quite simple, as the kryptonite to WVU’s offense is stopping their run game. In all games where they rush for 100 yards or more, they have won. In games where they are held below 100, they lose. Easier said than done with this talented back, but Iowa State has shown that they can shut down any rushing attack in 2020.
Brown is built like a brick shit-house, and does not wear down as the game goes along. In 8 games (and 897 yards) he has already single-handedly surpassed all of 2019 WVU’s rushing yards, and can break one the distance. He has been battling a hamstring and quad injury, but with two weeks off, should be fresh for Saturday.
The offensive line he runs behind has been average, as they had to replace quite a few starters, but have been serviceable at pass protection. This team thrives on ball control and winning the time of possession (their 33 minutes per game is only behind OU). Look for a long-sustaining drives, but it all starts in the early downs, as their quarterback struggles behind the sticks on 3rd-and-long.
The receivers are led by possession-type receiver Winston Wright, who has 42 grabs on the year. Sam James is another big target, but they have two monster yard-after-the-catch weapons in TJ Simmons and Bryce Ford-Wheaton. The former averages 20.6 yards per catch, while the latter is at 15.9.
The Verdict – ISU
This matchup plays right into the hands of Iowa State, as they thrive on inexperienced quarterback play, and can slow down just about anybody in the run game.
The Mountaineers already lost their starting kicker to season-ending injury, but his replacement Casey Legg has been a solid 5-for-6 on field goals since the K-State contest. While WVU rarely kicks deep for touchbacks, they are tops in the Big 12 at kick coverage. Sorry Kene, you will have to save your 2020 kickoff return TD for the Big 12 Championship game!
I was proud of Connor Assalley, shaking off that missed field goal before the half, and coming right back to make two pivotal kicks later in the game. We will definitely need his services in this game, as possessions will be limited, and he will be called upon.
WVU’s return game is nothing to get crazy about, but they have blocked a kick this year. It will be important for Iowa State to limit the miscues in this one department.
Verdict – WVU
I mean, was there ever a doubt?
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
The work is not done. And while it is Senior Day, I am so glad that fans are able to attend this contest. Speaking of the seniors, their leadership has allowed this program to fight off the outside noise, and collectively pursue one goal – A Big 12 Championship!
With that being said, this a very difficult matchup, as West Virginia is as physical as they come. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being Kansas (the worst team in all of college football), and 10 being Alabama (of course they are), I give Iowa State a Matt-Campbell-like-program of Toledo shot at winning.
ESPN odds say ISU has a 65% chance at winning, and I think that number is right on point.
This Mountaineer team is no slouch. And as I’ve written in previous articles, Iowa State struggles against teams that play with physicality and tough man-to-man defense. I expect a similar score to last week, with both teams trying to pound the ball down each other’s throat, and a defensive slugfest.
Third Key To Victory – Stay the Course, and “Trust the Process”
After an emotional road victory in Austin, TX, it is easy for a let-down. But I am confident our coaching staff will have this team ready to play. As much as we’ve all gotten caught up in the media attention, this team needs to take each day, each play, each possession, one at a time. And so far, they have come through in flying colors.
Stats are one thing, and while I’ve probably bored you with all of West Virginia’s, this game will come down to coaching.
Just be happy we have Matt Campbell, and you don’t.
Let’s go 1-0 this week.
Iowa State 24
West Virginia 21
Letter from the Editor
What a game, and what a win. A situation Iowa State is basically never in, and has always failed when it has been, and our beloved Cyclones stare Tom Herman and the Texas Longhorns directly in the face and steal the win in Austin.
I’ve spent hours and hours this week talking about and processing the meaning of that win both in the context of this season and the program in a historical perspective, so I won’t delve into that today.
What I do want to discuss is the opportunity at hand for the Cyclones today. An opportunity beyond a berth in the the Big 12 Championship game. We may even know by kickoff today whether or not has locked up its spot in Arlington. And even if Iowa State should lose today to a gritty West Virginia squad, they will still be all but guaranteed a spot in the game unless a near-impossible parlay of out outcomes were to swing against Iowa State.
But with a win today, Iowa State has a real chance to make even more history. First, they will keep Iowa State in contention to finish the season with 10 wins, something Iowa State has never done before. Second, and most importantly, Iowa State has a very real chance to play in a NY6 bowl, even in the event of a loss in the Big 12 Championship.
Multiple outlets have picked Iowa State as an at-large bid for the Fiesta Bowl, or even the Cotton Bowl if OU were to be selected for the playoff. However, with Louisiana continuing to be ranked in the CFP rankings, if Iowa State were to win the Big 12 Championship and the right teams were to lose, a College Football Playoff berth is still an outside possibility.
However, none of that happens if Iowa State doesn’t get the win this weekend over a tough West Virginia squad that’s going to make this game as ugly as they can, and try to scrap out a win to give them a lot of momentum headed into Neal Brown’s third season.
Leddie Brown is a formidable back, but their running game is inconsistent at best. If you can slow down Brown, you can stop the Mountaineers. The real problem is that defense, especially the Stills brothers and the defensive line. They’ll try to bottle up Breece Hall and force Brock Purdy to throw into statistically the best pass defense in America.
Look for Iowa State to still lean on the best running back in college football, and for Brock Purdy to continue to use his legs as Iowa State guts out a tough win, and keeps themselves in contention for a NY6 bowl game.
Iowa State - 27
WVU - 21