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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2:30 pm (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mountaineer Field (63,500) -- Morgantown, West Virginia. Television: FSN. Home Record: Kansas 1-5, WVU 3-3. Away Record: Kansas 0-5, WVU 2-2. Neutral Record: Kansas 0-0, WVU 1-0. Conference Record: Kansas 0-8, WVU 3-5. Series Record: West Virginia leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: In an attempt to strengthen their appeal for a potential postseason invitation, the West Virginia Mountaineers prepare to close out the 2012 regular season on Saturday afternoon against the Kansas Jayhawks in Big 12 Conference action.
A former beast from the Big East, West Virginia erupted onto the scene in 2012 by rattling off five straight wins. But they weren't just five ordinary victories, they were five triumphs of epic proportions. Maniacal battles that saw the Mountaineers tearing up opponents for 570.8 ypg and 52.0 ppg, but at the same time the defense for WVU was giving up 35.0 ppg and that kind of weak play was bound to come back and haunt them.
In fact, since that successful run early on, the Mountaineers have gone through a five-game slide and watched their defense slip to 117th in the country with 40.6 ppg allowed. However, the team did manage to stop the bleeding last week as it came up with a 31-24 win over Iowa State on the road, which means it has the necessary six wins in order to be considered for the postseason.
As for Kansas, there's no such luck for the Jayhawks possibly squeezing into a bowl game. For the fourth year in a row, the program is already locked into a losing record, but it has become much more than that. Kansas has fallen in 10 straight outings, including the 51-23 setback to Iowa State on Nov. 17, the lone victory for the team coming against FCS foe South Dakota State (31-17) in the opener.
Not only is Kansas winless in eight league bouts, the team has also gone belly-up versus every opponent from the Football Bowl Subdivision this season. The last win for the Jayhawks against another member of the FBS was a 45-42 triumph versus Northern Illinois on Sept. 10, 2011.
West Virginia leads the all-time series against the Jayhawks by a count of 1-0, but that particular game was played more than seven decades ago in 1941, with the Mountaineers posting a 21-0 victory in Morgantown.
Trying to find positive aspects to a team that has such a lengthy losing streak is a difficult proposition for sure, but at least the Jayhawks can be proud of the production of running back James Sims who, despite missing three games, leads the team with 956 yards and has scored eight touchdowns on 200 attempts. As a group, Kansas is second in the conference and 19th nationally with 216.6 ypg.
Part of the reason why Kansas is so strong on the ground is because the passing attack has been atrocious, to the point where it is last in the league and 113th in the country with just 151.6 ypg. Dayne Crist, a transfer from Notre Dame, has completed just 48.3 percent of his chances for 1,272 yards and four touchdowns, against eight interceptions.
Defensively, Ben Heeney is one of the league's top tacklers with 104 stops, eight of which have come behind the line of scrimmage, but that really only makes sense since he and the rest of the Kansas defenders are forced to remain on the field for so long each and every game. With a total of only nine sacks in 11 games, the unit ranks last in the Big 12 and 117th in the country in that department as well.
Unable to stop plays at the line of scrimmage, Kansas will have its hands full for sure this weekend as they try to slow down one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Sixth in the nation in total offense, Geno Smith is responsible for more than 340 ypg, most of which now comes in the form of the passing attack for the Mountaineers.
Smith is the main reason why WVU is generating 334.9 ypg through the air, sixth-best in the nation this week. But while that number sounds huge and compared to the rest of the FBS it puts the Mountaineers in rare company, t5he truth is it has WVU ranked fourth in the Big 12 where passing the ball and wide-open offense is the norm.
In addition to Smith, the hosts for this game also have two of the finest receivers in the country in the form of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The duo ranks first and fifth, respectively, in catches per game in the country and once a defense keys on one of them, Smith turns to the other to shred an opposing defense. Bailey has at least one TD in all but two games, has registered 95 catches for 1,342 yards and 21 scores, while Austin has 106 receptions for 1,149 yards and 12 TDs, not to mention another 738 yards on kick returns and 521 yards rushing.
Defensively, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen hasn't shown much interest in trying to improve that side of the ball and it shows. The Mountaineers rank dead last in stopping the pass, permitting a massive 346.2 ypg and in terms of total defense, the group is giving up nearly 490 ypg, which is why foes have seemingly been able to scores at will.
If the Mountaineers ever needed the perfect league opponent to pick up a win against, Kansas would be at the top of the list so now WVU just needs to take case of business and hope that those select teams for the postseason can overlook so many of its flaws.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 42, Kansas 23
11/28 10:39:47 ET
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