No. 15 K-State (7-3) (5-2)
It was announced at head coach Chris Klieman’s press conference that safety Kobe Savage is out for the season and quarterback Adrian Martinez is out at least against the Mountaineers. Backup quarterback Will Howard will replace Martinez and has a chance to remain the starter afterwards, as he has played well in his opportunities so far. Safeties Cincere Mason and TJ Smith are possible options to replace Savage, who has led the team in interceptions.
If the Wildcats can win the remaining games against West Virginia and Kansas, they will play in the Big 12 Championship Game against TCU. To make it to the big game, the Wildcats must first take down the so far underwhelming West Virginia Mountaineers as Howard takes the helm.
West Virginia (4-6) (2-3)
The Mountaineers’ season has been overall disappointing. Entering with the transfer of quarterback JT Daniels, expectations were that the team would improve. With inconsistency from Daniels and a struggling defense, West Virginia finds themselves with a below .500 record. Adding insult to injury, the team’s biggest strength in freshman running back CJ Donaldson was ruled out of the season two weeks ago. Their gut-wrenching season still has not been a total failure. The team has stood out with wins over Oklahoma and Baylor and a close loss to No. 4 TCU, where the offense nearly took the lead late in the fourth quarter. The veteran-led offense has shown the potential to keep up with many Big 12 teams, but will be challenged by the K-State defense.
Matchup to Watch: Deuce Vaughn vs. West Virginia Defense
Running back Deuce Vaughn is the main matchup for K-State opponents to focus on. Vaughn has run for 1081 yards on the season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns. His ability to take on any defender and to patiently wait for running lanes to open up has left many defenses struggling to contain him. Outside of running the football, Vaughn has excelled in the passing game as of late, bringing in 23 catches for 192 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns in the last four games. West Virginia provides Vaughn with the chance to have a highlight-filled game as the Mountaineers have struggled with talented running backs this season.
The West Virginia defense has allowed 147.2 rushing yards per game this season, placing them around the middle of the pack in the Football Bowl Subdivision. However, that doesn’t tell the full story. In their narrow victory over Oklahoma last week, Sooners running back Eric Gray ran for 211 rushing yards on 25 carries — a career high for him. TCU running back Kendre Miller ran for 120 yards on just 12 carries while Texas running back Bijan Robinson and Texas Tech running back Tahj Brooks each ran for over 100 yards against the Mountaineers. The West Virginia defense has consistently struggled against Big 12 running backs, and now they face one of the best in Vaughn. If they can’t find a way to stop Vaughn early, it will only make the challenge more difficult for the Mountaineer defense.
Safety Cincere Mason
Tight End Ben Sinnott
Quarterback JT Daniels
Linebacker Lee Kpogba
Prediction: K-State: 37-20