THE PREVIEW: Iowa State vs West Virginia

Head inside for the most comprehensive game preview on the web, with matchups, keys to a win, players to watch, stats to note and a full slate of smart predictions

Iowa State (2-9, 1-7 Big 12) heads to Morgantown for its final game of the 2013 season against fellow disappointment West Virginia (4-7, 2-6), which could be fighting for bowl eligibility had it not lost to Kansas two weeks ago.

Info: Sat, Nov. 30 at Milan Puskar Stadium, 3 p.m. CST (FS1).

Weather: High of 42, low of 31, with no chance of rain.

Vegas odds: West Virginia (-7), over/under of 54. Under (-110).

Keys to a win

1. Corral Charles Sims. Was it the ice that helped Iowa State slow down Kansas' James Sims last weekend, who was stuck wearing inferior Adidas cleats to the extra-spiked Nikes the Cyclones were wearing. Maybe. Sims still rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries, which lends itself to a good average, but he didn't break anything too long and Iowa State's defense was eventually able to get the stops it needed on third down.

Here comes another Sims, West Virginia's Charles (no relation). A fifth-year transfer from Houston, Sims had 99 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago in West Virginia's loss to the Jayhawks and he's 54 yards away from 1,000 yards this season.

Paul Rhoads said this week limiting Sims is priority No. 1 for his defense. The Cyclones are 8-1 when holding opponents under 100 yards in the Rhoads era. Clearly that hasn't happened much, so let's expand: When holding opponents to below 200 yards in the Rhoads era, the Cyclones are 23-12.

2. Rohach, revisited. If Grant Rohach completes 75 percent of his passes Saturday, Iowa State will win. West Virginia's secondary is worse than the Kansas one he picked apart last week, last in the conference in giving up 257.2 yards a game through the air.

While Rohach got eight of his completions on screen passes, he was 5-for-8 on throws 10 yards or more and hit three of three passes in the middle of the field. The redshirt freshman has good arm strength, but so far this season he has been mostly ineffective on long passes — his duck interceptions on fly routes to the route sideline are indicative of that. However, against Kansas, he slung it well down the field and over the middle. Against a Mountaineers defense that will oftentimes have five players in the box and sit back in a zone defense, it's important Rohach is accurate between the numbers.

3. In trying to find a connection between Iowa State's two wins this season — 38-21 over Tulsa and 34-0 over Kansas — the only thing that really stands out is points allowed. The Cyclones are 2-1 when holding the opponent to 21 points or fewer, losing at the last second to TCU. Iowa State's offense is not equipped to play a shootout, or anything close to one (major understatement), and its defense has done a bad job keeping the score low — in part because it has to play so many snaps with an offense that can't stay on the field.

I'm sure the Iowa State coaches head into this one with a gameplan that calls for controlled offensive possessions — lots of runs, safe passes — in an effort to make sure the Cyclones enter the fourth quarter with a shot at winning a low-scoring game.

Three players to watch, other than Sims

  • Dreamius Smith is second-fiddle to Sims but he'd be a feature back for most teams, including Iowa State. Despite notching below nine carries a game, Smith has 436 yards on the year and five touchdowns.

  • Kevin White and Daikel Shorts. The two receivers are somewhat inseparable. Shorts averages 3.9 receptions a game, white with 3.3. White has four touchdowns and 10 more yards, as well as 10 fewer receptions. Both are good players but neither is a Big 12 elite.

  • 6-foot-7 defensive lineman Will Clarke has 46 tackles, 14.5 for loss, and five sacks. He's the Mountaineers' best defensive player and a guy the Cyclones need to locate before each snap.

    Who's at QB for West Virginia?

    From our friends at

    For West Virginia, it's a rehash of the same issues. Who's going to start? Will that player be pulled if things don't go well? What's the real status of the injuries of Ford Childress and Clint Trickett? All of those items just add to the uncertainty that has plagued this team all year, and it's a difficult series of questions to get by before the game even gets started. Not knowing who the QB is going to be has to be at least something of a mental drain, and having three different QBs start this year also has to contibute to leadership questions. That is not to say that West Virginia's quarterbacks can't lead, or aren't good leaders. It's simply to say that there's no way one person has been able to establish himself as "the guy."

    Fun with stats

  • Pace-wise, the Cyclones and Mountaineers are very similar. According to Encyclonepedia, West Virginia averages 74.27 plays a game to Iowa State's 73.82. Clickherefor that link.

  • The Mountaineers' defense has been bad in most facets but has proved opportunistic, with 15 fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions. Its offense's avalanche of turnovers, however, put West Virginia in the red in terms of turnover margin (28 lost, 26 gained.


    "This is a young man that's growing up." — Paul Rhoads on Grant Rohach


    BCF Toys: WVU, 23-17.

    F/+: WVU, 27.1- 22.5

    Massey Ratings: WVU, 32-28.

    RealTeamRPI: WVU, 28-20

    AllCyclones: WVU, 24-20

    Matchup Preview | November 30, 2013
    Iowa State Cyclones
    (2-9, 1-4 Away)
    West Virginia Mountaineers
    (4-7, 3-2 Home)
    Offensive Stats Comparison
    343.7 (105)Total Offensive Yards396.5 (76)
    209 (84)Passing Yards235.5 (42)
    134.7 (96)Rushing Yards142.9 (86)
    22.4 (99)Points Per Game24.7 (90)
    15 (73)Passing TD14 (84)
    14 (91)Rushing TD16 (77)
    93.5 (7)Red Zone Percentage82.8 (62)
    Defensive Stats Comparison
    453.5 (106)Total Yards Allowed443.4 (103)
    228.5 (64)Passing Yards Allowed257.2 (101)
    225 (111)Rushing Yards Allowed186 (87)
    35.3 (107)Points Per Game31.6 (93)
    13 (112)Sacks15 (104)
    11 (11)Fumble Recoveries15 (3)
    6 (109)Interceptions11 (54)
    82.6 (62)Red Zone Percentage84.6 (81)
    Game Notes
    Iowa State and West Virginia faced each other for the first time last year in Ames, as the Mountaineers won, 31-24. Neither team will be playing in a bowl game ... West Virginia locked its fate up with a road loss to Kansas and an overtime loss to Texas a week earlier

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