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KU Football Preview: West Virginia

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Kansas Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas begins Big 12 play this week with a home matchup against West Virginia. Per S&P+, this is actually the most winnable game left on the schedule. That should be taken with a grain of salt, as S&P is still mostly based on preseason data, so Baylor's collapse (and KU's awful play) haven't been fully factored in. Still, there may be a couple of ways Kansas can stay in this if things fall into place.

When Kansas has the ball

If you had to pinpoint a strength of this team, it would probably have to be the offense. While it hasn't been good enough, we've seen stretches where they've moved the ball effectively and even broken a few big plays. West Virginia is not a great defense, so there may be some hope for a decent offensive showing.

The Mountaineers are giving up 5.8 yards/play (94th in FBS) despite their last two opponents being Delaware State and a winless East Carolina team. The secondary had been especially vulnerable, giving up a whopping 7.8 yards per attempt against the weak slate. We've seen flashes of talent from Peyton Bender and the receiving corps, as well as a few big gains from the running game, especially last week. If Meacham can keep this defense guessing and the offensive line can give Bender a few seconds to throw, we could see some points on the board. For it to be enough, they'll need some good fortune in the turnover column as well.

When West Virginia has the ball

I think we all know what's going to happen when West Virginia has the ball. Kansas may have one of the worst secondaries in FBS, and West Virginia's quarterback, Florida transfer Will Grier, is gaining just shy of 10 yards per attempt so far this year. Wide receiver Gary Jennings has 23 catches for 363 yards, while David Stills is sitting at 18 for 266 with five touchdowns. Those are explosive numbers, and it's hard to see how the KU secondary will limit them. Throw in a solid running game (5.4 yards per carry) to keep defenses honest, and the Mountaineers appear poised to have a field day in Lawrence.

The bottom line

Though Kansas may have the potential to move the ball a little in this one, it's hard to see any upset potential, outside of a one-off situation where West Virginia turns it over a lot. Dana Holgerson had a mini-feud with Charlie Weis, and it seems like he's really made sure to run it up on the Jayhawks one several opportunities. KU got a win over West Virginia in Lawrence 2013, but that was a WV team stumbling as they battled injuries down the stretch, and ultimately missed the postseason. This is a Mountaineer squad firing on all cylinders (offensively at least), and they've had little trouble dispatching weaker opponents the last two weeks.

KU may be West Virginia's strongest opponent since their season opener against Virginia Tech (Kansas is ranked 111th by S&P+ while ECU sits at 121st), but the Jayhawks haven't shown anything close to what their opponent has. Expect something between a comfortable West Virginia victory and an all-out beatdown.