Kansas and West Virginia will face off against each other in the fourth week of the upcoming college football season. It will be the first Big 12 action for each team, and each program is breaking in a head coach new to the Big 12.
WVU coach Neal Brown comes to Morgantown via Troy, where he amassed a 35-16 record, including three 10-win seasons over the past three campaigns. Brown is familiar with the Big 12, however, as he spent three years in Lubbock (2010-12) as the offensive coordinator for Tommy Tuberville.
It has now been six years since KU’s surprising upset of WVU in Lawrence (2013), with the Jayhawks being pretty non-competitive with the Mountaineers since then.
West Virginia @ Kansas
September 21, 2019: Time TBD
Lawrence, KS: Memorial Stadium (50,071)
About the WVU Offense
West Virginia returns just 42% of its offensive production from last year, one of the lowest marks in Division 1. From what I could find, two starters on the offensive line are gone, as well as QB Will Grier along with their top three receivers from last year. However, WVU’s top two RBs are returning in Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway, so the Mountaineers will at least know what they have there.
Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall is reportedly in the running for the starting QB job, but keep your eyes on redshirt junior Jack Allison as well. Allison is a former four-star and top-10 QB recruit in the class of 2016.
About the WVU Defense
Defensively, the Mountaineers return 67% of their production from 2018. Gone are last season’s top two leading tacklers, but senior Josh Norwood, who led the team in pass breakups last season, will lead the defense. Despite the loss of LB David Long to the NFL, WVU appears to have a more experienced front seven than secondary, where the Mountaineers will have to find a few starters.
Bill Connelly did a pre-spring S&P+ ranking back in February of all 130 teams and has West Virginia at #38, or 5th in the Big 12.
Meanwhile, Athlon also ranked all 130 teams in pre-spring as well in March, and has the Mountaineers at #61.
For reference, the Jayhawks were ranked #107 by S&P+ and #106 by Athlon.
In 2018, Neal Brown’s offense at Troy ran the ball 55.7% of the time (44.3% pass attempts). Notably, the quarterback accounted for just 15.7% of the rushing attempts. (Stats per sports-reference.com.) With Brown’s reliance on the run game and West Virginia’s backfield depth, it seems like a good match.
A good match is exactly what this series hasn’t seen since 2013. Last year’s game in Morgantown was competitive on the scoreboard for three plus quarters, but WVU ran 80 plays to KU’s 60, and the Mountaineers gained yards at a 6.3 per play clip to KU’s 4.7. Kansas scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to lose by “just” 16 points.
All of that said - if Kansas is going to surprise anyone this year, this is their chance. I’ve already predicted an upset in this matchup once. Am I willing to stick with it after further analysis?
WVU appears vulnerable on defense and has tons of question marks all over the offense except at RB. However, you could say the exact same thing about Kansas. But then again, West Virginia doesn’t have Les Miles, so sure, why not? Kansas 31, West Virginia 27.