Kansas returns to the friendly confines of Kansas World War I Memorial Stadium as the Jayhawks take on Western Virginia for Senior Day.
Kansas (2-9, 1-7) comes into the matchup off a tough 31-28 road loss at TCU. Meanwhile, Western Virginia (5-6, 3-5) comes in off a 31-23 home win against UT-Austin.
Kansas is just 1-9 all-time vs Western Virginia, with KU’s only win in the series coming in Lawrence back in 2013.
KU has not won two conference games in the same season since 2008.
KU’s Kwamie Lassiter needs 15 receptions to pass Mark Simmons for 4th all-time at KU. Additionally, he needs 95 receiving yards to move into 10th at KU, or 132 yards to move into 9th.
Kansas will be hosting a Western Virginia team looking for its 6th win in order to guarantee a bowl game. For their part, the Jayhawks will be looking to show that the recent games against Texas and TCU were not flukes. It seems like the greater #Motivation will be with the visitors, but college football is a funny game.
In order to spring the upset, Kansas will need to do what it has done each of the last two weeks. You know the verse, sing it with me: control the ball and the clock, be selectively aggressive, convert on third down, and go for it on fourth down. Additionally, while the defense has done a good job of being opportunistic lately, turnovers alone aren’t likely to win this one for Kansas - unless they get six of them of course. The defense has got to get off the field on third down.
West Virginia’s offense is undoubtedly licking its chops at the chance to face off against the KU defense. Jarret Doege is more than capable of abusing the Jayhawks, and the Mountaineers have Leddie Brown averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the season. WVU ranks in the top-30 in D1 in both rushing offense and total offense, while the KU defense ranks in the bottom-5 in the NCAA in those two categories plus total defense. The Mountaineers have only scored more than 30 points in a game three times so far this year, but given the current state of the KU defense, its not unreasonable to expect them to hit that mark again.
Fortunately for Kansas, Western Virginia’s weakness is their rushing defense. In fact, the ‘Eers are a bottom-10 team in rushing defense, and a bottom-20 team in scoring defense and total defense. So, KU should have the opportunity to make this a shootout. With Devin Neal (last I heard) as “questionable to doubtful” for this matchup, the Jayhawks will need Amauri Pesek-Hickson to step up and pound the rock, and they’ll need Jalon Daniels to be on-point and not make any bad decisions that lead to turnovers.
S&P+ ranks the Mountaineers at #74 this week, with Kansas down at #125 (out of 130). It gives the Frogs an 88% chance at victory, and predicts a 39-19 WVU win.
ESPN’s FPI Matchup Predictor is very similar, giving WVU an 89.2% chance of victory.
Meanwhile, Sagarin also prefers the ‘Eers by a similar margin, giving WVU an 86% chance to come away victorious. Sagarin has Kansas ranked #138 and WVU ranked #50 (out of 258).
I think this one basically comes down to, do you think Kansas can get in a shootout with West Virginia? If yes, then the Jayhawks have a chance to win this game, a la UT-Austin a couple of weeks ago. If not, well, it’s probably going to get pretty ugly.
The Mountaineers have everything to play for - and by everything, I mean a bowl game - while Kansas is simply playing out the season for pride at this point. Which, to be fair, is something we haven’t seen much of from the KU football program over the last decade. I really want to think that KU will be competitive in this one, but as I’ve been saying, I need to see it happen for more than two or three games before I can start predicting KU to cover the spread - particularly with a defense this bad.
Unfortunately, I think I’ll take West Virginia 45, Kansas 28.
KU’s last win on Senior Day came in 2016 over, you guessed it, UT-Austin.