The Week Ahead: Kansas State looking for confidence-boosting win vs. West Virginia

Kansas State’s hopes of a second-half turnaround begin on Saturday against West Virginia.

The first half of the season didn’t go the way Kansas State hoped it would.

First came an unexpected loss to North Dakota State. Next came narrow defeats against Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. The result is a 2-4 overall record and three-straight losses in Big 12.

With a favorable closing schedule, the Wildcats are hoping for a stronger second half and another trip to a bowl game. Both certainly seem possible. They have the look of an improving football team (fourth-quarter leads over ranked teams in back-to-back games and solid defensive numbers) but they need to learn how to win close games.

The journey begins on Saturday against West Virginia, a team that has looked excellent at home and shaky on the road.

Here is a look at that and everything else you need to know about the week ahead:

The Game
K-State and West Virginia are slotted for a 2:45 p.m. kickoff on Fox Sports 1 on Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium. This will be a meaningful game for both sides, as both teams enter the game with losing records. The winner moves a step closer to bowl eligibility. The loser falls a notch deeper into their hole. K-State and West Virginia haven’t played each other often (K-State leads the all-time series 2-1), but the Wildcats pummeled the Mountaineers last season in Morgantown. Collin Klein led them to a 55-14 victory in one of his finest games. The Wildcats are 10.5-point favorites this time around.

The Opponent
West Virginia is the definition of an up-and-down team. It played Oklahoma close on the road, beat Oklahoma State at home and was in position to hand Texas Tech its first loss last week. But the Mountaineers have also lost badly (we’re talking not even putting up a fight) to Maryland and Baylor.

Most of West Virginia’s high points have come at home, while its low points have come on the road. That should give K-State a nice advantage on Saturday.

This is a much different team than K-State faced last season. That team was loaded with playmakers on offense. This one ranks 56th nationally throwing the ball and 83rd nationally running the ball. It has been using multiple quarterbacks, but that is unlikely to be the case on Saturday. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said Clint Trickett is the team’s new primary quarterback.

Depth Chart Update
No change, but we might see some old faces back in the lineup. Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are both expected to play against West Virginia after sitting out most of the past two games. There is also a chance Boston Stiverson could return to the offensive line.

A weekend off

On Monday, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he wasn’t sure how his team will respond to its bye week. But he does know this: His players will be rested.

Snyder gave the Wildcats a light schedule last week, and gave them the entire weekend off.

“How do they respond? That is probably the most important thing. Up to this point in time I think they have responded reasonably well,” Snyder said. “They got some rest.

Madness in Manhattan
This week is also the unofficial start of K-State’s basketball season.

The Wildcats are bringing back “Madness in Manhattan” on Friday at Bramlage Coliseum. Doors open at 8 p.m. with basketball festivities, which will include scrimmages and a dunk contest, starting at 8:30.

Links
– Jerry Palm is finally projecting K-State to reach a bowl game. He thinks the Wildcats will face Indiana in the Texas Bowl.

– Is Dana Holgorsen on the hot seat at West Virginia. At least one columnist suggests that he is.

– Holgorsen was disappointed West Virginia couldn’t close the door on Texas Tech, but he thought the Mountaineers’ offensive tempo was better than it had been all season.


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E-mail: krobinett@wichitaeagle.com
Twitter: @KellisRobinett