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West Virginia heavy favorite vs. Big 12 opponent Kansas State

MORGANTOWN — Despite the cancellation of this weekend’s game, West Virginia climbed two spots to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press poll.

Oddsmakers also gave the Mountaineers (2-0) a boost, making them 14.5-point favorites against Kansas State. West Virginia has never been such a heavy favorite against a Big 12 opponent aside from Kansas.

That is attributable to the blistering start by Will Grier, who ranks among the top four quarterbacks nationally in passing efficiency (229.4), passing yards per game (380.5), completion percentage (76.7) and yards per attempt (12.68).

WVU also enjoys the benefit of extra preparation time thanks to Hurricane Florence. When the N.C. State game was canceled last Tuesday afternoon, West Virginia immediately pivoted that day’s focus to K-State.

“Absolutely,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I mean, why not? We’ve already gotten the binders ready.”

He was referencing the scouting reports built by staff analysts, reports that achieved clarity Saturday when K-State (2-1) settled its quarterback competition during a 41-17 win over UT-San Antonio. Sophomore Skylar Thompson completed 13-of-18 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He added a 27-yard touchdown run among his 14 carries.

Against WVU last season, Thompson threw his first two college interceptions during a 28-23 loss.

The Mountaineers have claimed back-to-back close games in the series after K-State won four straight.

“We know Kansas State pretty well, and they know us pretty well,” Holgorsen said.

Grier and his veteran receivers have looked unstoppable through two games. Excluding the final 28-second series against Youngstown State, WVU has scored on 15 of its 20 possessions, with Grier throwing TDs of 33 yards or longer on four occasions.

“There’s a lot of talk (about) how they’re the best offense in the nation right now, the best quarterback in the nation,” K-State freshman defensive end Wyatt Hubert told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “So we’ve definitely got to play with a chip on our shoulder and practice this week with a chip on our shoulder.”

As the passing game dings secondaries deep and wide, West Virginia also is one of only three FBS programs that feature two running backs averaging more than 6 yards per carry. Martell Pettaway is gaining 6.3 per rush while freshman Leddie Brown is eclipsing 6.4.

WVU’s running game could be crucial, considering how easily Mississippi State gashed the Wildcats on Sept. 8. Kylin Hill ran for 211 yards and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald added 159 yards on 19 carries.
Twitter @GAllanTaylor