A handful of questions as we head into the heartland of corn syrup and ethanol for No. 6 West Virginia’s game at Iowa State:
Was that a one-game slump for Will Grier?
Those three touchdown-erasing interceptions against Kansas had Grier supremely rattled. Like Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” Grier kept starting drives in scintillating fashion only to screw up the endings. (I’ll also accept a reference to “The Village” here.)
It’s hard to seriously digest the coaching excuse that the Jayhawks’ defense confused Grier by being so multiple — after all, that’s what every defense does, and most across the Big 12 do so with better talent than Kansas. West Virginia doesn’t need alibis for its Heisman contender; it needs steadier, more disciplined decisions.
A troubling trend: Grier has thrown two or more interceptions in four of his last eight full games. In those eight games, he has been intercepted 13 times. What’s more astonishing? WVU went 7-1 in those games.
Obviously, Grier offsets his turnovers with a thick volume of touchdowns — having thrown for 29 scores during that eight-game span. Still, for a player with his skills and football smarts, you’d prefer to see the game-manager alter ego make an appearance when the situation dictates.
Will Cyclones miss Montgomery?
What a find the junior running back has been for Iowa State. David Montgomery’s two-star ranking coming out of high school looks like typo.
Despite playing behind subpar offensive lines, Montgomery has averaged 128 yards rushing against WVU the previous two meetings. The guy repeatedly turns 2-yard gains into 4-yard gains and shows savvy on receiving routes.
The arm injury suffered against TCU two weeks ago forced Montgomery into street clothes at Oklahoma State, and you wonder about his ability to protect the football against WVU tacklers.
Iowa State’s backups include Kene Nwangwu (a speedster returned from an Achilles injury), Sheldon Croney and Johnnie Lang. They’re a pedestrian group made better by the option reads of quarterback Brock Purdy, who forces defenders to play the run gaps honestly.
Matt Campbell or Dana Holgorsen?
This question surfaced organically on “The Sweet Spot with A.T.” weekly podcast: Who would you take as head coach right now?
It created pause among myself, Keenan Cummings and Matt Keller. Ultimately, two out of three gave a slight edge to Campbell, figuring he has come closer to maximizing the limited talent and resources he has in Ames than Holgorsen has accomplished with a better situation in Morgantown.
But the informal vote was by no means a slam dunk. And you can’t overlook the fact Holgorsen is 2-0 against Campbell.
Iowa State in all-black uniforms?
There’s buzz the Cyclones might take Saturday’s night game to next-level darkness with all-black uniforms. I’m not much on gimmicks, and I have grown to like the cardinal-and-gold look Iowa State typically wears in Ames.
If Iowa State opts to go with its alternates and loses, maybe that’ll put an end to some WVU fans calling for a Black Friday “Coal Rush” look when Oklahoma visits.
How dangerous is Ames, really?
Every college football fan recalls the night of Nov. 18, 2011, when No. 2 Oklahoma State saw its BCS title hopes derailed in a 37-31 loss at Jack Trice Stadium. An upset that probably carries a disproportionate amount of weight in our perceptions.
“Night game in Ames? A lot of bad things happen there,” said West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
Actually, since stunning the Cowboys in 2011, the Cyclones are just 1-12 against ranked visitors — and only four of those losses were one-possession games.
But history pivots on powerful memories, not data, and should WVU fall behind Saturday night, you can bet the highlights of 2011 will be cued up.