Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football vs. West Virginia breakdown: Pregame analysis, prediction

Cyclones face strong WVU defense in regular-season finale

Iowa State hosts West Virginia this Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (The Gazette)
Iowa State hosts West Virginia this Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (The Gazette)

AMES — A closer look at Saturday’s Big 12 Conference football game between No. 9 Iowa State (7-2, 7-1) and West Virginia (5-3, 4-3) at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames (2:30 p.m., ESPN).

Iowa State offense

Iowa State has the most productive running back in the nation in Breece Hall and it has the most productive tight ends room in the nation in Charlie Kolar, Chase Allen and Dylan Soehner.

Iowa State’s trio of tight ends has 789 receiving yards on 60 receptions — both lead the nation. Florida’s tight ends have 755 receiving yards and Boston College’s tight ends have 55 receptions.

“Offensively, (Brock) Purdy has played really well over the last month and a half,” West Virginia Coach Neal Brown said. “Those tight ends are really unique. Other teams in our league have really good tight ends but they don’t have the same number of tight ends that Iowa State has. They’re a unique fit when you play against them compared to when you play against other teams in our league.

“And then Breece Hall, I would argue, is playing better than any offensive player in our league right now.”

Iowa State defense

Iowa State’s defense has allowed just 20 touchdowns this season — the second-best mark in the Big 12.

Iowa State also gives up the second-fewest yards per game. The Cyclones have only allowed one team, TCU, to score more than 31 points. And that was Iowa State’s second game of the season.

The defense has gotten stingier as the season has gone on.

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“They’re consistent. Really consistent,” Brown said. “Defensively, they have a number of their guys that are playing at a high level and they’ve done so over the course of a conference schedule. They make it difficult and they don’t give you any easy yards.”

One of those guys is linebacker Mike Rose, who leads the Big 12 in interceptions.

“Rose, he played well last year and was really underappreciated,” Brown said. “But man, this year he’s making plays all over the field — inside of the box, outside of the box — everywhere.”

West Virginia offense

West Virginia doesn’t have the most potent offense in the Big 12.

The Mountaineers get yards, but they have a hard time getting the ball in the end zone. West Virginia averages 417 yards per game, but has scored only 20 touchdowns in conference play, the second-worst mark in the Big 12.

The Mountaineers have the third-worst scoring offense in conference play. They have only scored more than 27 points in conference play twice and that was against the teams from Kansas. It took them two overtimes to get to 27 against Baylor.

Running back Leddie Brown is second in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 897 and nine touchdowns.

West Virginia defense

Speaking of not many touchdowns, West Virginia’s defense doesn’t give them up.

The Mountaineers have allowed just 14 touchdowns all season — the best in the Big 12 by a wide margin.

The defense is led by the Stills brothers along the defensive line.

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Dante Stills has 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Darius Stills has 19 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

On the back end, Tykee Smith has anchored West Virginia. Smith has 55 tackles, including eight for loss and he has two interceptions.

Final thoughts

This is a game that has to be won in the trenches. Both teams boast great defensive lines and great running backs. I’d take Hall over any running back in the nation and I like Iowa State’s depth along the defensive line.

Prediction — Iowa State 31, West Virginia -17

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