The West Virginia at Iowa State pick on Saturday afternoon (3:30 PM ET, ESPN) is a classic test of ‘rust or rest’ for the visiting Mountaineers, who haven’t played since November 14th. It will be hard to fire up the WVU engines against a Cyclones team on the other end of that spectrum – in a rhythm with four straight wins.
Iowa State is a -5.5 favorite in this tilt, and they should play with a lot of energy as a win would clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Cyclones will likely make the trip to Arlington even with a loss, but you want to enter the game with momentum. Saturday marks the regular season finale for ISU, who is looking for a 3rd straight win over West Virginia.
West Virginia Defense Faces a Tough Test
On paper the Mountaineers should be in every game in the Big 12, due solely to a defense that has somewhat quietly built itself up to elite status. Forget the conference, West Virginia has the #4 defense in the entire nation and are the best among all FBS teams against the pass. Only Texas Tech has scored more than 17 points against WVU over the last 5 games.
The big conundrum for WVU backers heading into the West Virginia at Iowa State pick is that the Cyclones offense is pretty good too, racking up at least 300 yards in all 9 of their games so far. At the very least West Virginia’s defense should be healed and ready after not playing in nearly three weeks due to COVID postponements. ISU on the other hand had a bruising game against Texas last week.
Of course the Mountaineers cannot pull off the road upset on defense alone, and the West Virginia offense has been held to less than 200 yards in the last two meetings with Iowa State. That could change this year though, as Jarrett Doege is a very efficient QB who completes 65.9% of his passes and has 13 TD to just 3 INT on the year. Leddie Brown has gone for 100+ on the ground in 3 of the last 5 as well.
Iowa State Knows What’s at Stake
Even after a hard fought 23-20 win over Texas last Friday, it’s hard to envision Iowa State coming out flat vs. the Mountaineers considering they’re closing in on what could be the first conference championship in 108 years for the Cyclones. It’s the regular season finale – and at home in front of around 15,000 fans.
Intangibles aside, Iowa State also has a dang good football team that has now won four straight, even though three of those came as at least -13 point favorites. Breece Hall is the 2nd leading rusher in the country with 1,260 yards and QB Brock Purdy stepped up when he needed with a 312 yard passing day to get the victory over the Longhorns as -1 road favorites.
The Cyclones will have a challenge against a rested WVU defense, but they’ve put up 30+ in each of the last two wins; 30-14 at home in 2018 as +4.5 underdogs and 38-14 in Morgantown last year as -9 point favorites.
Free West Virginia at Iowa State Pick
Even if all things were equal, Iowa State giving just -5.5 in this tilt that is their home and regular season finale for a shot to punch a ticket to the Big 12 Championship game would seem like too few points. When you factor in West Virginia’s long layoff and the fact the Mountaineers have gone 0-3 on the road this season, it just makes the Cyclones look even better.
Iowa State 28 – West Virginia 20
Free Pick: Iowa State -5.5