West Virginia Football Season Preview Game Seven: Kansas State Wildcats

On Oct. 20, quarterback Collin Klein will lead the Kansas State Wildcats into Morgantown for West Virginia's second home Big 12 Conference game.

In his first year starting under center, Klein pulled Kansas State from the depths of mediocrity to Big 12 title contention in just one season.

Back in 2003, Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles led the Wildcats to an 11-4 season which culminated with a Fiesta Bowl appearance.  That 2003 campaign was the tenth time in the previous 11 seasons in which head coach Bill Synder's Cats won at least nine games.

After that, things began to trend downward in Manhattan, Kan.

Two consecutive losing seasons followed and Snyder retired, giving way to his successor, Ron Prince.  In three seasons, Prince failed to bring KSU out of its funk, which prompted the return of Snyder in 2009.

[caption id="attachment_813" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Collin Klein and John Hubert: the second coming of these two, Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles. Photo Credit: John Biever | Sports Illustrated"][/caption]

Two more mediocre seasons followed until Klein—Kansas State's saving grace—took the helm.

Not much was expected of KSU last season, nonetheless Snyder's dual-threat star led a Wildcat resurgence which ended in the first ten-win season in Manhattan in eight years.

Klein will be back for his senior campaign after finishing first among quarterbacks and No. 2 among all players with 27 rushing touchdowns last year.

If you're thinking that 27 rushing touchdowns is a lot for a quarterback, you're right.  It's the most all-time in the FBS among quarterbacks.

Along with his net total of 1,141 yards on the ground, the Loveland, Colo. native also threw for just less than 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns, with only six interceptions.

The Wildcats will also return another dangerous runner in John Hubert, who went for 970 yards last season.

Additionally, KSU will return its top receiver Chris Harper, although he only had 547 yards receiving last year.  This year, the Kansas State offense will be looking for more balance, which may start with Harper.

Recently, the former Oregon Duck told Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle that he is looking to eclipse 1,000 yards in 2012.

“I’m trying to get as many yards as possible,” Harper said. “I want to go over 1,000 and break the record...We could have had way more yards last year—the thing I’ve been looking at is we didn’t have big plays after catches.  A lot of people were blaming Collin for that, but we as receivers didn’t do our jobs. That’s on us more than him...We have to maintain that balance.  We have a lot of good players and a lot of good receivers, but I still want to get over 1,000.”

[caption id="attachment_814" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Photo Credit: The Wichita Eagle"][/caption]

It's going to be quite a jump to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, and an even bigger jump to take down Jordy Nelson's single-season receiving yardage record of 1,606 yards.

Taking down the record set by Aaron Rodgers' favorite target in Green Bay may be out of the question, but KSU having a more balanced offense isn't so farfetched.

Last season, Oklahoma and Oklahoma state drew up the two blueprints for topping KSU.

First, Oklahoma absolutely silenced the Wildcats' passing game, allowing just 58 yards of production through the air.

The next week, OSU outgunned KSU in a 52-45 shootout.

In both losses Kansas State's unreliable defense, which finished No. 68 in the country allowing 27.9 points per game, was embarrassed.

The Wildcats allowed 263.3 passing yards per contest in 2011 and has proven to be susceptible to a strong passing attack—one weapon West Virginia happens to have.

However, another aspect of this West Virginia team is a questionable run defense, which gave up more than 100 yards on the ground ten times last year for a total of 1,882 yards.

The WVU rush defense was exposed the most during a road loss to Syracuse, in which running back Antwon Bailey went for 125 yards as the Orange totaled 194 on the ground.

This matchup with Kansas State—much like many of the Mountaineer games in 2012—will likely prove to be a shootout.

Kansas State will have to find a way to stop WVU through the air, while the Mountaineers will have to find a way to stop KSU on the ground.

Whichever team figures out how to do that first, will win.

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