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College Football Pick
After winning their first five games of the season, West Virginia has lost five straight which means they are not yet bowl eligible. Iowa State became bowl eligible last weekend after putting 51 points on the board at Kansas, their most scored all year. Each school has struggled to play with the big boys in the Big 12 this year, but for different reasons. The Mountaineers have the worst pass defense in the country allowing 346 yards per game. The Cyclones have a better defense, but they've had trouble scoring, averaging only 25 points per game.
Iowa State will be hoping freshman quarterback Sam Richardson will be able to replicate his performance from last week. After taking over for Steele Jantz on the third possession last week, Richardson came through with the best QB display seen out of a Cyclone all season. He finished with 250 yards and four TDs with an 85.2% completion percentage to go with 43 rushing yards and another TD. Kansas isn't great, but then again neither is West Virginia. If Richardson can keep this up, another 50 points wouldn't be all that surprising for the Cyclones. Shontrelle Johnson and James White will split the work in the backfield, but the two haven't done all that much this season as they've combined for only four TDs. Richardson's favorite target last week was Josh Lenz who had 78 yards and a TD, but Richardson still spread the ball around a good amount. 12 different players had a reception against Kansas. Steele Jantz is also medically cleared to play.
The least amount of points West Virginia has allowed in Big 12 play this season was 39 to TCU which happened to be in a double OT loss. They are allowing over 50 points per game in conference play. The Cyclones have a middle of the pack defense though which means Geno Smith shouldn't have that much trouble keeping pace.
Smith continues to put in big games as he had 320 yards and four TDs against Oklahoma last weekend. On the season, Smith has 3,361 yards, 35 TDs and only five interceptions. Two of those INTs came against the Sooners which could have ended up costing them the win. Andrew Buie hasn't really done anything in the rushing game this year as he only has one game over 82 yards. To mix things up, they gave Tavon Austin some carries last week and he produced... a lot. Austin finished with 21 carries for 344 yards and two TDs. Guess Oklahoma didn't game plan for Austin coming out of the backfield. Wide receiver Stedman Bailey had a couple rough patches a month ago, but has returned to his incredible numbers once again. He has 27 receptions for 430 yards and five TDs in his last two games. Not a lot of teams can stop the speed of Austin and Bailey.
This game is incredibly difficult to handicap due to the contrasting styles of these teams. Iowa State is a tough, scrappy team. Only Texas and Oklahoma State were able to extend margins against this team. They hung tough with everyone else and were able to beat TCU and Baylor. West Virginia on the other hand, was obliterated by Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State while their other games against common opponents were decided by 7, 3, 1 and 1. Both teams were 2-5 against the 7 common opponents with West Virginia outscored by a margin of 51-38 while Iowa State was outscored by a margin of 28-20.
West Virginia has 5 wins and needs 1 more to qualify for a Bowl with this game and Kansas left. So, added motivation for the Mountaineers as Iowa State already has their 6 wins. But keep in mind that teams that have to win, don't always pull through and it's hard to recommend a team that has dropped 5 straight games.
Our model likes Iowa State by a touchdown. Other numbers we like to look at point towards the Cyclones as well. But despite our numbers and our model, we'd likely stay away from this game in the real world. You have to worry about whether or not Iowa State can match West Virginia offensively if the game turns into a scoring slugfest as most West Virginia games do. We'll lean towards the Cyclones here, but tread carefully. Iowa State +1
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