AMES, Iowa - In so many ways, West Virginia's game here with Iowa State today is one of mystery. Much of what both teams have done this season might have to be thrown out the window.
Consider that the Mountaineers, who at one time this season had what appeared to be one of the most potent passing attacks in NCAA history, have suddenly become a threat to run the football.
Take into account, too, that Iowa State, long considered the most mundane offensive team in the Big 12, now has a surprise new quarterback who just threw for as many touchdowns (four) as incompletions in a 51-point outburst.
Throw in frigid temperatures that neither team has encountered this season, a short work week and the increasing desperation of WVU where its bowl hopes are concerned, and perhaps all bets are off when the teams meet this afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium.
Kickoff between West Virginia (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) and Iowa State (6-5, 3-5) is at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised by ABC.
The possibilities seem almost infinite for two teams that only at the end of the season might be finding their identities. Take the Mountaineers, for example. They aren't going to suddenly abandon a still-potent passing attack, but might last week's eye-popping 344-yard rushing performance by Tavon Austin lead to more emphasis on the ground game?
Well, perhaps. But it's not a given.
"We can probably do some more things with him, but if Tavon was an every-down running back and could carry the ball 40 times a game, he would have been doing that for the last four games,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He's a guy that you look for matchups and you put him in a position to exploit those matchups. That's not necessarily always going to be the case with him in the backfield.''
It might not be the case today. Oklahoma invited WVU to run the football by playing a five-man box and dropping everyone else into coverage. It was tailor-made for Austin getting the ball in the backfield. Iowa State will play a more traditional 4-3 front with one of the best linebackers in the country in 6-foot-2, 248-pound senior A.J. Klein.
That scheme might lend itself to West Virginia playing Austin at slot receiver more in order to pull a defender out. If that's the case, then it would be up to Shawne Alston or Andrew Buie to make things happen in the run game.