Mountaineers wary of Kansas' record
MORGANTOWN - Ask Dana Holgorsen - or, really, anyone associated with West Virginia's football team - about this week's opponent and the response is pretty much the same as it would be for any team on the schedule.
Sure, Kansas is but 2-7. The Jayhawks have won exactly one Big 12 game during the Obama administration. KU football is the definition of inadequate.
"Yes, but they've played six really good teams in a row and have played competitive,'' Holgorsen said. "We've got our hands full.''
Truth be told, Holgorsen might be right. After all, this isn't exactly a juggernaut Mountaineer team that plays a noon (ET) game Saturday in Lawrence, Kan. West Virginia is 4-6 and will have its first losing season in a dozen years if it can't beat Kansas and then Iowa State two weeks later.
Still, is it possible - even remotely conceivable - that a West Virginia team used to so much success for so many years could underestimate the Jayhawks; take for granted that programs like WVU are supposed to beat programs like Kansas?
"I wouldn't think so,'' Holgorsen said this week. "I mean, we've been in a bad place this year as well.''
Indeed, the Mountaineers have been in more than a few bad places this season. At the top of the list - or the bottom, perhaps - are humiliating defeats at Baylor and Maryland. There were struggles at times even in wins over gimmes like William & Mary and Georgia State. There have been the second-half collapses - four in a row now - that have turned potential season-changing wins into demoralizing losses.
There is, after all, a reason West Virginia is just a touchdown favorite over Kansas. No other Big 12 team so far has been less than a 16-point favorite over the Jayhawks. The average spread in those six games has been 26 points.
And there are multiple reasons why Kansas looks upon its next two games - Iowa State is up next for the Jayhawks, too, during WVU's off week - in the same way West Virginia sees its final two as an opportunity to salvage something. KU is at home, the opponent isn't daunting and, yes, Kansas has played decent football at times of late.
"They're no different than any other team in the Big 12,'' Holgorsen said. "If you look at the games they've played, they've been playing with a ton of effort. You can see how close Iowa State was to beating Texas [31-30], or how close Kansas was to beating Texas last year [21-17].''
Then again, West Virginia was in nearly the same position last season. The Mountaineers had run through the Big 12 gauntlet and lost five in a row to fall to 5-5. Iowa State and Kansas were again the teams that were supposed to provide the respite and they did. WVU won on the road at ISU and then hammered Kansas 59-10 at home.
But all that does is feed into the notion that West Virginia is supposed to win the final two games and salvage bowl eligibility because they've already done it once. If overconfidence is even a remote possibility, though, the Mountaineers could be in for a rude awakening.
"It sounds so silly to say, but at 4-6, if we think we have any chance of just showing up and beating anyone in college football then you have another think coming,'' Holgorsen said. "Especially against two teams in the Big 12 that are looking for a win.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.