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West Virginia vs. Kansas Betting Odds & Pick: Mountaineers Defense Should Stifle the Jayhawks (Saturday, Oct. 17)

West Virginia vs. Kansas Betting Odds & Pick: Mountaineers Defense Should Stifle the Jayhawks (Saturday, Oct. 17) article feature image

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dante Stills.

West Virginia vs. Kansas Odds

West Virginia Odds -22.5 [BET NOW]
Kansas Odds +22.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -3335/+1200 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 48.5 [BET NOW]
Time 12 p.m. ET

Odds updated Saturday morning and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Down is up. Up is down. So, should it really come as a surprise that we’re looking at a game from the defense-optional Big 12 where points may actually be at a premium?

When the Kansas Jayhawks travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday, they will bring with them one of the most anemic offenses in all of college football. And on the other sideline, Dana Holgerson isn’t walking out of that tunnel for the Mountaineers. Gone are the days of the opposition serving up 50-burgers. This version of the West Virginia defense gets after people.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, head coach Neal Brown has not filled Holgerson’s shoes offensively. The success that Brown enjoyed as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech squad (from 2010-12) just hasn’t materialized with the Mountaineers.

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West Virginia Mountaineers

West Virginia ranks in the top 20 of FBS in total defense (12), rush defense (20), scoring defense (20), and red-zone defense (5). Those rankings may be even more intimidating after the Mountaineers’ opportunity to pad their stats against Kansas this week.

The Mountaineer defense starts up front with the Stills brothers, the foremost of whom is preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Darius Stills. He is coming off a 2.5-sack performance against Baylor on Oct. 3. Arizona transfer linebacker Tony Fields II was all over the field in the Mountaineers’ last game, as well. Fields produced 10 total tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and two QB hurries against the Bears.

Tony Fields II. No Joke. @T_Fields1#HailWV

— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) October 7, 2020

If that isn’t enough, West Virginia is also hopeful that talented Alabama transfer LB VanDarius Cowan (knee) will make his return against Kansas. This front seven is a problem for any opposing offense — let alone one of the worst in the nation.

However, the other side of the ball is a different story entirely. Fresh off a 2019 season in which the Mountaineers ranked 110th in FBS in yards per play and 111th in scoring offense, there have been few signs to indicate that this year’s version of the offense will fare any better. West Virginia ranks fifth-lowest in FBS with 4.2 yards per play.

In particular, Bowling Green transfer QB Jarret Doege has been a disappointment. If a college QB does not make things happen with his feet, then it is imperative that he generates consistent explosive passing plays with his arm. Doege has provided neither: West Virginia has only recorded eight passes this season that gained 20 yards or more.

Kansas Jayhawks

Head coach Les Miles has not been with the team since last Thursday, as he has self-quarantined following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. As of writing, he reportedly still plans to be on the sidelines on Saturday. While we obviously wish Miles well, it’s fair to question whether his limited game-planning is a net positive or net negative for the Jayhawks.

Offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon arrived in Lawrence with great expectations following his tremendous success in lower divisions of college football. Unfortunately, that has yet to translate to the FBS college level. The Jayhawks rank third-worst among active FBS teams with an abysmal 3.9 yards per play.

That yards-per-play mark looks even worse once you drill deeper into the box scores. Kansas played most of its games against Baylor and Oklahoma State trailing by multiple scores. Yet, despite playing in ample garbage time to inflate the Jayhawks’ offensive statistics, they still only average 4.8 yards per pass attempt and rank dead last in FBS with only 8.2 yards per completion.

Keep in mind that in college football, unlike the NFL, sack yards are counted against a team’s rushing statistics. Now consider that Kansas ranks fourth-worst in FBS in sack percentage allowed (14.02%). So, it’s easy to wonder if this offense will go backward or forward on Saturday when quarterback Miles Kendrick (named the starter on Tuesday) drops back to pass.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The favored Mountaineers are averaging 20 points per contest, and their offense has shown no real signs of life since the new regime took over. So, it’s difficult to justify laying over three touchdowns — even against the moribund Jayhawks.

Still, first downs are going to be tough to come by for the guys from Lawrence, Kansas. However, the potential return of Les Miles to the sideline should inspire a spirited effort from the young Jayhawks defense. The Kansas secondary is exploitable through the air, allowing 8.2 yards per pass attempt, but will Doege be able to take advantage?

West Virginia is 3-8-0 to the over in Big 12 conference games since 2019. In order for this game to go over, the Mountaineers need to get into the high-30’s. That seems unlikely. West Virginia has scored at least 30 points in conference play only once in head coach Neal Brown’s tenure: The team managed 31 points in a loss to Texas Tech last season.

But, for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the Mountaineers buck the trend and pull off that kind of offensive performance. Even then, we would still need some help from the Kansas offense to get over the 52-point total.

The Action Network’s PRO Projections make this total 46.7, and all analysis supports that number. Though weather won’t play a factor on Saturday, the only way we can look is under the posted total of 52. This total may be found at Kambi sportsbooks, most notably DraftKings and 888.

Pick: Kansas/West Virginia under 52. Play down to 50.5.

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