Posted November 10, 2017 11:02 am - Updated November 10, 2017 12:18 pm

Know the foe: West Virginia at K-State

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, front left, greets West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen following an NCAA college football game in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Christopher Jackson)

The winner of Saturday’s game between Oklahoma and TCU will have sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and the inside track on a berth in the conference championship game, but second place is setting up to be quite a battle.

The Sooners and Horned Frogs are 5-1 with Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Iowa State a game back at 4-2.

West Virginia was responsible for tightening things up with a victory last week over Iowa State, and the No. 23 Mountaineers (6-3 overall) try to remain in the title picture when they come to Manhattan for a 2:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff against Kansas State (5-4, 3-3).

“Everybody realizes the Big 12 is kind of jumbled up right now,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It’s as competitive as it’s ever been. I think the league is as deep as it’s ever been and I’ve been in it for 15-plus years.  Last week Iowa State was tied for first in the Big 12 and you beat them and you’re ahead of them in the standings. That’s how jumbled up it is. We have another tough challenge this week so it’s more about getting ready to play Kansas State than anything else.

“There isn’t a whole lot of Big 12 championship talk around here right now. It’s everybody’s goal going into the season but it’s not something that we focus on. It’s important for us to get ready to play the next game, regardless of who you’re playing. Everybody in the Big 12 knows that every game is important and you better be ready to play each and every week.”

K-State needs one victory in the final three games to become bowl eligible, and a lot of things would have to happen but the Wildcats could still find their way to Dallas for the new Big 12 championship game.

“Why not?” said Wildcat defensive back Brogan Barry. “That would be crazy but we have to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time.

“The way I look at it, it’s kind of like playing 21 or blackjack and you’re sitting 16-up and the dealer has a 10-up. You just have to go down fighting no matter what. I know this team is not going to stop fighting, like we showed in the Texas Tech game.”

WEST VIRGINIA OFFENSE: Will Grier is another Big 12 quarterback with eye-popping numbers, completing 217 of 334 passes for 3,068 yards and 30 touchdowns with 10 interceptions as a first-year starter after transferring from Florida.

“After having to sit out a year as a transfer student, it gave him an opportunity to get acclimated to a system,” K-State coach Bill Snyder. “Maybe not in the conference, but across the country they have what might be considered a unique system and I think that helped him immensely. He started the season off quite well and nothing has changed so it says, A, he’s acclimated to the system and, B, he’s a pretty good athlete and throws the ball extremely well and makes good decisions.

“Once again, you have to have some concerns because he can bring it down and scramble with it and they have a few quarterback run schemes that they utilize. He’s not one of those guys that will run around and slide on you. If he needs a yard, he’s going to fight to get the yard.”

Grier has plenty of targets: Gary Jennings has 69 receptions for 823 yards, David Sills has 51 for 793 and a staggering 16 touchdowns, Ka’Raun White 43 for 739 and 8 TDs and Marcus Simms 27 for 518 and five TDs.

The ground game also is productive with Justin Crawford averaging 87.3 yards a game.

“I see a great deal of balance,” Snyder said. “You look at the run-pass, it’s pretty close to 50-50. They want to be able to run the ball, which gives them balance. It’s enhanced their capacity to throw the ball, as well.”

WEST VIRGINIA DEFENSE: Like most defenses in the Big 12, the Mountaineers have had their issues. Their vulnerable area has been run defense where they rank No. 9 in the conference, which could play into K-State’s strength.

“I think they’ve been a good defensive football team since I can remember,” Snyder said. “They play extremely hard, as hard as any team we have seen. They are very aggressive. They are a physical football team. They run to the ball … when you take a snapshot of a player being tackled you’re going to find a whole bunch of players right around it so they get eight, nine, 10 to the ball virtually every snap. They have a powerful front three, guys who get off the ball and knock you back.”

Al-Rasheed Benton, a senior middle linebacker, does it all for WVU with a full line on the season stats: 77 tackles (53 unassisted), 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 pass break-ups, 5 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.