Approaching a first conference championship in 108 years lends itself to reflection.
Big 12-leading Iowa State knows all about that, even though the No. 9 Cyclones have only clinched a share of the conference regular-season title as they yearn to cement their spot in the league championship game."Every once in a while, I will think about all the accomplishments," senior wide receiver Landen Akers said. "I think we really came up from nothing and brought this program to be something."
Iowa State sits atop the conference standings at 7-2 overall, 7-1 in the Big 12. A win against visiting West Virginia in Saturday's regular-season finale would assure a spot in the conference championship, but a slip-up could muddle the picture as several other teams play games next week following previous postponements related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several things beyond a Mountaineers victory in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday would need to happen, but even West Virginia (5-3, 4-3) could vault into contention for a top-two conference finish and a spot in the Big 12 championship game later this month.
Make no mistake, that would represent quite a rally for the Mountaineers, who follow their trip to Iowa State by hosting No. 11 Oklahoma, the defending conference champion, next week.
"It's two teams playing as good as anybody in our league to finish up," West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. "The keys for us to win are we're going to have to take care of the football, we've got to establish a run game and stop the run. Down the stretch, those are going to be critical pieces for us."
The Cyclones extended their winning streak to four games with a 23-20 victory at then-No. 17 Texas on Nov. 27. Breece Hall rushed for a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown with 1:25 to play and finished with 91 yards on 20 carries.
While Hall was held under 100 yards for the first time this season, he gained 30 of the team's 69 yards on its final drive. Brown said Hall is "playing as good as any offensive player in our league right now" and recalls his heroics during the Cyclones' 38-14 victory in Morgantown, W.Va., last season -- 26 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
Hall ranks second in the nation with 16 rushing touchdowns and 1,260 yards on the ground, helping the Cyclones to 195.9 rushing yards a game, second in the conference.
Iowa State has limited West Virginia to fewer than 200 yards of total offense in the schools' past two meetings, both Cyclones victories. Defensive lineman Latrell Bankston earned conference defensive player of the week honors after collecting five tackles and two sacks, both career highs, at Texas.
West Virginia has been idle since defeating visiting Texas Christian on Nov. 14 behind 195 rushing yards from Leddie Brown and a pair of touchdown passes from Jarret Doege to T.J. Simmons.
The Mountaineers were set to host Oklahoma on Nov. 28, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns in the Sooners' program.
--Field Level Media