At 78, Bill Snyder is frail with white hair and looks his age. Despite annual speculation that he’s set to retire, Snyder keeps going to work. He’s an old-school coach who does not know how to quit, and his Kansas State teams mirror his personality.
It’s fitting the Wildcats are strongest in the underdog role. Since taking over as K-State’s coach for the second time 10 years ago, Snyder is 34-15 against the spread as a ‘dog.
Some trends are worth following. Snyder is 7-1 ATS as a road ‘dog the past two years, and he’s 5-1 ATS versus West Virginia in Big 12 Conference games. The past four meetings between the teams were decided by five, one, one and six points.
The Mountaineers are 16½-point home favorites over the Wildcats on Saturday. Rarely is Snyder such a big ‘dog. Late last season, however, Kansas State was a 20-point underdog at Oklahoma State and pulled off a 45-40 upset.
The stage is not set for a similar stunner in Morgantown. With Will Grier pulling the trigger, the West Virginia offense has too much firepower. Grier has nine touchdown passes in two games against weak competition, but Grier is a legit threat against any defense.
Snyder is a wily old coyote. The Wildcats will attempt to slow the tempo of the game with their ground attack. Skylar Thompson, a typical K-State dual-threat quarterback, seized the starting job last week by accounting for three touchdowns in a 41-17 victory over Texas-San Antonio. Thompson and running back Alex Barnes should be able to do enough on the ground to keep the underdog in the hunt.
I played K-State as a 17-point ‘dog Friday night, when that number was available at one Las Vegas book. If that number does not pop up at more books today, I’ll grade this pick at 16½. Maybe the Wildcats will prove too slow and outclassed, as they were against Mississippi State two weeks ago, but I’ll roll with Snyder again in his most profitable role.
Five more plays for Saturday:
* Unlv (plus-7½) over ARKANSAS STATE:
In a season-opening loss at Southern California, the Rebels trailed 19-14 going to the fourth quarter and finished with 308 rushing yards. The USC defense is nothing special, of course. But UNLV’s running attack makes it a live underdog against the Red Wolves. Lexington Thomas and quarterback Armani Rogers have combined for 690 yards on the ground in three games. Rebels coach Tony Sanchez is 12-4 ATS as a road ‘dog, including a straight-up win as a 21-point underdog at Fresno State last year.
* Stanford (-2½) over OREGON:
Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert is the real deal, and he has 12 TD passes in three wins, but Oregon remains somewhat of a mystery after games against Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State — three of the worst teams on the planet. Stanford appears to have the stronger defense and more lethal offensive weapons with running back Bryce Love, maturing quarterback K.J. Costello, 6-foot-3 wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside and 6-5 tight end Kaden Smith. The Cardinal crushed the Ducks 49-7 and 52-27 the past two years. The road favorite is the square side, but so be it.
* Other plays: PURDUE (plus-7) over Boston College; Louisiana Tech (plus-20½) over LSU; SAN DIEGO STATE (-12) over Eastern Michigan.
Last week: 5-3 against the spread