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Three key numbers on West Virginia's 2-1 start to the 2020 season

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On the final play of the game, Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) is shoved out of bounds along with Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) by West Virginia safety Jake Long (22) on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

On the final play of the game, Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) is shoved out of bounds along with Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) by West Virginia safety Jake Long (22) on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Following a bye week for both teams, Kansas and West Virginia are slated to square off this weekend in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers might not be near the bottom of the Big 12 conference, like some predicted entering the 2020 season. West Virginia is 2-1 through three games, which includes a 27-21 home victory over Baylor.

For comparison, KU suffered a 47-14 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 opener and is 0-3 overall on the year. The Jayhawks, who have been outscored by a total of 88 points so far this season, are considered 22.5-point underdogs this weekend on FanDuel’s Sportsbook.

West Virginia earned a 29-24 win over Kansas in last year’s meeting between these two teams. But the Mountaineers appear to be better this year, at least from what they have shown through the first three games.

Using NCAA Premium Stats over at Pro Football Focus, here is a look at a few key numbers on how West Virginia has performed in 2020:

WVU led by a stellar defense

Even the surface stats show how impressive West Virginia’s defense has been this year. The Mountaineers rank first in the Big 12 in total defense (268.0 yards per game), first in passing defense (166.3 yards per game) and fourth in run defense (101.7 yards per game) so far this season.

PFF’s grades reflect that, too.

West Virginia’s total defensive grade of 84.6 is the seventh-best mark in the nation. The Mountaineers’ lowest single-game defensive grade in 2020 was a mark of 67.7 against Oklahoma State. They then followed that up with a defensive grade of 79.8 against Baylor last time out.

It also helps that WVU has a nice balance between run and pass defense thus far. West Virginia’s run defense grade of 85.6 ranks seventh in all of college football, while the team’s coverage clip of 87.1 is also seventh in the nation.

The Mountaineers aren’t as productive in pass rush, however, ranking 51st among qualified teams in that department. But they have performed well enough on the back end to hide some of those concerns.

A closer look at West Virginia in coverage

This area warrants a closer look, particularly because Kansas has struggled to get much going through the air to this point in the year. West Virginia’s success in coverage could cause a big mismatch this weekend for KU.

Safety Sean Mahone has only allowed one reception on 55 coverage snaps this year, and it was a catch that went for 14 yards. Safety Tykee Smith has given up five catches for 42 yards on 11 targets during his 88 coverage snaps.

Cornerback Dreshun Miller has been targeted just eight times on his 89 coverage snaps. He’s allowed four receptions for 29 yards, including 22 yards after the catch. Reserve safety Jake Long has only surrendered a 16-yard reception on his 39 coverage snaps.

As a team, the Mountaineers have recorded a coverage grade of 71.6 or better in each of their three contests in 2020.

Jarret Doege off to a strong start for Mountaineers

While the defense has led the way for WVU, quarterback Jarret Doege could be off to a breakout season in his second year with the program.

Doege has the second-highest PFF offensive grade through three games among players with at least 72 snaps on the year. He has posted a mark of 70.4 overall, which includes a 67.6 passing grade, on his 212 total snaps. Only guard Michael Brown (77.0) has a better offensive grade for WVU.

Part of the overall offensive grade is inflated by Doege’s brilliant performance in the season opener against Eastern Kentucky, when he finished with an overall offensive grade of 93.1. He went 19-for-25 for 228 yards and three touchdowns against EKU.

Doege, who transferred from Bowling Green, has still thrown for at least 211 yards in each of his last two outings. For the year, Doege has gone 69-for-104 through the air for 724 passing yards and five scores.

Per PFF’s passing chart, Doege is currently having more success in the middle of the field. He has a 92.6 grade on his pass attempts between the numbers and 20-plus yards downfield, while recording an 81.5 grade on such passes between the 10-19 yard range.

Doege does not have a passing grade higher than 69.3 in any other area of the field.

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