Redskins

No. 4 K-State, No. 17 WVU in top Big 12 battle

No. 4 K-State, No. 17 WVU in top Big 12 battle

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Collin Klein vs. Geno Smith. A showcase of Heisman Trophy contenders. A share of Big 12 supremacy at stake.

No. 4 Kansas State at No. 17 West Virginia has implications on several fronts.

The Wildcats (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) can keep first place to themselves on Saturday night in Morgantown while maintaining their national championship hopes.

The Mountaineers (5-1, 2-1) had similar dreams dashed at Texas Tech last week, but they still have BCS aspirations and will try to create a three-way tie atop the conference.

Smith might need one of his typical stratospheric passing games to get it done. Standing in his way is the mobile Klein, who has climbed into the Heisman Trophy discussion alongside Smith.

``It's going to be West Virginia's offense versus Kansas State's defense and vice versa,'' Smith said. ``That's really all it comes down to.''

The pair met in July at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, Smith was a superlative thrower and Klein a run-first human cannonball whose 85-yard rushing average is 1 yard better than West Virginia's top back, Andrew Buie.

``He's a cool guy,'' Smith said of Klein. ``But I also know he's a competitor and he's going to be ready to play.''

Klein says it's fun to watch Smith and ``I appreciate what he does.''

But ``my main focus is must making sure our team is successful,'' Klein said. ``Whatever my piece of that puzzle looks like, I'll be happy with. We are all as a team trying to prepare to play the best game that we have played - we try to do that every week. It's just another step in the journey. We've just got to make sure we do the very best we possibly can to make sure it's a good and solid step.''

West Virginia has been in close games in two of its last three contests. Same for the Wildcats, who are going after their third Big 12 road win in a month after beating Oklahoma and Iowa State by less than a touchdown.

Kansas State hasn't allowed more than 21 points all season but goes up against a West Virginia team that has averaged 57 in three home contests.

Something's got to give Saturday night.

``I believe we can put up a lot of points,'' Smith said. ``But I also know that the game is not going to be easy. Those guys have a great defense and they practice hard, they're very experienced so we've got to make sure we're on the same page and come out confident and ready to ball.''

Klein also could make mincemeat out of the Mountaineers defense, which has allowed an average of 52 points over the last three weeks and gave up 18 plays of 15 yards or more in the blowout loss at Texas Tech that sent West Virginia tumbling in the rankings.

``It's going to be a battle,'' Klein said. ``I know they maybe are in a little different spot than what they expected to be going into this game. Again, we know we're going to get their best shot regardless. It's just a matter of trying to prepare the best that we possibly can during this week.''

While Texas Tech's Seth Doege ripped the Mountaineers for 499 yards and six TDs, West Virginia anticipates a mixed attack from Klein, who leads the Big 12 with 10 rushing touchdowns.

``We try and junk up the box and stop the run and put more people in there, but then you are weak on the outside,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. ``He throws it to those fast guys outside, and we have to make plays out there.''

West Virginia was unable to mimic Klein in practice because the only player the Mountaineers had in mind was 6-foot-5 wide receiver Will Johnson, was has been out with a back problem. But Kansas State probably didn't have anyone on the scout team with the arm of Smith, either.

Smith is coming off his toughest outing of the season in which he was limited to one touchdown pass last week. Still, for the year, he has 25 TDs, no interceptions, a completion percentage of 75, and 379 passing yards per game. He's thrown 313 consecutive passes without an interception dating to last season - 66 shy of Russell Wilson's FBS record.

``If you keep them out of the end zone and off the field, that is a real positive thing,'' said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

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Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

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USA Today Sports Images

Comparing the 2015 playoff Redskins to this year's team

We don’t know if there will be major changes on the Redskins if they don’t make the playoffs this year but getting into the postseason and getting a win when they get there would make a decision to keep going in this direction very easy.

Yes, a lot of the pressure lies on the shoulders of Jay Gruden but winning games usually comes down to the players on the field. How do the players the Redskins have today compare to those on the last team that made the playoffs?

Here are the players who started in the last playoff game that involved the Redskins, a 35-20 Wild Card round home loss to the Packers, side-by-side with the anticipated starting lineup for the 2018 season with some unscientific comparison of the quality of the two teams.

Offensive line

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
LT—Trent Williams, Williams
LG—Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao
C—Kory Lichtensteiger, Chase Roullier
RG—Brandon Scherff, Scherff
RT—Morgan Moses, Moses

How do the 2018 versions of Williams, Moses, and Scherff compare to the ones who started the playoff game? They’ll be about three years older but they have gained valuable experience. Remember that Lichtensteiger was activated off of injured reserve the week before the playoff game after missing 11 games with a neck injury so he was not close to 100 percent against the Packers. Josh LeRibeus was center for most of the year. Roullier is at least a good as he was. Long is no All-Pro but he is better than Lauvao. Comparison: Even

Offensive backs and receivers

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
QB—Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith
RB—Alfred Morris, Derrius Guice
WR—Jamison Crowder, Crowder
WR—Pierre Garçon, Josh Doctson
WR—DeSean Jackson, Paul Richardson
TE—Jordan Reed, Jordan Reed

We can debate Smith vs. Cousins all day but we really won’t know until they start playing games. Guice has the potential to be better than the 2015 version of Morris, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry while gaining 751 yards. Reed has his best season in 2015 with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was arguably the best tight end in the game in 2015. Reed has to demonstrate that he can be that guy again. Crowder will be better than he was as a rookie but there are clear downgrades at the wide receiver positions. Comparison: Edge to 2015

Defensive front

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
DE—Chris Baker, Matt Ioannidis
NT—Terrance Knighton, Daron Payne
DE—Jason Hatcher, Jonathan Allen
ILB—Mason Foster, Foster
ILB—Will Compton, Zach Brown
OLB—Ryan Kerrigan, Kerrigan
OLB—Trent Murphy, Preston Smith

I don’t think we need to go into much discussion here to sort out which team has the better front seven. The interior line plus Brown makes this year’s front clearly superior. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

Secondary

Position—2015 starter, 2018 starter
CB—Will Blackmon, Josh Norman
CB—Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar
SS—DeAngelo Hall, Montae Nicholson
FS—Dashon Goldson, D.J. Swearinger

Breeland was very good in 2015, tallying two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two recoveries. Dunbar could be a downgrade but I don’t think he’ll be a significant one. This year’s team is clearly better off at the other three positions. Comparison: Solid edge to 2018

If defense wins championships then you have to give the overall edge to this year’s team. But the offense will be important and Smith, Guice, and the wide receivers will need to come through if the Redskins are going to play a game in January of 2019.

More 2018 Redskins

- The secondary: What's the outlook in the secondary?
- Tandler’s Take: The pressure's on Gruden and he knows it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

 

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Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

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Associated Press

Wizards' assistant Sidney Lowe leaves to join Dwane Casey's staff with Detroit Pistons

The Washington Wizards have an opening on their coaching staff, as assistant Sidney Lowe has left the team to join the Detroit Pistons.

Lowe, according to ESPN, will be the top assistant on new Pistons coach Dwane Casey's staff. 

Lowe spent two seasons under head coach Scott Brooks in Washington. A D.C. native, Lowe starred at DeMatha High School before playing at NC State and then in the NBA.

Lowe was the head coach at his alma mater for five years from 2006 through 2011, but has otherwise been an NBA lifer. He served as head coach of the Timberwolves in 1993-94 and head coach of the Grizzlies from 2000 to 2002.

The Wizards have several coaching hires to make now. They have a new G-League team set to take the court in the fall and will need to hire a staff sometime this summer. 

With Lowe gone, they could choose to promote from within or go outside the organization.

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