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.

Quick Links

Redskins have safety needs but little cash, putting Clinton-Dix in precarious situation

Redskins have safety needs but little cash, putting Clinton-Dix in precarious situation

When the Redskins traded for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in October, the safety position looked to be a great strength for Washington. 

The team already had D.J. Swearinger, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level, and adding Clinton-Dix was supposed to make the Redskins defense one of the elite units in the NFL

That plan didn’t work. 

Clinton-Dix never performed at a high level in Washington, and frankly probably underperformed on the relative cheap fourth-round pick price the Redskins paid to acquire him. 

In nine games with Washington, Clinton-Dix registered 66 tackles and recovered one fumble. And while it wasn't entirely on him, Clinton-Dix's arrival coincided with the Redskins defensive demise. 

Now, it's free agency time for Clinton-Dix.

Pro Football Focus rated Clinton-Dix as the 32nd best safety in the NFL, and he will be one of the bigger names on the open market. What will the money look like?

It's hard to answer because 2018 wasn't an impressive season. Clinton-Dix struggled enough in tackling that Green Bay decided to trade him, and those struggles continued in Washington. 

The Redskins have a lot of needs this offseason, and safety is one of them. 

Swearinger is gone, and the depth chart features Montae Nicholson, Troy Apke and Deshazor Everett. Nicholson finished his season suspended after being arrested for assault and Apke finished his season on IR. Everett has made plays when he gets chances on the field, but for whatever reason, he rarely gets chances.

Washington doesn't have a lot to spend in free agency, as the Alex Smith contract will eat up a lot of their cap space. 

There definitely isn't room for a high-value contract for Clinton-Dix. 

There might not be room for a low dollar contract for Clinton-Dix based on his 2018 level of play, but the position is a need. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Shortly before his team took on the New York Knicks in a global showcase game in London, England on Thursday, Washington Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis addressed reporters and dropped a line that created a swift and strong reaction on social media.

When discussing the state of his team, Leonsis said in no uncertain terms that the goal this season is to make the playoffs. He has no interest in looking towards the draft lottery, despite the desires of some fans who have visions of Zion Williamson throwing down lobs from John Wall.

"We will never, ever tank," Leonsis told reporters.

That quote seems like one that will be revisited periodically in the next several years. But, like all quotes, it requires some context. 

What Leonsis went on to explain is that his franchise is not in a position to lose on purpose. They have too much talent, even with injuries to Wall, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris, to pack it in and look towards next year. They also have too much money committed with what currently ranks as the seventh-highest payroll in basketball. They already went through a rebuild, he said, and it's not time yet to go through another one.

As Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington in September, there are "no excuses" for falling short this season.

In many ways, what he said in London was not surprising at all. The Wizards have been in win-now mode for several years. Anyone paying attention to their personnel moves should understand that.

Take the trade for Trevor Ariza in December, for instance. Though some speculated that was about trading for a guy who could be dealt elsewhere months later, that was never the Wizards' intention, according to people familiar with their plans. Getting Ariza was about improving the defense and retooling their locker room culture. It was about making the playoffs this spring.

Leonsis' comments should make the Wizards' plans for the Feb. 7 trade deadline a bit easier to ascertain. The goal to make the playoffs doesn't necessarily mean they will be buyers, but it strongly suggests they won't be sellers. They are only two games out of a playoff spot in the still-pedestrian Eastern Conference with 37 games left to play. After winning six of nine, the playoffs are a realistic goal.

That still won't assuage the Wizards fans out there pining for them to make the long-term play, of course. And there is an argument to be made that their future would be better off if they take a step back this season to take two steps forward the next. If they tanked and got a top draft pick, it could help them immensely down the road if that player becomes another franchise cornerstone.

But, as Leonsis argues, gunning for top draft picks can be unpredictable. People often cite the Sixers as a tanking success story, and their future does appear to be bright. 

But the Sixers are an exception to the rule, as tanking is by no means a fool-proof strategy, even in long-term rebuilds. Teams go years and years without luck in the draft. Just look at the Sacramento Kings.

Or, you could look at the Wizards, one of the least successful franchises in the NBA historically. Only five NBA teams have a worse winning percentage all-time than the Wizards, who have been around for 58 years. They haven't won 50 games or reached the conference finals since the 1970s.

If the Wizards were to make the playoffs this season, that would be five times in six years, arguably their best stretch of postseason success since the 70s. Consider the fact they made the playoffs just once from 1988 to 2004.

Sure, the Wizards should set their sights higher than losing in the first or second round, but there is something to be said about stability for a team that hasn't really had it since the Carter administration. And there is also something to be said about trying to build on what they have, rather than tearing it down and starting over.

It's not easy to go from middle of the road to great, but other teams have done it. In fact, most of the top teams in today's NBA didn't get there by tanking. 

The Rockets made trades for James Harden and Chris Paul and drafted Clint Capela 25th overall. The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick.

The Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton in trades and Malcolm Brogdon with a second round selection. The Nuggets drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round and got Gary Harris with a trade for the 19th pick.

The Warriors, though they had some lean years before their meteoric rise, basically built their team without any really high draft picks. They took Stephen Curry seventh, but also got Klay Thompson 11th and Draymond Green in the second round.

What Leonsis hopes to happen is a parallel to his Washington Capitals of the NHL. When it appeared they had hit a wall, some minor changes helped them break through to win a Stanley Cup in 2018.

The NBA is different, and the Wizards aren't a few small tweaks from toppling the Warriors, but perhaps Leonsis' patience will pay off. Maybe the Wizards will get a healthy version of Wall back, and the ascension of Beal and Porter will lead to them winning 50 games or going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1979.

There are fans out there who want dramatic changes. They want more than a first round playoff exit. Leonsis, of course, does as well, but he believes staying the course is the best path forward to getting there. Only time will tell if he's right.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: