Early this calender year, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, parted ways.
It was initially stated that Arians had retired; later, it was revealed that he was forced out of town. So when the Steelers didn’t offer Arians a contract, he ended up finding work iwith the Colts alongside new head coach Chuck Pagano.
You know the story from there. Now, leading up to his eighth game as interim head coach of the team, Arians looked back graciously at what occurred in Pittsburgh.
“I’m thankful for the Pittsburgh Steelers letting me go to be here,” Arians said Wednesday. “Truthfully, I couldn’t think of a better place to be at this point in time and to have felt more needed probably in my entire life. So thank you Pittsburgh.”
Clearly there’s no love lost from Arians’ perspective.
And the Colts are certainly thankful for Arians, as well. Indy is 5-2 since he took over as interim coach and in prime position to reach the playoffs.
Perhaps his most important achievement has been his relationship with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Arians has mentored great quarterbacks in the past — Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning — so his experience is invaluable to a player of Luck’s caliber.
“I think that’s one great thing about coach Arians, if you show that you can handle the playbook or what he’s asking of you, he’ll put more on your plate,” Luck said. “I think treats all of us rookies that way. He doesn’t call us rookies anymore, that’s for sure. It’s great to have your coach’s trust when you are out on the field.”
Though Arians has been trustworthy of Luck, he’s also cautioned him and the other rookies about the proverbial “rookie wall.” With eight rookies seeing significant time, Arians said he and his staff have been warning them for weeks about what can happen this time of year.
“It’s the mental grind, and this is when the big boys play, December,” Arians said. “What you did in November doesn’t mean a dag gone thing, it’s what you do in December that they remember. These guys have a chance to do something special if they just stay in the moment and don’t worry about the future.”
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Colts blogger Evan Hilbert, follow@CBSColts.
West Virginia (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) at Iowa State (6-5, 3-5 Big 12)
Kickoff: Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Spread: West Virginia by 1.5
Watchability: The Mountaineers seemed to find their offensive spark again last week against Oklahoma. A win for Iowa State would finish off arguably the best season of the Paul Rhoads era in Ames. West Virginia is still trying to get bowl eligible. There are several interesting subplots that make this game one worth watching.
Shining stars: West Virginia — WR/RB Tavon Austin. It may be a long time before anyone sees an all-around performance as strong as Austin’s was last week against Oklahoma. Austin finished with 572 all-purpose yards, including a school-record 344 rushing yards on only 21 carries. And the senior did it all in his first college game playing at running back. What might the encore look like? Iowa State — LB A.J. Klein. The heart and soul of the Iowa State defense, Klein hasn’t had quite the statistical year his fellow linebacker, Jake Knott, had before a season-ending injury. But he is no less important, as the linebacking corps is the backbone of Rhoads’ defense. Klein leads the team in tackles with 84 and has an interception, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack to his credit.
Who could steal the show: West Virginia — WR Stedman Bailey. Austin’s success in the running game set up Bailey for another incredible game statistically against the Sooners. The junior caught 13 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns. Oklahoma had only allowed three passing touchdowns all season before the game. Bailey has back-to-back games with more than 200 receiving yards. Iowa State — QB Sam Richardson. The one thing Iowa State has lacked is an explosive passing offense. Richardson took a step towards offering it to the Cyclones last week against Kansas, completing 23 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Admittedly, it was against Kansas — but WVU’s pass defense has been far worse.
You going? Ranking the road trip: It’s the regular-season finale for the Cyclones, who are bowl eligible again. Iowa State fans hope to send their seniors out in style, so Jack Trice Stadium should be a fun place to be on Black Friday.
Magic number for West Virginia: 364.4. That’s the number of pass yards per game allowed by WVU. The Mountaineers’ pass defense isn’t just bad by program standards. It isn’t just ranked No. 120 (dead last) in the nation. It’s setting new historical precedents for struggling pass defense. The NCAA’s online statistical archive goes back only to 1999. In that time frame, no team has allowed more than 320 passing yards per game for a full season.
Magic number for Iowa State: 24. Under Rhoads’ leadership, the Cyclones are 21-1 when holding teams to less than 24 points in a game. Conversely, they are only 3-24 in games in which the opponent scores 24 or more.
The game comes down to: Are the Mountaineers really back to form on offense? They showed signs in a loss at Oklahoma State two weeks ago and surged in another narrow defeat to Oklahoma last Saturday. The addition of Austin in the backfield gave WVU a running game it hadn’t had in more than a month. If the offense plays that well, Iowa State probably can’t keep up. If not? The Cyclones certainly are good enough to win.
Prediction: West Virginia 31, Iowa State 28
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).