Series History: Oklahoma State leads Kansas State 34-23
Time/TV: 8 p.m., ABC
I struggled for days thinking about which game should be game of the week. I knew Brian had the SEC covered with Clear Your Schedule, so I flipped a coin between Oregon at USC and Oklahoma State at Kansas State. It landed tails, so here we are with this Top 25, Big 12 matchup (Oregon and USC more than likely will meet again before the end of the year).
As I’ve been reading and looking at highlights of both teams, I see some serious upset potential here. Oklahoma State has a more balanced offense than either West Virginia or Texas Tech, two Top 25 teams the Wildcats disposed of earlier this year. That being said, Collin Klein is a force to be reckoned with, and Kansas State is not sneaking up on anybody. This could be the best team Bill Snyder has every had in Manhattan and a win this Saturday would keep the dream alive of a national championship bid for the Wildcats. Their schedule is daunting, and Oklahoma State should present them with some unique challenges on offense and defense. The Cowboys are only a game behind the Wildcats in the Big 12 standings and are hungry for the upset. Let’s take a closer look at what the Cowboys and Wildcats offense and defense will show us on Saturday.
When Kansas State is on Offense
Mistake Free: The key to Kansas State’s success this year has been taking advantage of undisciplined defenses and exploiting the game plans of all the defensive coordinators they’ve faced. The Wildcats have shown that they can run and pass almost equally well, and Klein has improved his throwing accuracy almost 100% from last year. Against Texas Tech last week, the Wildcats run/pass differential was a balanced attack of 36 runs to 27 passes. The Wildcats average 44.3 points per game which ranks fifth best in the nation. Look for the Wildcats to stick with what’s been working so well for them, which is a balanced attack with Klein and RB John Humbert doing the ground work, and using the aerial attack when the opponent lines up to blitz. Klein’s passing numbers for his last two games have been off the charts, throwing for 556 yards and five touchdowns against ranked teams. This game should be a shootout, and Kansas State has put a 50 spot on the board five times this year.
When Oklahoma State is on Defense
Eye on the Ball: Kansas State’s offense is such a disciplined, veteran offense it must give coordinators nightmares when they are drawing up their game plans. OSU’s defense has shown up the past three weeks and for the first time since 1986, they have held three straight conference opponents to less than 20 points. A year ago, the Cowboys defense led the nation in gathered turnovers with 44. This season has not been as gracious with the turnover differential, but the defense has shown improvement on third down conversion percentage, ranking #22 in the nation (For comparisons sake, Notre Dame is ranked #55 and Kansas State is #69). Kansas State will be methodical on offense, but if the defense can contain Klein on some 3rd down opportunities and turn red zone possessions from touchdowns to field goals, that could be all the difference in a shootout game.
When Oklahoma State is on Offense
Cowboy Up: There are some certainties in life; death, taxes, and if you’re an Oklahoma State QB, you’ll put up some gaudy numbers. QB Wes Lunt settled in after an early turnover last week against TCU and led the Cowboys to a victory. The OSU weapon of choice lately has been RB Joesph Randle who ran a career high 32 times against TCU last week. He also caught 5 passes out of the backfield. Randle leads the Big 12 in rushing, and is a nice security blanket for Lunt if he needs to check down at receiver. The one thing the offense can’t do against Kansas State is rely on the field goal. Last week against TCU, the Cowboys kicked 5 field goals, which will not cut it against the Kansas State offense. Converting on red zone opportunities is a must if the Cowboys are going to leave Manhattan with the upset. I’d look for a steady diet of handing the ball off and receiver screens to Randle, and opening it up in the second half and finding WR Josh Stewart who had a career game last week against TCU. The offensive line needs to keep the pressure off Lunt in the first half.
When Kansas State is on Defense
Earn Every Yard: While Klein and Coach Snyder have had most of the national press attention for K-State’s success, the defense has held their own every week. The Wildcats used a nickel package against Texas Tech last week, which stifled the high powered offense of the Red Raiders. The defense can hang their hat on their 19 turnovers recovered in 2012 (10 fumbles and 9 interceptions). LB Arthur Brown returned an interception for a touchdown last week, and has pick-offs in his last two games. If DE Meshak Williams can cause pressure on Lunt, the Wildcats secondary could feast on interceptions and quickly turn this game into a blowout. Look for blitzing early from the Kansas State D early and often.
Laying the Wood (Facts that will knock you off your feet)
The Football Mentalist Predicts (record 1-3)
I’d be foolish to go against Collin Klein and the Wildcats at home this week. I have a feeling that Coach Gundy will have the Cowboys ready to play, and K-State doesn’t have the football pedigree for me to think they can keep this rolling. Just a hunch, and at 1-3 I’m going to go out on a limb. I think history will repeat itself and OSU’s improved defense holds Collin Klein on a 4th and goal with time running out in the 2nd half.
Oklahoma State 35, Kansas State 31
Josh Adams is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him @Joshthescribe.