Combined, Kansas State (3-0) and Oklahoma State (4-0) have won seven games out of seven. Oddly enough, even with their unblemished records, these are two teams who seem to be on shaky ground. Kansas State lost starting quarterback Jesse Ertz in the first game of the season. Not exactly ideal. Bill Snyder’s troops, who had a bye last week, are coming off of a 39-33 victory over Louisiana Tech but they needed three overtimes to pull it off.
Oklahoma State is also fresh off of a dramatic win taking a wild one from the Longhorns in Austin 30-27. While having the number one-ranked defense in the Big 12, the Pokes are having difficulty getting their offense, defense and special teams to all come alive in the same game.
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 3rd at 11:00 AM CST
WHERE: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy, Wind 8-10 mph, Game Temp 68°F
TV: Fox Sports 1
BETTING LINE: OSU -8.0 (O/U 50)
Kansas State Wildcats
As expected, the Wildcat’s offensive production took a hit when starting QB Jesse Ertz went down in the opening game. Granted backup Joe Hubener and the K-State offense put up 34 and 30 points against South Dakota and UTSA respectively; however they managed only six first half points and 17 second half points against Louisiana Tech. The ‘Cats are currently sitting at eighth in the conference for total offense leading only Iowa State and Texas. Defensively, on the other hand, K-State has been solid giving up only 315.3 YPG which is good for third best in the conference. Though given the competition they’ve played, the quality of this defense will become a lot more clear when they have to go up against Oklahoma State. The bye-week may have come at a perfect time for Kansas State as the Louisiana Tech game exposed some weaknesses for the ‘Cats to fix. That said, there are very few certainties in the world of college football but one of them is that you never, ever count out a team coached by Bill Snyder.
Key Players For Kansas State
Joe Hubener – Given how suddenly Hubener had to step into a starting role, he deserves credit for his productivity putting up 585 yards in the air and four passing touchdowns in just under three games. Not only that but, perhaps most importantly, he’s taken care of the ball accounting for zero picks. To win this game Hubener will have to step up his accuracy because he’s only completing 53.7% of his passes. I don’t see any scenario in which K-State gets a win over the Cowboys with that many arrant throws.
Justin Silmon – Silmon is coming off of a season-high performance against the Bulldogs churning out 119 yards on 24 carries (5.0 YPC). Barring some big improvement in Hubener’s accuracy, K-State will most likely need to rely on Silmon for another 24-plus carry afternoon. He’ll have his work cut out for him though given the Pokes are only giving up 129.2 rushing yards per game.
Kansas State’s Keys To The Game
Execute The Mid-Range And Deep Ball – One thing DC’s love is stacking the box and going after backup QB’s to instill panic thus leading to poor decisions. Hubener has shown mental toughness by not throwing any picks this year, however he has yet to see the likes of the OK-State pass rush. Completing two or three early 15+ yard routes will force the Cowboys to back off and respect the pass. That should open up some breathing room for Silmon.
It Burns So Good – K-State has had at least one kickoff return in the last 11 seasons which by far leads the nation (next is Auburn at 6). Morgan Burns didn’t waste any time keeping the streak alive taking back a 100-yard beauty in their opening game. A big special-teams play can be just what the doctor ordered for an underdog as it can light a fire under your team while simultaneously taking the wind out of the sails of the home team and their fans.
Rattle Rudolph – The Wildcats have already notched 12 sacks in three games resulting in a total loss of 76 yards for their opponents. Last week Cowboys QB Mason Rudolph showed that he’s capable of being mistake-prone when the pressure is on by throwing two picks and laying the ball on the turf once. Getting some early pressure on Rudolph may create some points-off-turnovers for the Wildcats.
What Wildcat Fans Want To See
In short, a breakout performance by Joe Hubener. This is the game the visiting ‘Cats would love to see Hubener evolve from a well-performing backup to a dialed in starter. To do that, Bill Snyder and his staff will need to open up the playbook a little more and let Hubener take the next step. He’s already proven he knows how to take care of the ball having yet to throw an interception. Fans would like to see the K-State offense get the Oklahoma State defense, who has been stingy to say the least, on their heals by aggressively attacking them and controlling the clock.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Back in the safe confines of Boone Pickens Stadium, the Cowboys are still riding high after their dramatic win in Austin. In the first couple of games, one thing the Pokes had trouble doing was getting off to a fast start. However OK-State seems to have remedied that scoring 17 first quarter points against UTSA two weeks ago and 14 points in last Saturday’s opening quarter against the ‘Horns. So far the strength of the Cowboys has been on the defensive side of the ball snatching four INT’s in four games and leading the conference in total defense. If the Pokes can put together a consistent performance on both sides of the ball then they’re talented enough to make a run for a conference title.
Key Players For Oklahoma State
Mason Rudolph – Limiting turnovers and not taking sacks will be the name of this game for Rudolph. He’s already tasted turf eight times this season which has resulted in -52 yards rushing for the QB over the last three games. He didn’t have the best day against Texas. He gave up a fumble return for a touchdown, and a pick-six. In large part though, the poor play was due to an injury suffered during the game that numbed his hand. Whether or not it’s a persistent injury will be something to watch.
Jeff Carr – Things have gotten interesting in the backfield in Stillwater. Chris Carson, the starting RB, suffered an ankle injury in the Texas game. It was thought that he was most likely not 100% so enter backup Rennie Childs. It has been reported that Childs has suffered a concussion in practice this week. Jeff Carr, who has 51 yards on ten carries this season, will now likely get the start. Carr will have to grow up quickly going against a defense who ranks first in the conference in stopping the run. However with only ten carries on the year, Kansas State doesn’t have a lot of film on Carr and hasn’t prepared for him so this is an interesting story-line for this game.
Oklahoma State’s Keys To The Game
Win The Turnover Battle – Creating turnovers has been a focus of this defense so for this season. With the Cowboys offense sputtering at times they can’t afford to give the ball away, and could use an extra possession or two.
Unleash Emmanuel Ogbah – The K-State backup QB Hubener has yet to see a defensive end as talented as Ogbah who has at least one sack in every game this year. If he can get some pressure on the inexperienced QB, the talented Cowboy secondary behind him will be ready to pounce on any rushed, off-the-mark throw Hubener may make as a result.
Find A Running Game, Any Running Game – The Cowboy’s running game has been non-existent this year and a one-dimensional offense makes the opposing defense’s job that much easier. OK-State has to find a ground game on Saturday to make the Wildcats respect the run otherwise it could be a long day for Rudolph (or Walsh). It’ll be interesting to see if Jeff Carr is the spark the Poke’s running game has been looking for.
What Cowboy Fans Want To See
The main thing that would make OK-State fan’s day is a solid, turnover-free performance from Mason Rudolph. While the Texas game entertained everyone with a dramatic finish, it really shouldn’t have been that close. Overthrown out-routes and the football clumsily falling out of Rudolph’s hand played a major role in that game. The last thing the Cowboy faithful wants to see is a QB change in the middle of a season. So a four TD, zero turnover afternoon for Rudolph should be enough to seal the win and put Poke fan’s mind at ease. Also it would show that this team has the discipline to keep their emotions in check after such an emotional win last weekend. A breakout game for Carr would also bring a smile to the faces of the fans in orange.
If there’s one thing college football has taught me it’s to stop picking against Bill Snyder. Maybe one day I’ll learn that lesson but it won’t be today. I like Oklahoma State in this match-up, especially in Stillwater, OK. The main reason is the fierce, opportunistic defense that awaits Hubener and the Wildcats who were exposed in their last game against Louisiana Tech. The OK-State defensive front will relentlessly attack and take away the Wildcat running game leaving Hubener to beat them through the air which I just don’t think he can do. I think we’ll see lots of Kansas State turnovers in this one allowing the Pokes to cover the spread.