We are entering the last two weeks of play in the regular season, but there are high stakes for the two teams in set to face off in Stillwater.
In what might end up being his last season as Kansas State’s head coach, Bill Snyder is looking to get his 5-5 Wildcats bowl eligible. On the other sideline, coach Mike Gundy will be hoping to put his team in position for a shot at the Big 12 Championship.
DATE & TIME: SAT, NOV 18 at 2:30 PM CT
WHERE: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
FORECAST: High 50s, Mostly Cloudy
BETTING LINE: OSU – 20.0
KANSAS STATE (5-5, 3-4)
After starting the season as a team ranked in the Top 25, Kansas State is hoping to go bowling for the eighth straight season.
Last week, the Kansas State secondary was able to mostly contain West Virginia receiving corps, picking off two Will Grier passes on the day.
The Wildcats struggled to get sacks on the opposing QB, however, and a Hail Mary touchdown before halftime was one of the unfortunate results. Defensive lineman like Will Geary have been standouts all year, but so far it hasn’t been enough to keep the Wildcats from being in last place in pass defense.
Against, the run, however, Kansas State is giving up a meager 126.1 yards per game. That kind of performance was good enough for them to get West Virginia off the field three of every four times they faced a third down.
The Wildcats are defensively only giving up 25.1 points per game, though, so a win this week might depend more on what they can get going on the other side of the ball.
After losing both their first and second string quarterbacks this season, Kansas State’s hopes for scoring points depend on backup freshman Skylar Thompson.
He’s struggled as a passer in his few starts this season, completing only half his passes last week while throwing two interceptions. Thompson might need to rely on the Kansas State ground game, which is averaging almost 200 yards a game.
Including the quarterback, the Wildcats have a bevy of athletes who can carry the rock. Running back Dalvin Warmack has become a real weapon for the Wildcats as of late, rushing for 96 yards last week.
As always, special teams is a plus for the Wildcats with returners like D.J. Reed. Kicker Matthew McCrane set records last week and is reliable when the Wildcats need points.
OKLAHOMA STATE (8-2, 5-2)
After losing to Oklahoma at home two weeks ago, Oklahoma State is hoping to win out and get some help to get the Sooners in the rematch.
Last week, the offense stepped up late against what had been a stingy Iowa State defense to score 18 points in the fourth quarter. That helped them top the Cyclones in Ames.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph, who still has an outside chance at the Heisman, was a big part of that success. Rudolph brings veteran leadership and a 30-to-7 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions.
Last week, the Pokes collection of skill players was on full display, with eight different players catching passes. The offensive line, which gave up a couple of sacks last week, will need to keep him upright so he can sling it around.
Because they’re so balanced, though, “stopping” the Cowboy offense has been a relative concept for most teams they played in 2017. Running back Justice Hill, leading the Big 12 with 119.8 yards per game, might be the best back in the conference.
Oklahoma State has needed to outscore opponents to win games, though, because the defense has struggled, giving up almost 30 points per contest.
Though the Pokes have come up with 20 turnovers this season, they’ve struggled to be consistent in pass coverage on defense. Despite those struggles, players like Rodarius Williams are coming on in the secondary and defensive back A.J. Green had an interception that sealed last week’s win.
This week, the secondary be without safety Tre Flowers for the first half, something that could hamper efforts to have a big day defending the pass.
The Pokes have a more veteran presence in their front seven, however, making the run defense a strength on this team.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR KSU
Make Big Plays Early Offensively – With bowl eligibility on the line, now’s the time for Bill Snyder to look into his bag of tricks and try to get some points on the board early in this game. Skylar Thompson probably can’t win a shootout for four quarters, but if the Wildcats can get some quick, easy points early, they can lean on their running game and play ball control football the rest of the way out.
Get The Quarterback On The Ground– With Kansas State’s struggles in pass defense this season, getting to Mason Rudolph before he can let the ball fly will be paramount. The front four for Kansas State will really have to step up this week on passing downs and not only find a way to get pressure, but get a few sacks as well. Having to face long down and distances is a problem for any offense, even an elite one.
Get Non-Offensive Touchdowns – If there’s any magic left in the Kansas State punt or kickoff return units, this is the week to show that off. On the road against a potent Oklahoma State offense, the Wildcats will need to get as many points the non-traditional way as they can. The best way to do that is with a return for six.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR OSU
Come Out Swinging– The Wildcats have struggled this season whenever they’ve had to play from behind. If the Pokes can come out and be aggressive, particularly in the passing game, they might be able to get an early lead on Kansas State. That would force the Wildcats to have to generate points ahead of schedule, possibly setting up a turnover or two.
Take Advantage Of Opportunities on D– Skylar Thompson showed last week that he can be susceptible to throwing picks and Oklahoma State is leading the Big 12 in interceptions this year. If the Cowboy secondary can get their hands on an ill-advised pass, they need to be sure and come away with it. Treat potential turnovers like gold.
Empty Some Of The Playbook – If the Cowboys manage to get a lead, see if you can’t build on that by using a smartly timed trick play on offense or special teams. As a 20 point favorite, the Cowboys won’t be expected to try anything fancy. Make that work to your advantage.
There have been so many close games in the Big 12 this season, that it would be easy to see Kansas State covering as a three score underdog. The Wildcats are unusually unsound in pass defense at times, though, and that could very easily payoff for a Cowboy offense that lives off of big plays.
Also, with a freshman quarterback who has looked so-so this season, it feels like the Wildcats are playing with one hand tied behind their back offensively.
If this season ends up being Bill Snyder’s last go at the helm of the Kansas State football program, Thanksgiving weekend feels like a better opportunity for the Wildcats to get to bowl eligibility. Oklahoma State will give up some touchdowns in this one on a day when Kansas State is able to keep Mason Rudolph somewhat in check, but in the end it won’t result in an upset.
Kansas State covers but Mike Gundy’s crew gets their ninth win of the season.