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Kansas State Wildcats Preview

Am I the only one that thinks this is weird? Playing a home game against Kansas State on Thursday night. And not even on ESPN, but on FSN. It just feels odd, like it shouldn't be Kansas State that gets slotted for the weekday night game. Alas, that's where we are right now, which at least guarantees our highlights will show up on Friday morning Sportscenter. Given the performance the last time this team stepped on the field, however, I'm not entirely convinced that's a good thing.

I still think we're an okay team. I still don't want to accept that we are really 48 points worse than Baylor. And I doubt we actually are. Hopefully, given the national stage and the rivalry and the primetime atmosphere and the bye week we'll be able to put forth a strong performance. The absolute last thing we need is a blowout at home against Kansas State on a Thursday night.

Now that I've stated the obvious, let's actually preview K-State. 

What's a "Road" Game?

We'll get to Bill Snyder in a second, but this first topic also reeks of the old cupcake scheduler. The Wildcats have only left the Little Apple once all season long, and that was just to take on Iowa State in the very neutral Arrowhead Stadium. This will be their 6th game of the season, but their first one on the road. They better get used to it as well, as including Thursday night's game 5 of their last 7 games are going to be road contests. To be fair, they have faced some decent competition, at least compared to your average Bill Snyder schedule. They beat a decent UCLA team the opening week, while UCF isn't terrible and Nebraska is obviously an excellent team. 

After the opening week's victory over the Bruins, however, they have not looked as good. They only managed to beat the Cyclones by 7, while Utah just put up half a million points on them in Ames. They had to score a touchdown with only 24 seconds left on the clock to sneak by the Golden Knights, while their performance against Nebraska last Thursday night left a lot lacking. They've had a better start to the season than us, but I'm still not sold on the Wildcats being an improved team over last season, regardless of their impressive 4-1 record.

Old Man River

It's something else turning on a Kansas State football game and still seeing Bill Snyder patrol the sidelines. Last Thursday was his 71st birthday and as I was watching Taylor Martinez run every which way over the Wildcats defense, I could only think about who was coaching the team in purple. Bill Snyder! That guy from like way back in the 1990's. Not trying to wow you with analysis here, just really letting you know how much it still baffles me that he's their coach. I mean, imagine if Bobby Bowden started showing up on Florida State sidelines in 2013, how big of a national story that would be. And yet, it seems as if everyone just accepted that the namesake of the stadium was going to come back and coach and that would be that. 

I think it's crazy, at least.

Chase's Little Brother

K-State has had their fair share of quarterbacks over the years, including Josh Freeman who actually looks like he'll be a good NFL quarterback despite his collegiate numbers. Who would have guessed. However, this year's starter, Carson Coffman, isn't one to go into the program next to Michael Bishop. He completes a lot of passes and he has limited mistakes (for the most part) so far this season, which is all you can expect from a game manager-type like himself. However, he has a very awkward throwing motion, he doesn't throw the ball downfield all that often and he isn't a gamebreaker by any stretch of the definition. He's got some quicks in his legs and can run, but mostly just picks up chunks of yards due to the focus being paid to all-everything Daniel Thomas (more below). 

Still, he's not like Todd Collins back there either, slinging picks like it's his job. He's capable, if not dangerous. Productive, if not a delight to watch. Decently sized, if not Josh Freeman. Decently quick, if not Michael Bishop. 

I wanna see him get lit up once. Just once. Just to see it. 

Yeah, He's Pretty Good

Daniel Thomas is a big runningback. 6'2" and 228 pounds is a hefty load at all times, particularly when he lines up in the aptly named Wildcat. However, while he has a lot of talent and the entire offense is based on getting the football in his arms and he is a likely 2nd or 3rd round draft pick come April, one man can only do so much. His yards per carry has decreased in every game all season long, leaving it at a mediocre 2.9 average against the Big Red. Leave it to Chris Johnson, though, to explain how a low YPC doesn't necessarily say anything about the talent of the back. 

The problem, as I probably made clear in the Coffman section, is that there doesn't exist a deep threat in the Wildcat offense. Coffman can throw it some, but let's put it this way: more than half of Coffman's completions against Nebraska (8 of 14) were to Thomas himself. He's the focal point of the offense in every sense of the word, and while I'm hesitant to compare him to Robert Griffin from last game, that's what it reminds me of. He even takes a decent-sized chunk of snaps from the Wildcat to help out the comparison. 

And while I'm sure this is obvious, I figure I'll just repeat myself to make sure everyone's on the same page. The Key to the Game is to stop Daniel Thomas. The easiest way to do it is have Nebraska's defense; the second-easiest way, which was the strategy employed by Central Florida (who held him to only 3.5 yards a touch), is to load the box and sneak up the safeties. Don't go all-out to stop the run, just go all-out to stop the short passing game plus the running game, forcing Coffman and his funky delivery to beat you deep. Assuming we can cover their average receivers, we should have a gameplan to shut down Thomas and the gang. 

The Defense Is Probably Still Recovering from Taylor Martinez

Am I the only one who wishes we could start Kale Pick? I'm assuming he's still out of action, but after watching the admittedly awesome Taylor Martinez run every which way against the Wildcats last Thursday, I've convinced at least myself that Pick could put up a similar performance slicing and dicing as a runner. And it isn't even like Martinez put on a balanced display either; he threw 7 times while running 15. Kansas State has a good defense with some good players and has put up some good performances this season, but they appear to have issues with running quarterbacks. Kale Pick is a running quarterback. Not nearly as good as Martinez, but still athletic enough to pose some problems for the Wildcats, methinks.

But, anyways, I digress. Let's keep trotting Jordan Webb out there, our own version of a younger Chase Coffman in a sense, hoping for progress. He has played much better in the friendly confines of home, thus far, so maybe he'll show me up. And it isn't like we have a better option, at least with Pick injured. I've been a Pick believer since the beginning, though, and once healthy I wouldn't mind him getting another shot at the starting job, pending Webb's performance in the meantime.

In the Non-Running QB Division, This Defense Is Pretty Dang Good

Name to know: Emmanuel Lamur. No, not backup quarterback Samuel Lamur, starting safety Emmanuel Lamur. Only in Manhattan.

In addition to Lamur at the backend, David Garrett had an excellent game against Nebraska. Alex Hrebec and Blake Slaughter form the middle of the 4-2-5 defense the Wildcats use, with Brandon Harold leading the charge up-front after an injury-filled campaign in 2009. 

While their defense is pretty good as an overall unit, they struggle mightily against the run (as do we, in case that wasn't already abundantly clear). They rank 116th in run defense, giving up an average of 246 yards a game. Of course, the 451 surrendered to Nebraska and the lightning quick Taylor Martinez didn't help that average a whole lot. Naturally, they rank 14th against the pass, which makes sense considering the strength of the team is the secondary. This makes the gameplan fairly simple, and it includes a lot of handoffs. 

So Now That We're All Here

This is a game that we all want to win. After the sickening performance in Waco, dreams of a bowl game seem firmly planted outside, but this team can still pull off a win or three before the end of the season. This would be a fine time to grab one, what with it being a rivalry and all. I still think this is a winnable game, and Vegas agrees with making K-State only a 2.5 point favorite. Besides the season opener, we've played a lot better at home, and hopefully that trend continues tomorrow night. 

Still, despite all of the intangibles seeming to point our way, I don't think we're going to pull through with a victory. Daniel Thomas is talented enough to single-handedly carry the Wildcats against a below average defense like ours, and while we should be able to run the ball on them, I don't think it will be enough to pull out a victory.

Besides, they've got Old Man River on his second-go-around at head coach. I'm still amazed. And in his first time back at his second home during his first stint, I think he'll pull enough of the right strings to get the Wildcats another victory. Despite Carson Coffman and all of that.

Just don't tear our goalposts down this time.