From The Other Side: Kansas State

Each week, will dig deeper into the opponent by interviewing a media member from the opposing team. This week Jon Morse, of of SBNation, helps us learn more about the Kansas State Wildcats.

This week, BearsIllustrated caught up with Managing Editor, Jon Morse, to answer questions regarding the upcoming game against the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday, December 6th, at McLane Stadium. This game will be televised nationally on ESPN on Saturday, at 6:45 PM. Both teams are vying for a share of the Big 12 Championship and a possible spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Come inside The Bear Pit, as we discuss this matchup, and the keys to this monster game!

--- Talk about Jake Waters’ improvement throughout the year. How has he grown as QB from the beginning of the season?

Honestly, most of Waters' growth was last season and in the off-season. We haven't really seen a great deal from Waters that we didn't see in the bowl game against Michigan last year. That said, he's definitely improved his running ability, and he seems to do a much better job checking down to secondary targets.

That latter change is something that has happened over the course of the year; early on, he was still probably leaning too hard on "find Lockett". Since then, as I'm sure most folks are aware at this point, his working relationship with Curry Sexton has developed enough to make Sexton a legitimate #2 threat. Last year, Sexton was rarely more than Wes Welker-lite. He still serves that purpose this year, being the guy Waters looks for six inches beyond the sticks when a first down is necessary, but he's become more comfortable hitting Sexton in the open field now as well.

--- Tyler Lockett has been one of the most electric WRs in the country this year. He needs one TD to break his fathers record. Talk about the impact his made on this program, and what makes him so dangerous in this offense.

Most importantly, Lockett's impact on this program is psychological. When a fanbase is eagerly awaiting 2020 so that they can rejoice in the announcement of another Lockett committing to K-State, that's something worth framing.

I say that's most important because while Lockett is indeed electric, it's not as if K-State hasn't had that sort of player on offense before. But the combination of the fanbase's love for him and his entire family along with that playmaking ability has really put a stamp on the program.

What makes him so dangerous is twofold. Obviously, his ability as a kick returner is off the charts. Any time you kick the ball to Tyler Lockett, he is a legitimate threat to score a touchdown. As a receiver, although he does have some flaws -- a penchant for catching the ball with his chest rather than his hands being the main one, and that cost K-State dearly in the Auburn game -- he's superb at running routes and putting the double-move on corners. It's no exaggeration: over half a dozen times in the past two years he's completely juked a DB out of his shoes to catch and score on a long pass play, and two of his victims last year went in the first round of the draft.

--- KSU has lost some defensive starters. Talk about the defense as a whole and what they will try to do to slow down the Baylor offense.

Here's the amazing thing about the K-State defense this year. No one or two players are really standing out as the stars, but if you've been watching the team all year you can look at the field on Baylor's first offensive series and start pointing at guys. At least nine of those guys, you'll be able to say "Yeah, he's solid." Ryan Mueller and Travis Britz are still there up front, Jonathan Truman's still anchoring the middle, and Dante Barnett's still out there patrolling the backfield. But there's also Jordan Willis, Valentino Coleman, Dakorey Johnson, Morgan Burns, and the hard-hitting beast Danzel McDaniel.

The only "weak" spots are at the other safety position, where Dylan Schellenberg has quietly improved over the year to be better than adequate, and the third linebacker position, which has been a bit of a revolving door. But even then, on passing downs that third linebacker comes off and is replaced with true freshman Elijah Lee, who's been a terror this year.

I think the key to slowing Baylor down is just going to be more of the same from last year, only with slightly better athletes and another year to work on the problem. Pressure on the quarterback, solid coverage, and being mindful of the run.

--- It’s no surprise that a Bill Snyder coached team is in this position, heading in to the final game of the season. Coach Snyder is a HOF coach. It seems that KSU has kind of flown under the radar. How does Coach Snyder approach this game, in getting his team up to play in primetime.

It's just another football game to him. At least that's the card he plays. There's always been a question as to whether Snyder's approach actually hurts in games like these -- not from the perspective of his own preparation, but the impact it has on the team. Twenty-year-old guys are not going to just take a deep breath and think this game is just like playing UTEP. They say all the right things, but you know they're excited. The question is whether they're tamping down their own excitement too much, or whether they're actually fighting that excitement to keep their focus where Snyder wants it and thus losing energy.

But ultimately in the long run the approach works week-to-week. The core principles of a Snyder team are discipline, focus, preparation, and execution. So if you keep the guys in check and they do those things, they'll do well. Occasionally it all falls apart, but that's usually because the other team's thrown a wrinkle out there that the team just wasn't quite ready for.

--- Kansas State enters this game with an opportunity to win a share of the Big 12 Championship and outside shot at the CFP. How do you see this game playing out and do you see the Wildcats being victors on Saturday?

First, this is actually a very weird position for the Wildcats. Usually if they've got a big game like this it's a "win and your fate is clear" situation. But we don't know what reward K-State would get for a win Saturday, other than the certainty of a New Year's Six bowl. There's that outside shot at sliding into the playoff at stake, and to be honest there's never been a time in K-State history where there's been such a huge "maybe" facing the team when they take the field. Even if all the right things happen prior to Saturday night, there's still the ACC title game lurking out there unresolved.

I normally have a gut feeling this late in the week. I don't this week, and in large part I think that's got to do with Bryce Petty's status. I think it's entirely possible Baylor blows K-State out. I think it's entirely possible it's a close game, with either team liable to win.

If Petty's out, or if he plays and he's still rattled, advantage K-State. But that's not something K-State can control. So the key to this game for K-State, full stop, is whether they can actually establish a running game or, barring that, a short passing game which serves the same drive-churning function. If they can do that Baylor may be in trouble. If not it's going to be a long night for the Wildcats.

The best of all possible worlds for the Big 12 would be a narrow K-State victory -- one which prevents Baylor from falling out of the top ten. That's what I'm hoping for, but assuming Petty plays I don't have the gut feel to call it. I think Baylor probably wins a close one.

BearsIllustrated wants to thank Jon Morse for taking the time to answer questions. Baylor fans be sure to follow Jarrett at Bring On The Cats for all information on Wildcat Football leading up to the 6:45 PM kickoff on Saturday, December 6th in Waco, Texas.

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