Both teams come into this contest with a lot of hunger, but this will also be a game of two teams searching for an identity. Only one of the struggling squads can prevail in this pivotal Big 12 North matchup, and I say give the slight advantage to the traveling team.
Player of the Game on offense: Running back Leon Patton
Patton is coming into his own, and has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the first three starts of his young career. In those two games, which were against Oklahoma State and Missouri, he combined for 575 all-purpose yards. The offensive line appears to be coming together, and Patton will have a solid day rushing for the Wildcats.
Player of the Game on defense: Defensive end Ian Campbell
With safety Marcus Watts out for the season with an injury, the defensive line is going to have to step up and disrupt opposing quarterbacks because of the hit to the secondary. Campbell is leading the Big 12 Conference in tackles for loss with 14 and tied for the conference lead in sacks with nine on the season. He will need to be his disruptive self if the Wildcats plan on slowing down the Iowa State offensive attack.
Surprise contributor: Running back James Johnson
Johnson went into coach Ron Prince's office and asked him if he could take over the gunner duties for Watts. Prince liked the fact that Johnson came to him and asked for the job, so Prince will try him out at the position. Johnson will line up across the field from wide receiver Yamon Figurs when Tim Reyer sets back to punt. His job is to make the initial contact on the punt returner, and we will see how that plays out Saturday. He will also see extensive playing time at running back a week after he finally lived up to his billing as one of the top junior college transfers. He rushed for 127 yards on 20 carries last week and a touchdown, and I expect more of the same from the junior.
Player you shouldn't expect too much out of: Quarterback Josh Freeman
Freeman has shown no signs of becoming a halfway decent quarterback since his come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma State three weeks ago. He is consistently overthrowing his receivers deep and under throwing them on the short patterns, which is basically why former starter senior Dylan Meier lost his job. Freeman will continue to struggle, and will be lucky if he can find the endzone threw the air.
Three keys to a Wildcat victory:
Don't let Meyer get into space – The Wildcat defense knows that Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer is dangerous if he gets out of the pocket. He is one of those quarterbacks that like to roll out, and the play calling will represent that. The defensive ends will need to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket and forcing him out of his comfort level.
Freeman needs to find the endzone – The running game was awoken last week with Patton and Johnson both eclipsing the 100-yard mark, but Freeman cannot seem to find his game yet. He has only started three games, but he needs to stop throwing interceptions (7 this season) and start throwing touchdown passes (0).
Forget the last few weeks – K-State has lost four of its last five games after starting the season 3-0, but the one thing the team needs to remember is nothing that has happened matters right now. The only thing that matters is the number two. That is how many wins the Wildcats need to find in the last four weeks in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2003. Iowa State has no conference wins so far, and K-State will get one step closer if it can take down the Cyclones on Homecoming night.
Final Score: KSU 17, ISU 21
This is a battle of two teams that do not know how to win football games, and I see Iowa State pulling out a close one. Patton and Johnson will provide solid contributions, but Meyer and running back Stevie Hicks will be too much for the Wildcats to handle.