Kansas State Preview

Anybody who says the Wildcats are winning with smoke-and-mirrors haven't seen Kansas State play. After all, since when has running the ball and playing run defense been some sort of trick?

There isn't any secret about what the Wildcats want to do offensively. They'll show teams a lot of different looks, but let's be honest: they're going to pound the ball on the ground, throw horizontally to relieve pressure in the box and throw over a defense's head when they least expect it. The approach has worked, as the Wildcats are rushing for 208.5 yards per game, scoring 35 points per game and perhaps most importantly, hold onto the ball for more than 10 minutes longer than their opponents on average. That trait has allowed Kansas State, which doesn't often make mistakes, as evidenced by the Wildcats' 13 turnovers in 10 games, to overcome any talent disadvantage they might have, as the Wildcats are actually being out-gained by 46 yards per contest.

Junior Collin Klein (6-5 226) has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in college football, and arguably the sport's most valuable player this year. Sound like hyperbole? Klein has rushed for 1,009 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry even with sacks counted in. His 24 touchdown runs is just three touchdowns behind Navy's Ricky Dobbs as the single-season record for rushing scores by a quarterback, and Klein still has three games left (assuming a bowl berth). He has a fullback-like ability to move the pile, and in case teams stack the box, he completes nearly 59 percent of his passes for a 10-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. How valuable is he? He's accounted for 69 percent of Kansas State's offensive yards and 34 of Kansas State's 40 offensive touchdowns.

That's not to say he doesn't have a little help, with most of it coming from sophomore John Hubert (5-7 185). Hubert might not be the biggest back, but he hits the hole with authority and displays some elusiveness and burst. He has rushed for 781 yards on 161 carries and has added two touchdowns on the ground. Hubert is also third on the team in catches. Angelo Pease (5-11 215) will also carry the ball, at times in the Wildcat. Fullback Braden Wilson (6-4 255) is among the best blocking backs in the country.

The Wildcat receiving corps has been bitten by the injury bug, with Brodrick Smith (6-1 209) and big-play freshman Tyler Lockett expected to miss the Texas game. Lockett is out for the season. Starter Chris Harper (6-1 225) is still available, and he has caught 37 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns. With Smith and Lockett out, Kansas State will need more from Tramaine Thompson (5-7 165) and Sheldon Smith (5-11 180). Tight end Andre McDonald (6-8 276) has been a big-play threat at times because he's expected to be more of a blocker.

The Wildcat offensive line has been excellent at paving the way in the run game, an interesting development in that most of the players were lightly recruited. The Wildcats don't have an especially big line, with just one player — left tackle Zach Hanson (6-8 313) — weighing more than 306 pounds. B.J. Finney (6-4 297) has had a nice redshirt freshman season at center. Colten Freeze (6-4 301) and Clyde Aufner (6-6 301) man the right side, while left guard Nick Puetz (6-4 306) fits between Finney and Hanson. This group has struggled at times to protect the passer, allowing 27 sacks.

Part of the Wildcats' strategy is also to stop the run, something that they've done pretty well. They outrush their opponents by more than 90 yards per game, and opposing teams average just 3.8 yards per carry against Kansas State. The passing defense hasn't been nearly as stout, with the Wildcats struggling to generate pressure and allowing 293.5 passing yards per game.

The defensive end trio of Jordan Voelker (6-3 250), Adam Davis (6-0 254) and Meshak Williams (6-3 245) have combined for 17 tackles for loss, while Williams and Voelker have 10 of the Wildcats' 16 sacks. Defensive tackle is a hodgepodge of transfers, with Vai Lutui (6-2 280) and Ray Kibble (6-4 305) standing out from the rest.

At linebacker, Arthur Brown (6-1 223) is having a big-time season. The Miami transfer and former five-star recruit has 78 tackles, 5.5 for loss, two sacks and an interception. He has played a bit nicked up in recent weeks, but hasn't seemed to lose his effectiveness. Emmanuel Lamur (6-4 225) shifted down from safety to linebacker, and he has also put together a nice season. Between those two and Tre Walker (6-3 222) — who saved the Miami game with a fantastic fourth-down stop — the Wildcats have three athletic linebackers who can really run.

The defensive backs have been the most maligned unit on the defense, though they've been opportunistic. Nigel Malone (5-10 176) ranks among the country's leaders with seven interceptions, and fellow cornerback David Garrett (5-8 175) is another playmaker. Ty Zimmerman (6-1 202) has continued his rise as one of the league's top young safeties. Tysyn Hartman (6-3 206) has been banged up, and might not be ready to go at the other safety spot.

Antony Cantele has been just OK as a field goal kicker, though he's made his last three. He has a big enough leg to convert from deep, as he nailed a 54-yarder against Oklahoma. Ryan Doerr averages 40 yards per punt, though half of his punts have been fair-caught. Lockett's absence hurts the return game, though Thompson is a capable punt returner.

This game should be interesting, not least of all because of the Wildcats' recent success against the Longhorns. But even moreso, it should be interesting in that both teams will try to do the exact same things: run the ball and stop the run. And may the best man win.

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