Game Week #11: Kansas State Wildcats

"Who are we?" "The Wildcats!" "Who are we going to beat?" "The Wildcats!" - Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

After losing to an FCS team to start the season the defending Big 12 champions have found a dominant streak, blowing out teams that TCU lost to or struggled with. This could get ugly, we study causes for concern and areas of hope.

With bowl eligibility on the line in Manhattan, TCU will try to win back to back games for the first time since Casey Pachall went to rehab (yeah, that makes me sad too).  It will be a tall order on the road in Manhattan, as the Kansas State Wildcats have made steady improvements and found a serious groove of late which has seen them tear through their schedule after a very tight loss to Baylor.  It's not the end of the world for the Wildcats if they lose (they get a struggling OU at home and end the season with Kansas), but they'd like to lock up the best possible bowl bid and finish the season on a hot streak to boost poll position for next year.  Let's see how they stack up.

Series at a glance

First game 1922
Last game in Manhattan: TCU 35, KSU 22 in 1986
Series is tied 3-3
TCU is 1-2 in Manhattan and 2-1 in Fort Worth
After Kansas State's first ever win in Fort Worth, the Frogs will head to Manhattan for the first time in the Bill Snyder era.  Coach Patterson is also making just his second trip back to coach against his alma mater after playing for the Wildcats until 1983, so emotions are likely to be running high on Saturday (even higher than Patterson's emotions usually run).

Kansas State on Offense

Kansas State runs a varied offense, doing some one back four receiver spreads, some two back pistol formations while also taking some snaps under center.  Where their offense doesn't vary is that no matter the formation, the Wildcats will run the ball a ton.  Kansas State has run the ball at least 37 times in each of their games, often going far over that number- including an insane 58 rushes against Baylor.  Kansas State is a bit similar to TCU at the start of the season, running a two quarterback system with Jake Waters as the primarily throwing quarterback and Daniel Sams as the running quarterback.  Also like TCU, the Wildcats run a very similar offense no matter which quarterback is behind center, but that's where the similarities end, as Kansas State runs the ball with either quarterback and does it well while TCU throws the ball with either quarterback, even though only one of them is any good at it.  Since Baylor, the Wildcats haven't thrown more than 22 times in a game, but they make up for it by being efficient, completing over 60% of their passes for over 7 yards per attempt in each of their last three games.  Daniel Sams is generally the superior runner of the two with a beefy 5.8 ypc average, but Jake Waters has come on lately running for at least 5.8 ypc in each of the last three games, and comes out pretty solid when you factor in the sack yards that he accrues as the Wildcats leading passer.  The TCU similarities don't stop with the quarterbacks however, as in the backfield for KSU there is a senior diminutive bowling ball of a running back with speed and nice hands.  Once again the similarities stop there as Kansas State actually uses their Waymon James facsimilie (they call him John Hubert) to run the ball a lot, running 137 times with a 5.5 ypc average.  Basically Kansas State is going to run the offense that TCU should have been running all year in our face.  I'm going to be bummed.

Kansas State on Defense

In my preseason picks I was significantly down on Kansas State this year due to the decimation of last years wonderful defense from graduation.  Ty Zimmerman was the only key returner from last year's defense (you may remember him as the safety who was injured against TCU, and ended up being the key reason why Baylor was able to beat the Wildcats so thoroughly) and as good as he was in pass coverage and run support there wasn't a lot else to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball for the wildcats.  Enter DE Ryan Mueller.  A former walk on, Mueller has been the Big 12 defensive player of the week for each of the last two weeks, is the current sack leader this season, had 15 tackles for a loss and has forced three fumbles.

And this week he gets to go against TCU's offensive line.  Poor damn Casey.  The good news is that Kansas State won't bring a ton of extra pressure against the Frogs as their linebacker play has been a bit substandard so far this year and the Wildcats will likely try to keep them clean to make plays and drop into coverage rather than sending them on blitzes- though really, it's not like TCU is going to try to run the ball at this point.  Zimmerman is the leader of the KSU secondary and it's a good one, dropping into a variety of zones and forcing throws into tight windows, which is pretty much ideal when you have the conference's likely defensive player of the year forcing passes to come out early (again, think of TCU but this time think back to when we had Fields last year.  Good times) so the Wildcats can either tip or get in position to make tackles quickly.  Still, an offense that generates consistent pressure can get off some big plays on the wildcats, as Baylor evidenced with three pass completions over 50 yards.  The question is can TCU get that kind of play from their wide receivers without first making the Wildcats respect the runs that don't come?  The answer to that question is very likely the same answer to "Will TCU beat the Wildcats on Saturday?"- it's possible, but I wouldn't bet on it.

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