TCU and Kansas State, united through purple ties, are kindred spirits in a lot of ways. They've both had to recruit overlooked talent to build steady programs. They both have coaches that have become living legends in their communities. They both pride themselves on playing hard-nosed defense. And most years they both had to just cross their fingers and hope the offense could do enough to win ballgames for them.
Personally, I love the Kansas State matchup. It's like looking in a mirror in a lot of ways. Two teams with a built-in chip on their shoulder. Two teams full of guys who didn't get the offer from the "big school." We should cherish that while it lasts, because that concept is quickly fading for TCU, and when it does, the K-State matchup will be less like staring in a mirror and more like encountering a long-lost friend, one who's getting by but can't ever seem to catch the big break.
The Last Time They Met
The Frogs and Wildcats fought hard, for a little while. A matchup of top-10 teams started with a lot of promise, hope for a heavyweight battle, but it wound up as a lopsided victory for TCU, with a garbage time touchdown from Kansas State making the score, 41-20, look closer than the game actually was.
Of course, this was the game with not one, but two incredible plays by TCU. First, the #BoykinFlip:
And second, one of the most impressive runs by Aaron Green all season:
Kansas State in 2015
If you haven't yet, you should read Bill Connelly's Kansas State preview. It's great work.
The biggest thing to know about Kansas State is that they have to replace their leading passer and rusher from 2014, in quarterback Jake Waters. Waters accumulated 4,159 yards and 31 touchdowns over the course of the season, a great effort that becomes even greater when you consider that the K-State offensive line was rather terrible for the majority of the season. As Connelly states:
Adjusting for opponent, the Wildcats were in the bottom 20 in both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate. Opponents made a ton of stops behind the line, and KSU converted a pretty poor number of its short-yardage opportunity. The stats were so bad that there's no way the line came away unscathed there. And if you watched the Auburn game, you saw the line getting completely manhandled by a line that was athletic but wasn't actually that effective in other games.
That KSU returns four linemen who have combined for 81 career starts isn't a bad thing. But with a new quarterback and receiving corps, the line is going to have to come up awfully big. Can it?
The return of Charles Jones should help the offense early on, but Joe Hubener and the offensive line will need to get up to speed in a hurry if Kansas State wants to find themselves near the top of the Big 12 standings late in the season.
Of course, this requires that Kansas State also recovers from losing their two 1,000+ yard receivers from 2014, Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton.
After a terrible, Baylor-level-easy non-conference schedule (South Dakota, UTSA, Louisiana Tech), things get difficult in a hurry for the Wildcats. They face off against Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma, and Texas in four consecutive weeks, before having a bye to prepare for a Thursday night battle against Baylor. This quick crescendo in schedule difficulty could make it hard on Hubener and a defense that is replacing quite a bit in the secondary for the second consecutive season.
Fortunately for Kansas State, if they can make it through that tough stretch 3-2 (hopefully not at TCU's expense), they could be in pretty good position in the conference standings. They finish the season against Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, and West Virginia, and from there, they'll wait and see where they stand.
Score Prediction: TCU 45, Kansas State 21
I see this game playing out in similar fashion to 2014. TCU gets out ahead early, thanks to a great passing game from Boykin and some stellar runs, and the defense, which has started to find itself at this point in the season, locks things down for the majority of the game before allowing a few 4th quarter touchdowns to make things look closer than they were.