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Wizards, Wildcats, and Wily Veterans: TCU and Kansas State Square Off

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The Frogs hope to avenge their worst loss of a season ago as they travel to Manhattan to take on the Wildcats.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Next stop on the TCU Revenge Tour: The Little Apple. In my opinion, the Frogs will try and avenge the most embarrassing loss of the 2016 campaign.

Kansas State will be without veteran QB Jesse Ertz Saturday, but that doesn’t mean that TCU can overlook the Wildcats. With redshirt sophomore Alex Delton under center, the Cats offense is still dangerous, especially on the ground. The KSU defense is a top unit in the conference as well, surrendering just 20 points and less than 400 yards per game.

Let’s take a closer look.

OFFENSE:

Newly inserted starting QB Alex Delton replaces Jesse Ertz, and while he is a dynamic athlete, he isn’t as accomplished throwing the ball as Ertz. Delton has 11 career passing attempts with five completions after going 2-5 against Texas last week. He’s dynamic in the ground game though, as he torched a solid Longhorns front for 79 yards on 12 carries with a pair of scores in directing them to Double OT. Snyder vacillated between his two QBs through overtime, but at that point, it was Delton’s show. Behind Delton are running backs Justin Silmon and Alex Barnes, neither of who have gotten going so far in 2017. The pair have combined for 71 carries and just under 400 total yards. With Ertz out of the lineup and no real backup at QB, expect the backs to get a much heavier load against the Horned Frogs.

When Delton does drop back to pass - and even with Ertz, the Cats were averaging only 21.5 attempts per game, the lowest by far of any team in the conference, he will have a couple intriguing targets to throw to. Former walk-on Dalton Schoen had a huge game against Texas, while Isaiah Zuber (20 receptions, 227 yards, and two TDs) and Byron Pringle (7-174-1) haven’t really gotten going so far. Pringle torched TCU a season ago with six catches for over 100 yards and a score.

The offensive line has been good, the Cats average over five yards per carry and have allowed just eight sacks on the year. But with the running ability of the two QBs, that’s to be expected.

It’s a fascinating matchup between the conference’s #3 rushing attacking and it’s #1 rush defense. The Wildcats are one of the worst offenses in the Big 12, barely beating out Baylor in total yards per game but they’re still averaging over 35 points per game.

DEFENSE:

The Kansas State defense is the same as always; efficient, steady, and not prone to beating themselves. They are number two in scoring defense in the conference, number two in total defense, and the Big 12’s best against the pass (of course, they haven’t really played a good passing team in 2017). They have an excellent secondary that allows just 226 yards per game, and they’ve hauled in 5 picks and accumulated 19 PBUs already.

DJ Reed, Kendall Adams, and Duke Shelley are all really good players for the KSU secondary, but the defensive ends have yet to record a sack and the linebacking unit is a weakness. The Cats don’t have an elite pass rusher and haven’t played a strong running game yet, so they will be tested against the Frogs’ elite rushing attack.

Leading tackler Trent Tanking is a 6’2” junior linebacker, weighing in at 225 pounds. He doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the Frogs shifty wide receivers, so it will be interesting to see what kind of routes Sonny Cumbie employs with his slot guys. I would also expect to see a lot of jet sweeps, screens, and the like, trying to get guys in space and dare the Cats to try and tackle them. Tanking pairs up with another senior, 6’2” Jayd Kirby, who clocks in at 222 pounds, and was initially a Kansas commit out of Navarro Junior College.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Always a strength for Bill Snyder’s team, the Cats will look to their special teams unit to make the momentum shifting play Saturday morning. With kicker Matthew McCrane leading the charge (he’s 10-13 on field goals this year with a long of 54, and punter Nick Walsh off to a strong start as well (average of 42 yards, long of 58, one touchback, 11 fair catches, and seven downed inside the 20), the kicking game is strong.

DJ Reed is averaging more than 16 yards per return in the punt game and double that on kick returns. He has a punt return touchdown and a long of 96 on kick returns. Kick it deep, Cole Bunce.

Predictions:

You look at the stats and the metrics and the line and you think ‘TCU should be just fine Saturday’. But you look at the history of these two teams, the track record of Bill Snyder, and acknowledge that the Wildcats won’t make a lot of mistakes and won’t beat themselves, and it becomes a very scary game on the road.

TCU has more talent at a couple key positions - namely QB, RB, and WR. But the K State defense is really good, and the burden will be on the Frogs’ offense to not make mistakes and not turn the ball over. TCU’s defense will have a heavy task against the running attack of the Cats, especially Alex Delton, who is slippery as a runner and shows good patience in identifying and attacking the hole.

I think it’s an even matchup in a lot of ways, but ultimately, TCU prevails by a score of 31-24.