TCU looks to get to 6-0 on Saturday when they square off against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas. The Wildcats aren’t who we all thought they were, i.e. Big 12 Championship contenders, now that they’ve lost a close game to Texas. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re someone TCU can overlook. It’s never an easy task to wander into KSU territory and come away with a W, but the Frogs have the upper hand, with Kansas State’s QB, Jesse Ertz, injured.
1. Stop the Run
With Ertz injured, Kansas State will start backup quarterback Alex Delton. Delton has only attempted five passes on the season, completing two of them for 30 yards. He has, however, run for 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Couple that with lead back Alex Barnes’ 5.1 yards per carry, and Kansas State has a decent running threat. Of course, Ertz was also the team’s leading rusher, but it appears as if Delton’s legs are a threat as well.
If TCU can force Delton to beat them through the air, the Frogs may have a good shot at keeping Kansas State’s offense one dimensional, and very beatable.
2. Establish the Run/Play Action
Kansas State is probably the best defense against the run that TCU has faced yet this season. They’re allowing 3.6 yards per carry, and just 129 yards on the ground per game. TCU’s ground game struggled somewhat against West Virginia, even though the Frogs finished with 170 rushing yards on the day and two rushing touchdowns. That 170 yards was about 60 yards below their season average to that point, and they were facing a rush defense in the Mountaineers that had allowed significant rushing yardage to that point.
This can be credited to WVU’s 3-3 front, which has always given TCU difficulty, as well as some of the blitzes West Virginia threw at TCU’s offensive line. You can bet that Kansas State has been watching that film, and has some defensive strategies in place to try and stifle TCU’s running game in a similar manner.
But, we saw how critical the running game is to TCU’s offense on Saturday. They need to establish it early on Saturday, to help open up the passing game for Kenny Hill. Obviously, losing Patrick Morris was a big blow to the offensive line, but the unit, now with a game under its belt, is hopefully better prepared to block in the running game.
3. Don’t give up big plays
TCU’s defense has given up touchdowns of 86, 76, 64, 61, 58, 49, and 34 yards this season. While it seems they’re susceptible to the big play (one of those TDs was a trick play), it’s something they need to work on moving forward.
Kansas State’s offense isn’t exactly “explosive,” but they still managed an 82 yard touchdown pass against Texas last week, and had several big plays against their non-conference foes not named Vanderbilt. TCU should be working to making KSU a one-dimensional passing offense on Saturday, and if they buckle down in the secondary then Kansas State’s offense hopefully won’t be able to do much.
4. Win by one
Weird things happen in Manhattan. In 2015 TCU went into Manhattan as the No. 2 team in the country, looking like a playoff darling with Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin. Aaron Green snapped off a huge touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, and from there, 3-2 Kansas State dominated the first half. It took everything TCU had to come back and grind out a win, despite being huge favorites.