Well, here we go again.
Another week, another winnable game, but one that feels anything but a guarantee.
This game is only a three point spread in favor of the Wildcats, and a lot of that is simply home field advantage. But anyone that has watched the Horned Frogs this season can’t feel confident heading into the Little Apple when the home team is coming off of a momentum-building come from behind win and the visitors got their asses handed to them by a not good West Virginia team on their home field AT HOMECOMING and with a night kickoff to boot.
And then you remember that Deuce Vaughn is a thing and Skylar Thompson is back and, well...
... here we go.
The Wildcats are a much better team with Skylar Thompson behind center, and the super senior QB has put together one of the finest stretches of his career in October despite dealing with a knee injury that would have kept most in position off the field for considerably longer. He’s completing 72% of his passes in conference play and has thrown six touchdowns against just one interception against Big 12 competition, having crested the 1,000 yard mark in passing yards already. His previous career high for completion percentage was just 62.5%, so this new, more accurate Skylar has made the K State offense much more potent and less predictable.
Thompson looks for three main targets in the passing game: running back Deuce Vaughn (a team-high 30 receptions for just over 300 yards and three touchdowns), Phillip Brooks (25/316/2), and Malik Knowles (18/226/1), with only one other player having recorded double digit catches — Landry Weber, with 11/166/1. Vaughn is still a major threat in the running game as well, and though his numbers don’t pop off the page like they did a year ago, he still has 595 yards, seven touchdowns, and is averaging almost five yards a clip. And, of course, he has the speed to break one every time he touches the ball, which is not a good sign for a TCU defense that loves letting guys pick up chunks of yardage after contact.
The Cats somehow average 27 points a game, and while the offensive line hasn’t been infallible, they have allowed just nine sacks and helped their team put together a staggering 10-12 conversion rate on fourth down attempts. This is a pretty balanced offense that is averaging just over 200 yards passing per game and another 150 on the ground — but against a TCU defense allowing 450 yards a game — just ahead of Kansas in the conference! — well, expect those numbers to rise.
Kansas State isn’t the most athletic or talented defense the Frogs will face this year, but the players understand their assignments and execute them more often than not.
They’re allowing 24 points per game and are vulnerable to the big play, with opponents accumulating big yardage on the ground and via the passing game. But they get to the quarterback — 18 sacks on the season — they’re solid in short yardage, and they force about a turnover a game.
Defensive end Felix Anudike has been a PROBLEM, with six sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss already. The sophomore has also forced two fumbles and looked like an absolute star in 2021. The secondary has been vulnerable to the big play but locked down a talented Texas Tech receiving corp in the second half last weekend, and the trio of Russ Yeast, Ross Elder, and Justin Gardener are certainly serviceable. Opportunities will exist, but TCU will have to play much better on offense — and the line will need to you know, block, if Max Duggan and QJ are going to have a chance to repeat their performance in Norman as opposed to whatever that was in the second half Saturday. With 42 tackles for loss, the Cats are going to look to live in the backfield. And with what we have seen this season, they’ll likely really muck things up for the Horned Frogs.
Kansas State isn’t exactly good, but they’re pretty well coached, they play hard, and their fundamentals are solid. They aren’t going to beat themselves, and they’re pretty good at lulling their opponents into doing exactly that.
Plus, the Frogs certainly don’t look motivated and/or inspired these days, we have a losing record in Manhattan, and Skylar Thompson is playing well.
This is not a road game that ends well, in my opinion.
Kansas State 34, TCU 24.