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Keys to Victory: TCU at Kansas State

The last time these two teams met they delivered a classic in the Big 12 title game. I’m expecting another great game this year.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats have been a thorn in TCU’s side over the last 4 years. The two teams have met on the field 5 times, including the Big 12 Championship game last year, and Kansas State has won 4 of the matchups. The Frogs got the better of the Wildcats in the regular season in their 38-28 win, but outside of that TCU has struggled to find success against this team. Can TCU make it 2 straight regular season wins over Kansas State? Let’s get into it.

Kansas State Offense

The Wildcats have been solid on offense this season. They’re averaging 456 yards per game, ranking 21st in the country. The offense features a potent rushing attack that puts up 214 yards a game on the ground, and there’s potentially a new wrinkle added to the equation. Last week Will Howard was benched in favor of true freshman Avery Johnson and he rushed for 91 yards and 5 touchdowns on 12 carries. Head coach Chris Klieman has so far refused to say who will start on Saturday, and I expect we will see both quarterbacks in some fashion.

The strength of this Kansas State team has been its offensive line. The Wildcats returned all 5 of their starters from last year’s team, and the ground game has thrived because of it. This will be the biggest test of the season for TCU’s front 7, and could possibly determine the outcome of the game. Kansas State has also only allowed 8 sacks on the year. TCU will have to create pressure to give themselves a chance to win this game.

The most important thing in this game for both teams will be creating explosive plays. Currently, Kansas State ranks 56th in the nation in explosive plays (plays over 20 yards) with 32 on the season. On the other side, TCU ranks 77th with 30 explosive plays allowed on the year. An interesting thing to note is that 24 of Kansas State’s explosive plays have come in the passing game. The TCU pass defense has been the biggest issue for this team so far, and they’ll need to be much better on Saturday if TCU is to come away with a win.

Kansas State Defense

This Kansas State defense has not been great on the year. The Wildcats are giving up 373 yards per game, ranking 69th nationally. They are 22nd against the run, but 115th against the pass! This is why I think Josh Hoover is the key to the game for TCU. If Hoover plays like he did against BYU last week it should be a big day for the TCU offense. I expect the run game to struggle to find success against this defense. The Wildcats also rank 21st in tackles for loss with 46 on the season.

Linebacker Austin Moore leads the defense in tackles with 38, and he’s been getting better as the season has gone on. Expect to hear his name in the run game on Saturday. The most important player to watch on this Kansas State defense is edge player Khalid Duke. Duke has 5 sacks on the year and 7 tackles for loss. This defense has struggled to create turnovers on the year, creating just 7 takeaways so far. Safety Kobe Savage leads the team with 2 interceptions. If the Horned Frogs can take care of the football on Saturday they should be able to put up points in this game.

As mentioned earlier, I think this game is going to come down to the explosive play battle. I’m expecting a bunch of points from both teams, and I think it’ll be close going into the fourth quarter. This is where I give TCU the edge. Kansas State has allowed 29 explosive plays on the year which ranks 69th. On the other side, TCU ranks 19th in explosive plays with 39 on the year. Of the 39 explosive plays, 29 have come in the passing game. With the emergence of Josh Hoover, this TCU passing game looks like it has finally found its stride. I’m not going to pass judgment based on 1 performance, but the potential for Hoover to have another huge game is there on Saturday. If TCU can hit at least one like the play below, I really like their chances on Saturday.