MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State and Texas are teams heading in opposite directions.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
The Wildcats have bounced back well from an opening loss with back-to-back wins and seem to have their running game back on track just in time for the start of Big 12 play.
The Longhorns have lost back-to-back games in embarrassing fashion (they let BYU and Mississippi combine for more than 800 rushing yards) and it seems like everyone and their dog is calling for longtime coach Mack Brown to resign.
It would seem as though K-State is catching Texas at the right time. There is one amazing soap-opera going down in Austin right now. But maybe this is the week the Longhorns figure out how to defend the zone read. Las Vegas oddsmakers clearly think that much is possible, as they have made Texas a four-point favorite.
One thing is for sure: This is a very important game for both teams. The winner will start the Big 12 season with a victory and pick up valuable momentum heading into important stretches. The loser will need to climb out of a hole. K-State has shown progress in its past two games, but the Wildcats dont have much room for error at 2-1 with a trip to Oklahoma State up next. Texas is already in a world of hurt at 1-2. You have to wonder if players would quit on Brown after another loss.
Here is a look at everything else you need to know about the week ahead:
K-State has won five straight over Texas dating back to 2006. (Side note: How wild is it that former coach Ron Prince got the streak going with home and away wins?) Fans value the streak immensely, and chant We own Texas at the conclusion of each victory. Can the Wildcats make it six in a row at 7 p.m. on Saturday? They pounded the Longhorns 42-24 last year. But this game will be in Austin. It will be televised nationally on ABC with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit calling the action.
This isnt your older brothers Texas team. It has a losing record, it isnt ranked, its fans boo its coach at home and it cant stop the run. The Longhorns enter Saturdays game with the 121st ranked rushing defense, allowing nearly 309 yards per game. K-States defense has been inconsistent in its first three games, but it has shined by comparison.
Texas has been up and down on offense, averaging a solid 493 yards per game. But starting quarterback David Ash may miss Saturdays game. He did not attend the Ole Miss game while he was recovering from a concussion. His playing status remains questionable, but Brown said he may start practicing again this week. If he cant play, Case McCoy will see most of the action at quarterback but Tyrone Swoopes could also play.
In other injury news (by the way, Texas and K-State discuss injuries VERY differently) Texas receiver Daje Johnson wont play against K-State. Mike Davis (WR), Mason Walters (G) and Josh Cochran (RT) are also questionable.
K-State should be able to run the ball well on Texas, especially if Daniel Sams sees increased action. Its challenge will be slowing down Texas on offense. The Wildcats struggled to stop Massachusetts at times and couldnt get off the field when it mattered against North Dakota State. The Longhorns have much more fire power. Ole Miss didnt allow Texas to score in the second half. Can K-State do the same?
Bill Snyder admits that wont be easy.
I just see them getting close to playing as capable as theyre playing, Snyder said, because they can be a tremendously gifted football team.
Depth Chart Update
K-State didnt make a single change to its depth chart. That doesnt mean Snyder wont throw any new players at Texas. It just means he didnt change the depth chart. This is normal practice at K-State. I was somewhat surprised the depth chart changed after the first two games.
Anyone remember when K-State linebacker Tre Walker questioned the Longhorns toughness at Big 12 media day and said the Longhorns typically laid down against the Wildcats?
At least one Texas player did.
Asked if questioning Texas toughness as KStates Tre Walker said in July was legitimate knock, Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat: No. #statesman
kbohls (@kbohls) September 16, 2013
K-State players, including Walker, were very respectful of Texas following the Massachusetts game. They all said they expect a difficult game. College football changes week to week. They arent paying much attention to its recent struggles.
Also worth pointing out: Texas players might not have much interaction with Walker. He has been relegated to run-stopping packages and has seen action mostly on special teams this season.
On Monday, Snyder was asked about the improvements K-State has made since losing to North Dakota State in late August.
His answer: I dont think weve made a dramatic turnaround. I just think its been gradual progress. We still make a plethora of mistakes in all facets of the game. The consistency has been maybe the biggest issue.
When I think as weve become a little bit more consistent with our play, then that translates itself into gradual improvement, and I think thats the direction that were headed. Weve become a little more consistent and weve made a little bit more improvement, so were moving in the right direction.
How close is Mack Brown to the point of no return at Texas? Very close.
So close that his days at Texas already appear numbered.
What did Brown have to say about being booed over the weekend? I might boo me right now.
K-State cornerback Kip Daily is your Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after coming up with two interceptions against Massachusetts.
In a re-ranking of all 125 FBS teams, K-State sits 20 spots ahead of Texas at No. 38.