It’s time for another K-State Q&A.
Let’s jump right into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.
Let me start by saying Bill Snyder enters every game with the hope of running a balanced offense. Now, let me continue by saying K-State will be well served in this game throwing the ball.
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Auburn is a top 5 team for a reason. The Tigers are one of the nation’s best running teams, but they can also hurt you through the air. On defense, they barely allow 100 yards rushing per game. Don’t expect Jake Waters to run for 100-plus yards against this defense. Their weakness appears to be in the secondary, where they allow 214.5 passing yards per game. Last week, they allowed San Jose State to throw for 254 yards, giving up a 75-yard pass. Now, those aren’t terrible numbers. Auburn will feature the strongest pass defense K-State has seen this season. But it is still an average pass defense.
If Waters can find Tyler Lockett for some big gains and open up the field for Deante Burton and Curry Sexton, K-State’s offense will benefit. Of course, the Wildcats will also want to keep the Tigers honest by running the ball. Lockett went off on Texas and Oklahoma last year, but K-State lost both games, because it forgot all about John Hubert.
You can’t get much more balanced than that. I think K-State’s offense should do well and put up something close to its normal production against Auburn. The Tigers make it hard to run the ball, but the Wildcats aren’t afraid to throw it. The biggest thing for K-State will be getting off to a fast start. It hasn’t beaten a ranked nonconference opponent since Southern California in 2002, and slow starts hurt it every step of the way. Oregon scored on the first play of the 2012 Fiesta Bowl and Arkansas raced to a lead in the 2011 Cotton Bowl. The Wildcats had no choice but to abandon their balanced approach and throw in those games. Auburn has scored 30 or more points in 12 straight games. For K-State, playing from ahead or even will be a must.
K-State needs to improve in both areas to compete with Auburn, but since I can only choose one option I am going to pick run defense.
Ryan Mueller and the pass rush showed progress in the second half against Iowa State, coming up with key tackles behind the line of scrimmage and shutting out the Cyclones in the second half. And though K-State’s run defense has looked good so far, allowing 87 yards per game, it is yet to face a power running opponent. Auburn, which averages 330 rushing yards, presents a much greater challenge. Cameron Artis-Payne averages 144.5 yards, Corey Grant averages 88 yards, Nick Marshall averages 61 yards and Roc Thomas averages 51 yards. They should all touch the ball significantly against K-State. Auburn has produced a 100-yard rusher in eight consecutive games. Against San Jose State, it produced two. As a defense, who do you focus on? K-State’s front seven will need to be both physical and assignment sound.
The key will be limiting long gains. Take away one quarter at Iowa State and a handful of plays against Stephen F. Austin, and K-State has done a nice job in that area. But when the Wildcats have been slow or out of position, especially across the middle, things haven’t gone well. Stephen F. Austin had four plays go for 30-plus yards. Iowa State churned out 18-yard gains like a well-oiled machine scoring 28 straight points. The good news against Auburn is the quarterback scramble may not be a huge concern. Though Marshall is extremely mobile, Auburn is a running team. He will take off on designed runs more than delayed scrambles.
Jonathan Truman had an atrocious second quarter against Iowa State, but has looked solid otherwise. Will Davis will need to step up after making a combined eight tackles in his first two games and take pressure off his teammates. The defensive line will also need to make sound decisions in order to pressure the quarterback and clog up running lanes.
I asked defensive tackle Valentino Coleman about the challenge of defending Auburn. Here is what he said: “It’s their running game. That is something we definitely got to stop. If we contain Nick Marshall and make sure we limit his rushing yards, we feel like we will have a better chance of winning that game. If we get him throwing the ball then we will have a chance. You just have got to lift a little extra, eat a little more, work a little harder and do whatever it takes to get there, because they are going to bring it. We have to bring it, too, and match their intensity.”
Weather forecasts aren’t reliable that far out, and Weather.com currently projects a 20 percent chance of rain that day. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say it rains Thursday. The advantage would probably go to Auburn, because it averages 330 rushing yards.
From Rick, via e-mail:
I had fun watching Kansas State beat Miami (twice) and UCLA in recent out-of-league games, and I can’t wait for the Auburn game. I hope Kansas State gets to a point where it schedules an opponent like that every year. Do you see that happening?
I wrote about K-State scheduling earlier this week and the sense I got from athletic director John Currie was that he would be open to adding name opponents to the schedule, under the right circumstances. K-State likes to play all of its nonconference games at home in even years to offset five conference road games. But it is willing to play one game away from home in odd years when five conference games are at home.
The only name opponent currently on K-State’s future football schedules is Mississippi State, in 2018 and 2019. The 2015 schedule is set. But K-State is still looking for a game in 2016 (home) and 2017 (home, road or neutral). If the right opponent offers to play a home-and-home series those years, I could see the Wildcats going that route instead of scheduling two guarantee games. I could also see K-State adding a guarantee game in 2016 and playing a neutral-site game in 2017. Currie said K-State has been approached about playing in those before.
Bill Snyder’s preference is likely to play as many home games as possible, but a lot of variables play into those decisions. For the most part, I think K-State will continue to schedule the way it has, with the occasional big name sprinkled in.