Currently winless in the Big 12 this season, the Kansas State Wildcats haven’t exactly been a pushover. Close losses to TCU and Oklahoma State show they have the ability to compete with the elite teams in the conference.
The Wildcats will get their chance yet again this Thursday to prove their worth by welcoming the No. 6-ranked Baylor Bears to Manhattan. Just like last season Baylor is already on the outside looking in regarding the College Football Playoff. Do not expect Bears coach Art Briles to take any team lightly moving forward.
Baylor at Kansas State
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Baylor -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Jarrett Stidham
The loss of starting quarterback Seth Russell to a neck injury is a significant blow for Baylor to say the least. Russell was having a stellar year, leading the most potent offense in the nation surpassing 2,000 yards passing and totaling 29 touchdown passes through seven games.
With Stidham, a true freshman, now tasked with leading the Bears for the rest of the season there are some unknowns moving forward. Luckily for Stidham, the Kansas State defense is prone to giving up a lot of points. However, the fact remains this will be his first collegiate start and it is in a pressure-packed situation. All eyes will be on him Thursday night.
2. Kansas State offense
Difficulty scoring is not a good problem to have when facing Baylor. Kansas State is coming off a loss to Texas in which no part of the offense was able to get on track. Quarterback Joe Hubener was only able to throw for 97 yards and the Wildcats ran for just 135 yards in the loss.
If Kansas State is to have a chance in this game, the Wildcats will have to find the magic that allowed them to score 34 points against Oklahoma State and 45 against TCU. Kansas State will likely need its best offensive effort of the season in order to make this a close game. The question is can the offense put it all together?
3. Expect Kansas State to force the pass
The Kansas State defense has a tendency to force mistakes. The Wildcats fill their lanes well and minimize mistakes. Expect Snyder's team to stay in a 4-3 defensive alignment but attempt to force Stidham to throw the ball by disguising coverages and utilizing corner blitzes.
The Wildcats usually always line up with two deep safeties. Do not be surprised to see those safeties to play closer to the line of scrimmage until the Bears can prove they can establish a passing game. Expect the Wildcats to contain the outsides and force Baylor into a physical inside run game. Slowing down the Bears' offense will be a necessity in this game.
There is a lot of intrigue surrounding this game. Kansas State has the ability to compete against the best the Big 12 has to offer although the Wildcats have not shown that lately. Baylor is being forced to start the Jarrett Stidham era a little sooner than expected. The Bears may rely heavily on their rushing attack this weekend led by Shock Linwood and his 8.1 yards per carry. Do not expect the Bears to put up as many points as they have been. There will be a transition period for Stidham to get comfortable. Regardless, Kansas State has not been able to find the end zone lately and the Baylor defense just doesn’t allow teams to keep up with their high-scoring offense.
Prediction: Baylor 45, Kansas State 20
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.