The Iowa State Cyclones and Kansas State Wildcats have both fought and clawed hard all season to get to where they are. Both teams have seven wins on the year and have proven to be tough outs every week. The future looks bright for both programs, as both have young-yet-capable coaching staffs.
Right now, however, an eighth win with a possible finish in the Top 25 to improve bowl status is all that matters for both teams. That's what on the line Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas.
Iowa State at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa State -4.5
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The Cyclone offense lives and dies with quarterback Brock Purdy. He is a solid passer who spreads the ball all over the field to a talented group of skill players. He's not a textbook dual-threat quarterback, but he's not afraid to take off with the ball when the situation calls for it — especially near the goal line (8 rushing touchdowns).
Ideally, Kansas State wants to force Purdy to scramble as often as possible in order to shorten the game and avoid giving up explosive plays to his talented receiving corps. If you see the defensive line penetrating the pocket consistently in the early part of the game — while the linebackers sit back in coverage — you'll know that's the gameplan for Kansas State's defense. The Wildcats do well against the pass, allowing only 10 passing touchdowns his season. Purdy, however, is a guy who can will his team to win with his accuracy and athleticism. It should be a fun chess match.
When Kansas State Has the Ball
The Wildcats pride themselves on conservative, mistake-free football. They'll lean heavily on their own rushing attack like they do every week. Kansas State has rushed for over 2,000 yards and punched it into the end zone 26 times on the ground in 2019.
Wildcat quarterback Skylar Thompson is a true dual-threat. He has accounted for 10 of those 26 rushing touchdowns. He's the team's second-leading rusher, but he also takes care of the ball in passing situations — boasting a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (12 TDs, 4 INTs). If Iowa State wants to win, it will need to force Thompson to move around in the pocket and get him to put the ball in play through the air into dangerous situations. The Cyclones cannot allow Thompson's athleticism to dictate the pace of the game.
A lower-scoring affair favors Kansas State in this one, and that's how the matchup will likely shake out. The Wildcat defense is stingy against the pass, which will force Iowa State to run in situations where the Cyclones would otherwise prefer to air it out.
Meanwhile, look for Kansas State to control the clock and tempo with some long, sustained scoring drives early on, forcing Iowa State to take ill-advised chances to play catchup, eventually leading to turnovers. Iowa State might be the more talented football team, but the schematic matchup is what will eventually give Kansas State the victory.
Prediction: Kansas State 27, Iowa State 16
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.