Oklahoma State welcomes Kansas State to Stillwater Saturday, where both teams will meet with unblemished records. The Wildcats, the last time out, survived a triple-overtime scare against Louisiana Tech before ultimately winning 39-33 on Sept. 19. The ‘Cats were idle last week and are 7-3 in games following bye weeks since 2009.
Last week, the Cowboys narrowly escaped an upset against a struggling Texas program after punter Michael Dickson turned the ball over late in the game, allowing OSU kicker Ben Grogan to hit the game-winning 40-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in regulation to break a 27-27 tie and give the Cowboys a 30-27 win.
In 2014, Kansas State’s offense exploded for 421 total yards, which was complimented by a three-turnover performance from its defense, to send the Wildcats to a 48-14 victory over the Cowboys in the Little Apple. Both teams have gone 2-2 in the series since 2011, and OSU holds a 37-24 series lead.
College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Oklahoma State -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Kansas State’s Stout Defense
Heading into the season, many expected KSU’s defense to be the strength of this year’s team. So far, the unit has likely surpassed expectations as it didn't yield an offensive touchdown until week three against Louisiana Tech, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1945. KSU’s defense will be tasked with slowing OSU head coach Mike Gundy’s air-raid offense that averages 321 passing yards per game. OSU’s offense ranks eighth in the nation in plays resulting in 20 yards or more, with 28 on the season. KSU’s defense has allowed 237 passing yards per game and could see looks from OSU quarterbacks Mason Rudolph (sophomore) and J.W. Walsh (redshirt senior). Three Rudolph turnovers, two of which were returned for Longhorn touchdowns, prompted Gundy to alternate between the two quarterbacks last week. Expect Gundy to do the same against KSU if his young quarterback struggles to move the ball early. KSU’s secondary has yet to record an interception this season, but it’s a talented position group that has the potential to spell trouble for OSU’s passing game.
2. Oklahoma State Quarterback Mason Rudolph
Rudolph, a freshman in 2014, became a household name in the state of Oklahoma last November when he guided OSU’s offense to a come-from-behind, overtime win over in-state rival Oklahoma. He threw for 273 passing yards and two touchdowns, one of which came late in the fourth quarter to bring the Cowboys within seven points. Rudolph capped his freshman season with a Cactus Bowl win over Washington where he threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph has posted a 6-1 record as a starter and is still growing into his new role, as is evident from last week’s shaky performance, but he’s a talented thrower who should progressively become even better.
3. Kansas State Running Back Justin Silmon
Silmon, a redshirt freshman, has been one of head coach Bill Snyder’s most productive players this point in the season. In KSU’s most recent win, Silmon carried 24 times for 119 yards. And while he failed to reach the end zone, his 100-yard effort on the ground snapped a drought where KSU rushers failed to produce a 100-yard game since November 2013. OSU’s rush defense ranks 40th in the nation, allowing 129.3 yards per game this season.
OSU is 20-9 against the 'Cats in Stillwater, and unlike last year, should offer more of a challenge this go round. One thing to watch is the health of Rudolph’s hand, which he injured against Texas. He is reported to have felt some numbness in the region, but should be ready to go Saturday afternoon. Kansas State’s defense is good, and its early season rushing attack is the best it’s been in a couple of seasons, but Oklahoma State is a more complete team and should win a hard-fought game to advance to its first 5-0 start since 2011.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, Kansas State 24
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.