After a pair of tune-up games designed to help a new quarterback get comfortable and pile up some wins before the craziness of the Big 12 schedule commences, Kansas State steps up in class with a visit from Louisiana Tech and its potent offense. The Wildcats have looked sharp in dispatching South Dakota and Texas-San Antonio, but let’s face it — those teams aren’t quite Ohio State and Alabama.
Neither is Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs are a strong 1-1 team with real bowl aspirations and are a slow start last week against Western Kentucky away from being 2-0 themselves. Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel has proven himself to be quite dangerous, and his ability to get the ball downfield will test a Kansas State defense that has surrendered a total of three points and just 247.5 yards per game.
Louisiana Tech at Kansas State
Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Fox Sports Network
Spread: Kansas State -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Joe Quarterback
Joe Hubener survived the three-way QB battle during the off-season and has led the Wildcats to two wins. But he hasn’t exactly been overwhelming. Kansas State likes dual-threat quarterbacks, and though Hubener has rushed for a team-high 96 yards, he has averaged just 3.7 yards/carry. And he has completed just 51.2 percent of his passes. With games against Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma to start the league slate, Hubener has to become more efficient and productive.
2. Production Line
The Bulldogs had a chance to establish themselves as the C-USA bully but fell behind early against Western Kentucky and couldn’t get a handle on the game after that. Their offense continues to crackle, thanks to Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon, who already has 274 yards (8.8-yard average) and three touchdowns. With 583.5 total yards per game, the Bulldogs present quite a challenge for Kansas State.
“[Driskel] is getting ingrained in the system, and you can see him getting better and better in only two games, but you can see the improvements being made,” Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said. “Their running back, Dixon, has a half a million yards or whatever it is. Obviously, he is a very, very fine player.”
3. Step Up in Class
Louisiana Tech has played Power 5 Conference teams before. In fact, it beat Illinois in a bowl game last year. But facing Kansas State on the road isn’t going to be easy. The Bulldogs must shake off last week’s tough conference loss and be ready to play physical football.
“Kansas State is a very good football team,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “I have incredible respect for Coach [Bill] Snyder and the job he has done. He has won more Big 12 games than anyone. They have been incredibly successful. They beat Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and it shows you this is a very good football team. They have a lot of returning starters on this football team."
The Bulldogs come to Manhattan with a strong offense and the ability to put pressure on a Kansas State D that has struggled against the pass this year, allowing enemy QBs to complete 61.2 percent of their throws. If Driskel gets it going downfield, and Dixon gets some room, Tech is going to score.
This needs to be Hubener’s breakout game. If he can’t get the offense to be more productive, the Wildcats could find themselves in a shootout they can’t win. Still, this is a physical Kansas State team playing at home, and it should prevail.
Prediction: Kansas State 31, Louisiana Tech 20
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.