Either the Cowboys or the Wildcats will see their Big 12 hopes tumble with a loss
Both teams saw their hopes for a Big 12 title take a hit last week after each suffered their first defeats in conference play. Their matchup on Saturday doesn't quite represent an elimination game in the league race, but the loser will face a precarious position in the league standings.
Here's what to watch when the teams take the field on Saturday afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Oklahoma State at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -12.5
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
The Cowboys weren't lacking for offense in their loss to Texas last week. OSU put up 530 total yards, including 400 through the air. Turnovers proved to be the undoing of the Pokes, who lost three fumbles and an interception to UT.
OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders accounted for three of his team's four giveaways – twice, the Longhorns took over in the red zone. The Wildcats will capitalize on Sanders' poor ball security if he doesn't tighten up. Kansas State has 11 takeaways this season, the second-highest total in the Big 12.
KSU will likely prioritize containing Tylan Wallace, OSU's star receiver, when it comes to putting together a defensive game plan. If so, look for Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy to exploit any holes that may create in the KSU defense.
When Kansas State Has the Ball
After KSU lost veteran quarterback Skylar Thompson to a season-ending injury, freshman Will Howard kept the Wildcats rolling in the three straight wins over Texas Tech, TCU, and in-state rival Kansas. The wheels flew off the Howard bandwagon last week, however, after he threw three interceptions in a blowout loss to West Virginia.
This week, the Wildcats will square off against arguably the top defense in the Big 12. The Cowboys are allowing 17.8 points per game, tops in the conference. Despite lacking in star power, it's a group that has no obvious weaknesses.
Expect KSU to try to make the game easier for Howard with a run-heavy game plan. Using Howard's size (6-4, 230) as a punishing runner seems preferable to asking him to throw the ball 35-plus times against OSU, as was the case for the Wildcats last week versus West Virginia.
If forcing Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders into mistakes is job one for KSU, the Wildcats will need a big game from edge rusher Wyatt Hubert and his partners on the defensive line. It's not completely out of the question. As Texas' Joseph Ossai showed last week, the OSU offensive line struggles to handle a tough pass rush.
Unfortunately for KSU, the other side of the ball presents a different set of problems. OSU has a stout enough defense to prevent the Wildcats from bullying the Cowboys on the ground. Putting too much pressure on freshman quarterback Will Howard to beat OSU with his arm is asking for trouble.
The Wildcats will have to go that route if they let the Pokes get off to a fast start. Forcing OSU to sustain drives and eliminating big plays by the Cowboys will keep KSU in striking distance into the second half. An OSU touchdown in the fourth quarter will put the game out of reach.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 24, Kansas State 13
Podcast: Week 10 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.