Two programs heading in different directions will meet this weekend in Manhattan, Kansas
The Kansas State Wildcats’ ownership of the Texas Longhorns is the stuff of Big 12 legend. The Wildcats have won seven of the last 10 meetings between the two teams since 2006, representing the height of KSU coach Bill Snyder’s wizardry.
In the last five games, however, UT has won three times. If the Purple Hex on the Longhorns hasn’t already been broken, a victory on Saturday should do the trick.
With Texas riding a three-game winning streak, the ‘Horns enter this year’s matchup as the clear favorites. Coming off a blowout loss to West Virginia, the Wildcats are getting desperate.
Texas at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Sam Ehlinger keep it up?
Texas’ sophomore quarterback played one of the best games of his career last week in the Longhorns’ 31-16 win over the TCU Horned Frogs, completing 22 of 32 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Ehlinger avoided the catastrophes that had plagued him in previous games, and he took full advantage of the mismatches created by wideouts Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
In his short career at Texas, Ehlinger has done the “two steps forward, one step back” routine before, so another solid outing would do a lot to calm fears that he might regress.
2. Sparking KSU’s offense
For the first time in years, it seems as though Bill Snyder’s offensive tricks aren’t working. The Wildcats have put up a combined 16 points in their losses to Mississippi State and West Virginia. In particular, KSU’s running game is falling apart, averaging 3.85 yards per attempt, a full yard less than a year ago. The Wildcats pumped out just 2.53 yards per rush last week at WVU.
Snyder benched starting quarterback Skylar Thompson in the second half versus the Mountaineers, and KSU is reportedly starting Alex Delton on Saturday in hopes of lighting a fire under the offense.
3. KSU’s defensive backs vs. Texas’ receivers
In Johnson, Humphrey and speedster Devin Duvernay, UT has developed a formidable trio at wideout. It makes two weeks in a row that KSU will have to face a dangerous group of receivers after taking on WVU in its previous game. That game didn’t go so well for the KSU secondary — the Mountaineers threw for 356 yards and two TDs.
Kansas State’s change at quarterback puts a different spin on this matchup. Alex Delton is a rugged runner who brings a dimension to the offense that it lacked with Skylar Thompson at the wheel. Clearly, Bill Snyder thinks it’s best for the Wildcats to get back to their roots as a methodical, run-heavy team.
Will that work against the Longhorns? Given how poorly the offense has functioned through four games, it’s at least preferable to more of the same.
Moreover, if a ground-and-pound game plan keeps the ball away from the Texas offense, KSU should consider that a win. Texas is starting to find its footing on that side of the ball and has a demonstrable advantage over a Wildcats defense that isn’t generating enough stops.
KSU can shorten the game enough to stay within striking distance of UT in the second half. The Wildcats can’t win without a big special teams play or defensive score, though. The Longhorns have shown they’re not above making those kinds of backbreaking mistakes, but counting on them doing so is a different story.
Prediction: Texas 27, Kansas State 14
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.