A little of this on Saturday would go a long way. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
In the last two weeks, K-State has played games against two schools from Oklahoma, but that's about where the similarities end. Two weeks ago, K-State folded in the second half of a 58-17 home loss to Oklahoma. Last weekend, K-State fought Oklahoma State to the bitter end before Collin Klein's pass into the end zone fell incomplete on the last play of the game. The Cowboys escaped with a 52-45 victory.
The Wildcats now face a crucial home game against disappointing Texas A&M. The Aggies opened the season with hopes of a conference title and a BCS bowl appearance, but both of those goals are gone. A&M is now 5-4 on the season, and OU handed the Aggies their third conference loss of the season last Saturday, ending all hope of a Big 12 title. With none of those goals still available, you have to wonder what kind of focus and energy you're going to see from a team on a trip to Manhattan, Kan.
In addition to the disappointing season, Texas A&M will be without its leading rusher for the rest of the season. Christine Michael tore his ACL against Oklahoma last week and will have surgery. But the Aggies will still have plenty of firepower on offense in his absence.Players to Watch
Rushing: John Hubert, 148 carries, 748 yards, 5.05 yards/carry, 2 TD, 83.1 yards/game
Passing: Collin Klein, 112-192-4, 1,223 yards, 9 TD, 6.4 yards/attempt, 135.9 yards/game
Receiving: Chris Harper, 33 receptions, 375 yards, 11.4 yards/reception, 3 TD, 41.7 yards/game
Defensive line: Ray Kibble, 25 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks
Linebackers: Arthur Brown, 69 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT
Secondary: David Garrett, 57 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 2 INT
Rushing: Cyrus Gray, 159 carries, 733 yards, 4.6 yards/carry, 7 TD, 81.4 yards/game
Passing: Ryan Tannehill, 232-369-10, 2,701 yards, 20 TD, 7.3 yards/attempt, 300.1 yards/game
Receiving: Ryan Swope, 60 receptions, 874 yards, 14.6 yards/reception, 8 TD, 97.1 yards/game
Defensive line: Tony Jerod-Eddie, 34 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks
Linebackers:Jonathan Stewart, 64 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks
Secondary: Trent Hunter, 60 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT
Every team who loses its starting running back should be so lucky as to have a backup who is putting up starters numbers. That's what A&M has in Gray. Of course, it's not the K-State rushing defense I'm so concerned about. We've faced some of the Big 12's top backs in Henry Josey and Joseph Randle and done a pretty good job against them.
No, it's more that Tannehill-to-Swope connection I'm worried about. And that Tannehill-to-Jeff Fuller combination. Tannehill isn't averaging as many yards as Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden, but he's not far behind either. The way our defense is playing against the pass, maybe we'll hold him to "only" 425 yards passing.
Defensively, Tony Jerod-Eddie is going to be a handful for K-State's offensive line. Our pass blocking was pretty terrible against Oklahoma State, resulting in a lot of Collin Klein scrambles. The Cowboys don't have anyone like Jerod-Eddie. Also, it kills me seeing Trent Hunter's name at safety for Texas A&M. Just think if our starting safeties this year were Trent Hunter and Ty Zimmerman. ::Sigh::
Team Statistics (from CFBStats.com)
K-State: 217.2 yards/game, 19th nationally
Texas A&M: 216.0 yards/game, 20th
K-State: 141.7 yards/game, 112th
Texas A&M: 304.6 yards/game, 12th
K-State: 358.9 yards/game, 86th
Texas A&M: 520.6 yards/game, 6th
K-State: 100.0 yards/game, 12th
Texas A&M: 110.2 yards/game, 23rd
Pass Efficiency Defense
Texas A&M: 79th
K-State: 402.8 yards/game, 76th
Texas A&M: 421.4 yards/game, 92nd
This matchup is not as favorable as I had expected before I took a look at the numbers. K-State is good running the ball, but Texas A&M is good at stopping the run. Texas A&M is weak against the pass, but K-State is really bad at throwing the ball. K-State is just about the worst team in the country against the pass, at least in passing yards allowed, and Texas A&M is really good at throwing the ball.
For a third straight week, we're going to watch a team move up and down the field throwing the ball. Swope and Fuller are going to find plenty of holes in our zone defense, and Texas A&M is 11th in the country in sacks allowed. We won't get pressure on Tannehill without blitzing, and we know we won't blitz.
So the statistical matchups aren't in our favor. What about the hidden-yardage stats?
K-State: +11, 7th nationally
Texas A&M: -10, 116th
K-State: 43.6 yards/game, 30th
Texas A&M: 62.2 yards/game, 97th
K-State: 46.7 percent, 30th
Texas A&M: 48.1 percent, 21st
K-State: 85.1 percent, 40th
Texas A&M: 93.0 percent, 7th
Time of Possession
K-State: 35:06, 1st
Texas A&M: 29:37, 61st
Here's where you find hope as a K-State fan. The Wildcats hold a decisive advantage in turnover margin, penalty yards and time of possession. In particular, the Aggies have given away the ball 17 times this season, nearly twice per game. On average, they're only forcing a little more than one turnover per game, including only four interceptions on the year. If K-State can leverage A&M into a two-turnover deficit, then the Wildcats will have a very good chance to win this game.
The other obvious advantage for K-State is the time of possession. Texas A&M isn't as bad at holding the ball as some of the Big 12's quick-strike offenses, but they're nothing special. This will be a key battleground in the game. If Texas A&M's rushing defense can stifle K-State's rushing offense, then K-State will have difficulty moving the ball and sustaining drives. I don't have to tell you that would be a bad deal for the Wildcats.
Despite the favorable numbers matchup for Texas A&M, I still think this is a game K-State very well could win. Texas A&M is reeling at this point, suffering consecutive losses that were difficult to stomach in different ways. The Missouri loss was a home game to a team that itself had been scuffling along, while the Oklahoma game was a second-half beatdown in which the Aggies lost their top running back. Of course, K-State is also coming off two losses and is also out of the Big 12 title race at this point, so it's anybody's guess how K-State will perform Saturday. But between returning home and being an underdog all season, I think it's more likely K-State shows up ready to play. We'll say the Wildcats get to eight wins with a 33-30 victory.