The Collin Klein for Heisman Express keeps going at full speed, but last Saturday it veered dangerously into injury lane, the worst lane imaginable. While we nervously wait to see if it can straighten itself out, I'm choosing to believe Klein will be back this Saturday, so this week's watch will be written with that underlying assumption.
However, it is worth it to take a moment to consider what an absence would do to Klein's Heisman hopes. As unfair as it would be, I think it's safe to assume a non-Klein loss would hurt a lot more than a non-Klein win, though the Big 12 title may be the most crucial thing to protect at this point.
Though the other candidates might have something to say about it, Optimus could probably survive a week off, as long as he were to come back just as strong as when he left in the third quarter against Oklahoma State. A second week would probably make things difficult — OK, this is getting too painful and scary to think about. Let's just move on.
I'm becoming more and more impressed with Kansas State's receiving corps each and every week, which I think can be attributed just about equally to their performance and Klein's rising accuracy. Saturday was the third game in a row and the fifth time this season that he completed more than 70 percent of his passes, which is something that happened exactly zero times last year. Remarkable.
Tyler Lockett is clearly a star and a little ways ahead of the schedule I was expecting, and it's great to see Klein finally connecting with Chris Harper on some deep throws. This offense is becoming deadly through the air, and it's a wonderful thing to see.
That's largely because the ground game is still the bread and butter, as Bill Snyder reminded Oklahoma State whenever they forget, and really, quite a lot when they didn't. It was a rather unusual day as Klein got most of the workload and the yardage, but Hubert got the touchdowns.
Scoring was the obvious weakness in Klein's game Saturday, and the always ambitious dream of 30 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing is probably out of reach now. Still, Klein is just three rushing touchdowns away from another 20-10 season, and considering he has at least one score on the ground in every game except Missouri State, it seems like a safe bet he'll get there.
It's very difficult to overstate the significance of the fact that our quarterback hasn't turned the ball over once in six conference games, which admittedly takes some luck, but mostly illustrates just how fundamentally sound and focused he is. By the way, the guy who everyone said couldn't throw last season and even at the beginning of this year now leads the nation with a 174.4 passer rating. Not bad.
What he needs to do this week
Some more touchdowns should be the top priority here. I appreciate what Hubert's done and it was great to see the defense and special teams make game-changing plays, but it's time to go back to the guy that got you here.
When Klein throws a 50-yard pass and then runs it two plays later to get the ball down to the 1 yard line, let him take it into the endzone rather than run an option where (duh) teams are going to focus on Optimus. When you intercept a pass or return a kickoff and have only green in front of you, step out a foot short so Klein can score. OK, maybe not. But who's to say he doesn't deserve that?
TCU has a pretty legit defense, especially against the run, but they can be worn down. I suspected a lack of depth would hurt this team from the beginning of the season, and the fact that they've allowed 74 points in the first and third quarters compared to 116 in the second and fourth tells me Kansas State wants to keep them on the field as long as possible.
As luck would have it, that's pretty much always the gameplan for a Bill Snyder team, even if the receivers have been kind of screwing it up with all their big plays lately. I may be wrong, but this just feels like a game where Klein could really take over on the ground and maybe even surpass 100 yards if the 'Cats keep going to him.
That's not to say a playaction pass here and there wouldn't be nice, and another solid 200-yard passing day would be great, especially if it came with 70 percent completions and no turnovers. In other words, keep on keeping on, Mr. Klein.
It takes quite a bit to become a contender for the first time at this point in the race, but a 321-yard, five touchdown day in your team's toughest test of the season certainly qualifies. Plus, I probably didn't pay as much attention as I should have to this guy because I was so irritated by all of the undeserved media love being given to his teammate, De'Anthony Thomas.