We'll get to the preview in a moment. But this one's for you, Texas fans.
Texas has had a rough time this year. Some considered the Longhorns among the preseason Big 12 favorites, but Texas got rolled by BYU in their second game. The Cougars steamrolled to 550 rushing yards in a 40-21 rout. It didn't get any better last weekend, as Texas lost at home to Ole Miss, 44-23.
The Longhorns limp into Big 12 play at 1-2. But K-State is not without its own issues. You probably haven't forgotten that the Wildcats lost to FCS North Dakota State in their opener. Middling performances in wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Massachusetts have done little to reassure K-State fans that all is well in Manhattan.
So two flawed teams will meet this weekend in Austin. Unlike so many previous matchups, I won't be in Austin for this one, so I'll be relegated to the primetime ABC broadcast on Saturday night. Yes, a matchup between a team that lost to an FCS program and a team whose fans can't wait for their coach to retire or be fired is a primetime matchup. Welcome to college football, 2013-style.
Players to Watch
Passing: Jake Waters, 48-70-5, 673 yards, 4 TD, 224.3 yards/game
Rushing: John Hubert, 46 carries, 197 yards, 4.3 yards/carry, 2 TD, 65.7 yards/game
Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 16 receptions, 232 yards, 14.5 yards/reception, 1 TD, 77.3 yards/game
Passing: Case McCoy, 31-48-0, 271 yards, 1 TD, 90.3 yards/game
Rushing: Johnathan Gray, 38 carries, 209 yards, 5.5 yards/carry, 1 TD, 69.7 yards/game
Receiving: Jaxon Shipley, 19 receptions, 228 yards, 12.0 yards/reception, 76.0 yards/game
McCoy and Shipley? Is this 2007, or is the nepotism problem worse at Texas than it is at K-State?
David Ash has better numbers than McCoy, but he didn't play against Ole Miss and is questionable for the K-State game. His injuries include head (likely concussion) and shoulder injuries -- but fortunately no knee and toe problems AHAHAHA -- which makes me think he may not be back. Plus, I wanted to list McCoy for purposes of the obvious 2007 joke.
Texas lacks identity on offense, and the Longhorns are beat up. Ash may be out, and wide receiver Daje Johnson, who you may remember from his 70-yard reception in the second quarter in Manhattan last year -- won't play in this game. But you could probably say the same of K-State from an identity standpoint. Jake Waters has a strong grasp of the offense and is more accurate than hindsight, but he was unimpressive against Massachusetts and has thrown a few bad interceptions.
Meanwhile, backup Daniel Sams has been more effective on a per-play basis than has Waters. But the sample size is too small to draw any strong conclusions, and Sams hasn't been entrusted with the full playbook yet. Granted, Waters probably hasn't, either, but he's been allowed to show a lot more in the passing game.
Team Statistics (from CFBStats.com)
K-State: 67th nationally, 173.0 yards/game
Texas: 46th, 205.7 yards.game
K-State: 65th, 237.3 yards/game
Texas: 32nd, 288.3 yards/game
K-State:48th, 35.3 points/game
Texas: 53rd, 33.3 points/game
K-State: 81st, 171.7 yards/game
Texas:123rd, 308.7 yards/game
Pass Efficiency Defense
K-State: 43rd, 115.3 rating
Texas: 33rd, 182.7 rating
K-State: 50th, 353.0 yards/game
Texas: 116th, 491.3 yards/game
With all the offensive concerns I listed above, you'd think we're looking at a 10-7 defensive struggle. Fool, this is 2013, when even the SEC's best teams combine for 91 points in a game, but still get to cling to the narrative that they play defense and the Big 12 doesn't. And that they all play tough schedules.
Sorry, got sidetracked there. Anyway, even if both offenses are flawed, both defenses are hopelessly defective. Texas has been an unmitigated disaster against the run, giving up 550 yards to BYU and 272 yards to Ole Miss. K-State's numbers aren't as shockingly bad, but their competition level has been significantly inferior. In defensive S&P+*, K-State ranks 67th in the country.
*S&P+ is a metric that combines a teams' Success Rate, which on defense means preventing a team from staying on schedule (in other words, forcing them into passing downs), with Points Per Play (PPP), which is the EqPts concept we discussed last week. Basically, each yard line on the field is worth a certain number of points, so every yard you gain has some point value. The + means the metric is adjusted for schedule.
K-State's Advanced Defensive Stats
- S&P+: 67th
- PPP: 38th, 0.44
- Success Rate: 79th, 43.6 percent
- Passing Downs S&P: 39th
- Standard Downs: 59th
- Passing S&P: 25th
- Rushing S&P: 88th
K-State isn't keeping its opponents off schedule very well, which limits the value of its relative effectiveness on Passing Down. And even on Standard Downs, K-State has been about average nationally. No surprise that the advanced stats show that running the ball is the way to beat K-State. The Wildcats are solid against the pass, but not surprisingly, given what we've seen from the defensive line and the linebackers, are well below average against the run.
Texas Advanced Defensive Stats
- S&P+: 88th
- Success Rate: 103rd (48.7 percent)
- Passing Downs S&P: 85th
- Standard Downs S&P: 104th
- Passing S&P: 67th
- Rushing S&P: 117th
So what about Texas? They can't keep anyone off schedule and they're terrible on Standard Downs, which is usually a recipe for disaster. They're decent against the pass but not very good on Passing Downs.
K-State Advance Offensive Stats
- S&P+: 33rd
- Success Rate: 6th (57.4 percent)
- Passing Downs S&P: 55th
- Standard Downs S&P: 7th
- Passing S&P: 12th
- Rushing S&P: 26th
Despite all our hand-wringing about the offense and the quarterbacks, K-State has been pretty solid with the ball. A good part of that is an excellent Success Rate, which helps because K-State is deadly on Standard Downs, too. Waters' arm and (mostly) Sams' legs have been a big part in K-State's solid Passing and Rushing S&P numbers. K-State is only average on Passing Downs, but given the other ranks, that's pretty acceptable. It's also an excellent argument in favor of running a damn draw play on third and long.
I'd list Texas' advanced offensive stats, but with their quarterback position so up-in-the-air, it would be mostly useless to analyze them much. If Ash plays, they'll be able to throw, if Swoopes plays, they'll be able to run, if McCoy plays, they'll have a guy named McCoy playing at quarterback.
That got wonky fast. But it should really say something to you that K-State's offense looks pretty good when viewed through the lens of cold, hard numbers.
Texas still ranks as the favorite in this game based on S&P+. That's thanks in large part to its offensive ratings, which are probably still getting a boost from the New Mexico State massacre. K-State is far from a fearsome team defensively, but between the possible skewing effect of the NMSU game and Case McCoy possibly playing at quarterback, K-State can probably hold Texas somewhat in check.
It's weird to call a game against a terrible defense a litmus test, but this game is crucial for the K-State offense. We've spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about just what's wrong with the K-State offense, when the advanced metrics say there's really not a whole lot wrong with the K-State offense. The Wildcats probably can't go wrong whether they start Waters or Sams in this one, as Texas can't stop the run and isn't stellar against the pass, either.
Still, I'm a lot uneasier about this game than I should be. Part of me wants to believe that K-State's non-conference struggles are mostly attributable to Bill Snyder's conservative approach to these games than anything else, but this is still a flawed team. Fortunately, Texas is even more flawed on defense and is injured at crucial positions on offense. This won't be a walkover like last year (mostly) was, but I think K-State get its first conference win on Saturday in Austin.
K-State 31, Texas 27