It's getting closer and closer. We are now only 30 hours away from K-State's first-ever meeting with the winningest team in college football history, and the portents seem to favor our righteous cause. And now is the time when when I put a gun to each staff member's head and demand that they tell me who's going to win.
Derek: It's going to be interesting. With the most recent developments, I think we may be able to load the right side and get to the quarterback. Maybe Mueller will get some sacks, maybe force some mistakes. Offensively I don't think we'll see anything new. The question is whether we'll be able to adjust and take advantage of what their defense gives us. If so, we might have a fun night. If not, it might be a long night.
Sadly, Derek failed to predict the winner or the score, but after some crazed shouting and pistol-waving, he finally gave in and said "34-28 'Cats." Moving on:
Curtis: Is it too much to ask for K-State to come out and act like it has been here before? No paralysis by a month's worth of Bill Snyder's opponent analysis on offense. No nerves because "oh my god, MICHIGAN!"
How about a business trip? How about acting like the big boys, getting the work done, and bringing home some BBQ'ed Wolverine. 33-27, Wildcats.
Mmm. Grilled skunkbear. My favorite! Next!
Ahearn: Before the injury to Gardner, I was already leaning tentatively to Kansas State based some on the fact that Gardner wouldn't be able to run much. Now with Shane Morris as the starter, K-State's defense can focus even more on stopping the Michigan running backs, which is great news. I like K-State's chances with Tyler Lockett on offense and special teams, so with a good start the Cats could be in control most of the game. I'll say 38-21 KSU.
If we don't win by 17, I think I automatically win this year's FEPO by default, right?
Pan: We've hashed out a lot of details over the past few weeks about this game, how the teams match up, etc. But, honestly, from a, "What have you done for me lately?" perspective, these teams couldn't be more different. While KSU, admittedly, played a weaker back half of the schedule, they still took care of business against the teams they should have beat. Michigan? They had a tougher back half of the schedule and lost the games you'd expect them to lose (in retrospect). That said, I think Michigan left it all out there against Ohio State, and when you combine a disappointing bowl after a tough home loss to their rival, you're asking for a letdown. The freshman starting at quarterback is just the cherry on top.
Kansas State plays tough, assignment sound football, forces Michigan to throw the football, and we end up +2 on turnovers and win the game 27-14.
Yes, folks, he's still alive.
And finally, his Emeritusosity himself, TB: This game isn't likely to feature a lot of offense. K-State isn't likely to overwhelm Michigan with its rushing attack, and the Wolverine secondary will make stopping Lockett a priority. And while Shane Morris is a talented freshman, he's untested and is being thrown into a tough situation. Pair that with Ty Zimmerman's return, and you're looking at two teams that will have to sustain long drives to score. In that kind of game, it will come down to turnovers and big plays. My homer side says K-State forces a few turnovers by Morris and gets a big play or two from Lockett and/or Thompson. K-State 30, Michigan 24.
As for Me: Having now hobnobbed with three different Michigan writers over the last two weeks and seeing how they characterized their own team -- either in answers to my questions or in the way they phrased their own -- I'm fairly sure of a couple of things.
One, Jake Waters will be feeling little pressure, and the Wolverines only have one defensive back they're particularly comfortable with putting on Lockett. (One-point-five, the Wildcats should be able to run with relative effectiveness on Michigan, and we will probably see John Hubert hit 1000 with ease tomorrow night, as well as possibly reaching the career 3000-yard park.) Two, the defensive line is probably going to be able to work the Michigan offensive line to at least a stalemate, because either they will have to double-team Mueller or leave their best blocker to take him on one-on-one. That, combined with an inexperienced quarterback and a good K-State secondary, means that Tom Hayes is really only going to have to worry about stopping the run. I'm sticking with what I've been saying for the last week: 31-24 Wildcats.