K-State has had nine days to recover from last Thursday's disappointing home loss to No. 5 Auburn. A fantastic defensive effort against one of the best offenses in the country went for naught in the face of three missed field goals and a hard-luck interception in the end zone.
Texas-El Paso arrives in Manhattan with a 2-1 record. The Miners are state champions of the state immediately to their west, having defeated New Mexico (31-24, in Albuquerque, N.M.) and New Mexico State (42-24, in El Paso). The Miners' sole loss on the year came to fellow West Texas inhabitants, the Big 12's own Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Tech required a late touchdown to defeat the Miners, and as you'll see below, there are some playmakers on this roster. Of course, the Miners are mostly unproven, having defeated two of the worst teams in the country (New Mexico is 105th in F/+ 79th in S&P+, while New Mexico is 126th in F/+ and 124th in S&P+).
Players to Watch
Passing: Jake Waters, 59-97-3, 707 yards, 7.3 yards/attempt, 2 TDs, 235.7 yards/game
Rushing: Charles Jones, 32 carries, 161 yards, 4.8 yards/carry, 5 TDs, 50.7 yards/game
Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 13 receptions, 190 yards, 14.6 yards/reception, 1 TD, 63.3 yards/game
Passing: Jameill Showers, 33-63-1, 358 yards, 5.7 yards/attempt, 2 TDs, 119.3 yards/game
Rushing: Aaron Jones, 70 carries, 549 yards, 7.8 yards/carry, 7 TDs, 183.0 yards/game
Receiving: Jarrad Shaw, 10 receptions, 142 yards, 14.2 yards/reception, 1 TD, 47.3 yards/game
Aaron Jones is no joke toting the rock. The sophomore playing at his hometown school tallied 237 yards against New Mexico, 144 yards against Tech, and 168 yards against New Mexico State. And that's where UTEP does its damage, because the passing game, outside of some big-play ability shown by Jarrad Shaw, is pretty much non-existent.
K-State Advanced Stats
Offense Success Rate: 15th
Standard Downs: 37th
Passing Downs: 52nd
Defense Success Rate: 71st
Standard Downs: 27th
Passing Downs: 59th
Texas El-Paso Advanced Stats
Offense Success Rate: 14th
Standard Downs: 15th
Passing Downs: 110th
Defense Success Rate: 94th
Standard Downs: 127th
Passing Downs: 6th
The stats tell the story for K-State this year. Jake Waters and crew are above average at just about everything, very good at staying on schedule, but are generating next-to-nothing in the way of big plays. And you can't say it's because they've played a ton of great teams, because Iowa State is 105th in defensive S&P+, while Auburn is 16th.
Simply put, this offense has no big-play ability without Tyler Lockett taking the top off defenses. Lockett disappeared for a long stretch of the Iowa State game, and Auburn's physical corners and lack of respect for K-State's rushing game limited his production last Thursday.
That should change this week. Texas-El Paso is pretty bad at everything on defense, including defending the forward pass. Furthermore, K-State should be able to run to set up the pass, because UTEP is woeful at keeping opposing teams off schedule (94th in defensive Success Rate), the second-worst team in the country on Standard Downs, and among the worst 15 teams in the country against the run. K-State's offense, one of the better units at staying on schedule this year, should find success against UTEP.
Texas-El Paso isn't an abomination on offense, and they're downright good at running the ball. But that matches up with K-State's strength, and if you can get the Miners off schedule, it's game over. They're one of the worst teams in the country on Passing Downs. While K-State isn't great on Passing Downs defensively, the Wildcats are above average.
Keep in mind also that UTEP scored only 26 points against Texas Tech (90th defensive S&P+, and probably dropping after Thursday's 45-35 loss to Oklahoma State). The Miners gained 384 total yards against Texas Tech, with 268 rushing yards on 5.1 per carry and 116 passing yards on 4.5 per attempt.
Assuming K-State's players aren't still suffering a hangover from last Thursday, this one shouldn't be close. Texas-El Paso can run the ball, but can't do much else well. If K-State puts the Miners away early with a focused, workmanlike effort, Wildcat fans will feel a lot better about the rest of the year. I think it happens.
K-State 49, Texas-El Paso 17