Before we start, a quick look back at the Oklahoma State preview. First, the good:
Offensive inefficiency may kill Oklahoma State against this K-State defense. Overall, OSU profiles as a team that's terrible at running the ball and only average at throwing it. This is reflected in the Rushing S&P+ (119th) and Passing S&P+ (68th) and Standard Down Success Rate (107th) and Passing Down Success Rate (60th).
After the game, there was a lot of talk about injuries causing Oklahoma State's poor rushing performance. OSU rushing for 49 yards on 27 carries (1.8 yards per carry). I'm sure the injuries didn't help, but K-State did what a good defense does to a team that's not good at running the ball.
Now, the less good:
While K-State is solid at everything on defense, it's best on passing downs (18th in S&P+). That matches up nicely with OSU's relative strength on offense, which is bailing itself out on second or third and long. Want to know how this game went without seeing the action or the score? Look at third down conversions when it's over. If K-State gets OSU off the field two-thirds of the time, then there's a good chance K-State will win.
Oklahoma State converted 9-15 third downs. Ballgame.
Injuries have decimated K-State this season. Kody Cook made last week's "players to watch" section ... as K-State's leading receiver. He spent most of the OSU game playing quarterback. And mostly playing well at QB. But it's not ideal to have a starting wide receiver playing quarterback, both for the quarterback position and the receiver position. Especially when your best playmaker also gets hurt in the same game.
Anyway, TCU. The Horned Frogs got off to a bit of a slow start, but are finding their stride after last week's 50-7 win over Texas. The offensive cast is pretty much the same shop wreckers we saw last year, but there are some new faces on defense and the Frogs haven't lived up to their usual standard on that side of the ball.
Players to Watch
Passing: Joe Hubener, 39-76-1, 670 yards, 8.8 yards/attempt, 4 TDs, 167.5 yards/game
Rushing: Justin Silmon, 51 carries, 260 yards, 5.1 yards/game, 2 TDs, 65.0 yards/game
Receiving: Dominique Heath, 11 receptions, 170 yards, 15.5 yards/reception, 1 TD, 42.5 yards/game
Passing: Trevone Boykin, 119-188-3, 1,802 yards, 9.6 yards/attempt, 19 TDs, 360.4 yards/game
Rushing: Aaron Green, 87 carries, 504 yards, 5.8 yards/carry, 6 TDs, 100.8 yards/game
Receiving: Josh Doctson, 42 receptions, 722 yards, 17.2 yards/reception, 8 TDs, 144.4 yards/game
Hubener reportedly passed all concussion protocols and will likely start this weekend for K-State. That moves Cook back to receiver. If Heath returns from injury, too, then K-State will have most of the tools it's accustomed to having.
Meanwhile, damn. TCU is rolling on offense, and will have most of the players it had in last year's 41-20 win over K-State. Keep an eye on Elijah Lee against TCU's four-receiver sets. The Frogs gashed K-State on middle runs off spread sets last year by moving Jonathan Truman out of the middle, double-teaming at the point of attack, and betting that Green could hit the hole before Truman could fill. They won that bet. If Lee can fill more quickly, then K-State may have a chance to slow down the Frogs rushing attack and make them more one-dimensional.
That may be cold comfort to K-State fans after the last two games. The numbers weren't awful against either Louisiana Tech (6.1 yards per pass attempt) or Oklahoma State (7.8 yards per pass attempt). But both the Bulldogs and the Cowboys were able to keep the sticks moving and amass large yardage totals on average (or below average) per-play output.
It's amazing we've focused so much on injuries on offense and nearly ignored the loss of Dante Barnett on defense. Barnett is the key cog in the secondary, and his absence has been felt. If he can go against TCU, then suddenly I feel like the Wildcats have a fighting chance. Last week, the key stat was third-down efficiency. This week, it will be explosive plays. If K-State can force long marches down the field by TCU, then the Wildcats could hang around into the fourth quarter.
Charts are back! Thanks again to jeffp for these charts.
Once again, it's hard to see many advantages for K-State in the offensive matchup. TCU's defense ranks only 77th nationally, shockingly low for them. But K-State's offense is only five spots ahead. And TCU's biggest weakness, the big play, is hardly a weapon for K-State this year. Oh, but for one more year with Tyler Lockett and Jake Waters.
Boykin and company are both extremely efficient and relatively explosive, a terrible combination for K-State. Lee will be the key player. He'll have to clean up messes when Boykin scrambles, fill on inside zone runs and cover in space against TCU's inside receivers. This would be a big game for the defensive line to shine and get some pressure on Boykin to protect the secondary a bit. For the secondary, this is like the Baylor game in 2013. Between the 20s, anything underneath, even if that means 5-15 yards, is fine. Don't get beat deep.
Somebody knows something we don't. Or thinks they do. Vegas opened this one with TCU -6.5, a margin that has since grown to -10 or more. Snyder and the Wildcats get a lot of respect in Manhattan. But even neutral observers are bearish on the Frogs, with Bill Connelly's F/+ picks actually predicting a K-State victory. By 0.1 points, but still. We'd take the win even by that margin.
K-State must find an identity on offense. TCU is vulnerable enough on defense that a solid showing on offense and a big play on special teams could keep K-State in this game. A win is unlikely, but this one should be interesting for a solid three hours.
Horned Frogs 38, Wildcats 24