Before we delve into this weekend's matchup, a comment about last week's game and game charting. An ultimately decisive victory last week was unexpected given K-State's inexperience and UTSA's first-week performance against Arizona. The 30-3 win once again showed K-State's defense is criminally underrated. While the offense is still a work in progress, it got on track in the second half and averaged 6.3 yards per play for the game.
So it was good to get an easier-than-expected win. But I'm skeptical that UTSA will end up a better team this year than it was last year, and that wasn't very good. And with Alex Delton now hurt, K-State is one play away from its fourth-string quarterback taking snaps. My enthusiasm over last week's win is somewhat tempered by these things.
Regarding charting, I fully intend to chart each game and report on the results of both rewatching the game and charting it. But I haven't had a chance to chart the first two games yet. With the bye week next Saturday, I plan to get caught up and roll out recaps.
On to Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs are 1-1 after a 41-38 loss to Western Kentucky last Thursday. Skip Holtz coaches the Bulldogs, and is 14-14 in Ruston. Holtz was a rising star after amassing a 38-27 record at East Carolina, where his loss column exhibited Pelini-like consistency. The success didn't translate to South Florida, where he went 16-21 before leaving for Louisiana Tech.
LaTech opened with an easy 62-15 victory over Southern before losing a 41-38 shootout on the road against Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs currently rank 55th in F/+, while K-State is 26th. Tech's five-year F/+ average ranking is 62nd; K-State checks in with at about 26th.
Players to Watch
Passing: Joe Hubener, 21-41-0, 390 yards, 9.5 yards/attempt, 1 TD, 195 yards/game
Rushing: Justin Silmon, 12 carries, 91 yards, 7.6 yards/carry, 1 TD, 45.5 yards/game
Receiving: Dominique Heath, 6 receptions, 79 yards, 13.2 yards/reception, 0 TDs, 39.5 yards/game
Passing: Jeff Driskel, 40-63-1, 631 yards, 10.0 yards/attempt, 6 TDs, 315.5 yards/game
Rushing: Kenneth Dixon, 31 carries, 274 yards, 8.8 yards/carry, 3 TDs, 137.0 yards/game
Receiving: Paul Turner, 10 receptions, 185 yards, 18.5 yards/reception, 2 TDs, 92.5 yards/game
Tech's Trent Taylor also has 12 receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns. As you can see, the Bulldogs are a pass-first team. But Dixon has posted impressive numbers on the ground, too.
The offensive numbers are impressive for Tech, but they're taking a step up in class this week. Western Kentucky ranked 113th in S&P+ defense last year, and Southern was a 9-4 FCS team last season. K-State is also taking a step up in competition this week. The Wildcats' defense has been excellent thus far in 2015. How will it handle the Bulldogs passing attack?
K-State matched up well last week against a UTSA team that played Arizona tough in week one. The Roadrunners were limited to 1.5 yards per rushing attempt and 5.2 yards per passing attempt. UTSA generated only three points on 229 total yards at 3.7 yards per play. It's still too early to do much with the advanced metrics, and K-State's competition has been substandard. But dominance as dominance, as Bill Connelly might say.
Vegas pegs K-State as a 10-point favorite on Saturday. Bill Connelly's F/+ picks predict a 36-24 victory for K-State. LaTech will be an interesting test for K-State's defense. The Bulldogs have the best offense and skill position players K-State has faced yet, and they're efficient both running and passing. Against these types of opponents, K-State typically relies on its line and linebackers to eliminate the run and banks on its simple-but-effective coverage scheme to force its opponent to complete throws through narrow(ish) windows repeatedly to sustain drives.
Most teams can't accomplish this. And this year's front six for K-State looks like the best of Snyder 2.0. Tech will almost certainly become the first team to find the end zone against K-State this year, but if the linebackers and secondary stay disciplined and don't give up big plays, it shouldn't be too often.
Defensively, Louisiana Tech has been, at best, average against subpar competition. Bulldog opponents are averaging 6.2 yards per play this season, and 8.2 yards per pass. LaTech has been stout against the run (3.7 yards/carry), but Southern and WKU don't have the horses to match up with them up front. I doubt K-State will come out and run over the Bulldogs, but they may be able to wear them down and pick up important yardage in the second half.
K-State 34, Louisiana Tech 17