One man’s loss is another’s opportunity. Heading in to the season, Jesse Ertz had the opportunity to do something only one Kansas State Wildcats QB has done in his career - win two consecutive bowl games. And unfortunately he will never have that opportunity - though he does remain in the “never lost a bowl” category with Jonathan Beasley (yes, that’s it; every other K-State QB has at least one bowl loss on their resume).
But it’s now Skylar Thompson’s turn to start his own legacy. While Alex Delton is healthy and available, this is Thompson’s show now. He’ll be aided by the return of the newly-scholarshiped Dalton Schoen, as well as a Byron Pringle who could potentially be playing in his final game as a Wildcat. Plus, after a break from the long grind of the season, other weapons like Alex Barnes, Justin Silmon, Winston Dimel, and others should be over 90% for the first time since the second game of the season. The only big missing piece is All-American RT Dalton Risner, who was injured (by Thompson, accidentally) at the very end of the last-second victory over Iowa State.
On the opposing side, the defense will be aided by the return of All-Big 12 corner DJ Reed, as well as that general return to health across the board. But safety Kendall Adams and reserve corner AJ Parker are still expected to be out. But the defense will be aided by Josh Rosen being unavailable for the UCLA Bruins due to lingering effects from a late-season concussion.
Overall, this is a match-up that the Wildcats should win handily. Even with Risner out, the Wildcats should be able to force their will on the ground against the PAC-12’s league-worst rush defense. If you’re looking for a parallel, look no further than UCLA’s match-up with Stanford earlier this season where the Cardinal piled up over 400 yards on the Bruins defense, including 263 from Doak Walker Award-winner Bryce Love, on their way to a 58-34 win over UCLA. Rosen threw for 480 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs in that loss, and that was before head coach Jim Mora was fired or Rosen had his bell rung.
While the Wildcats may be worried about Bill Snyder’s future (or perhaps looking to win just one more for the Hall of Fame head coach), the Bruins may just be looking to be done with the Jim Mora era and ready to move on to the Chip Kelly era. Whichever team can focus early should win this thing.
Prior to tonight’s 8 p.m. CST match-up on ESPN, be sure and check out our pregame content, with Jon Morse doing all the heavy lifting. First up, all your pregame details (like how to watch and odds). Second, 5 ways UCLA is surprisingly like K-State. Be sure and check out BotC throughout the game for updates and analysis of the game.