The UCF game announced the return of the bullies from Manhattan, Kansas. That’s good news for the Wildcats and bad news for the rest of the Big 12. The first 3 games, including the Missouri loss, were...ok. It felt a bit like Coach Klein was trying out new toys on offense instead of going with the the run heavy, mauling attack that separates the ‘Cats from the rest of the nation. I never want to see the running backs get a combined 18 carries like they did against Missouri. That’s not K-State football, or at least the brand of K-State football that consistently does less with more.
D.J. Giddens (hopefully) put all that to rest against the Knights with his 30 carry, 207 yard 4 touchdown game (that’s not including another 8 receptions for 86 yards). No offense to Coach Klein, but the world doesn’t need another generic spread offense with a zone read option; the world needs a 6’1”, 215 pound back pounding the opposition into submission behind one of the best lines in college football. This program thrives on doing things differently, and the power run game is something teams don’t face on a weekly basis. K-State week should require defensive coordinators to dig around on their roster for defensive line depth and linebackers, instead of their normal job of figuring out how to get 7 defensive backs on the field at one time.
That’s not to say the passing game isn’t important. Will Howard and company picking up 3rd and mediums through the air, and occasionally picking up big chunks down the field only elevates the running attack.
Want to cut down on Will Howard interceptions?
Turn a few of the defensive backs littering the second and third level into linebackers worried about stopping a rampaging D.J. Giddens. No one should get away with playing coverage against K-State on 1st and 2nd down without being punished by the run game. When a few of those “star” safety/linebacker hybrids find themselves on the wrong end of a Cooper Bebee block, you’ll see some bigger dudes on the field post haste. Once teams are forced to pull a defensive back off the field to counter the Wildcat’s punishing ground game on early downs, it’s time to attack with Will Howard and the passing attack. When the opposition gets tired of being picked apart by the passing game, and puts the 5th defensive back in the game, it should be right back to the run game. The primary objective of this offense should always be establishing the run game.
In the first three games, the run game felt like a compliment to the passing game. Against UCF, the passing game was used to compliment the run game, and things looked much, much better on offense. The flow and tempo that was missing early in the season showed up in full force in the Big 12 opener, now it’s time to carry that over into the meat of the schedule. K-State’s passing game is improved, but isn’t going to win the Big 12, but the run game could carry the ‘Cats to the promised land.
The same goes with the defense.
I want the aggression pumped up to 11. I know there were several secondary busts in the first 4 contests, but that’s something that either gets cleaned up, or it’s something the team lives with at this point. Sitting back isn’t an option. This defense is built for speed and disruption, not laying back and playing “bend, don’t break.” It lacks both the size and depth to stay on the field for extended periods of time.
If K-State repeats as Big 12 Champion, it's because the offense wears opponents down. The offense can’t do that without the ball. That means the defense should be breathing fire, even if it means occasionally getting off the field because the other team hits a big play. Kansas State games are like a prize fight, and the ‘Cats need to land body blows in the first half to soften up the opposing defense for the championship rounds. That means sacrificing coverage in the back end for pressure on the quarterback and tackles-for-loss in the backfield.
The Wildcats need to assert themselves as a player in the Big 12 Championship picture on Friday night. The key against lesser opponents like Oklahoma State is to crush them. The more close games you play, the more chances a weird bounce or a bad call swings a game. Sometimes the other team has a kicker waiting to blast away from 61 yards, but it doesn’t matter if you’re up by 10+ points. Last season is the perfect example. The Wildcat’s ended up in the Big 12 Championship Game despite going 1-3 against Oklahoma, Texas, and T.C.U. because they handled everyone else. The only non-O.U., Texas, or T.C.U. game within one possession was the 10-9 rock fight against Iowas State. Taking random chance losses against teams they should beat out of the equation is the best way forward for this team.
I’m ready for the bullying campaign to start!
This team not only has Big 12 aspirations, but is still in the hunt for a CFP birth. If they split with Texas and Oklahoma, and beat everyone else, it turns the Big 12 Championship game into a single elimination playoff for a CFP birth. That might seem like long term, and possibly delusional thinking, but outside of O.U. and Texas, I don’t see any other teams capable of standing up against the withering K-State attack if the Wildcats limit penalties, keep turnovers to a minimum, and convert in the red zone.
This should be a 3 team race between Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas State for a CFP birth.
I’ll have more on Oklahoma State later in the week, but I can provide a basic preview now.
It doesn’t matter what the Cowboys do on Friday night if K-State plays their game.
If the ‘Cats bring their A or B game, this is a win. The sooner they make Mike Gundy’s crew quit, the sooner they can pull the starters and avoid injuries. This should be a 3 team Big 12 race, but the one place Oklahoma and Texas has K-State is depth. Knocking a team like O.S.U. out early allows Coach Klieman a chance to build depth and keep his key starters in bubble wrap for the important games down the road.
This is a bad Oklahoma State team (see their 33-7 loss to South Alabama as reference).
This is a good Kansas State team.
The good team needs to go out and make the bad team quit. The sooner the better.
It’s that simple folks.