At the moment, Kansas State is in a class of its own within the Big 12.
The Wildcats are clearly better than the conference’s struggling teams. They have blown out West Virginia and Iowa State and they will be favored against TCU and Kansas. As long as they take care of business against the Horned Frogs and Jayhawks they will reach bowl eligibility.
But the Wildcats also appear a notch below the conference’s contenders. They have already lost to Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. They are three-point underdogs against Texas Tech and they will likely be underdogs against Oklahoma. They probably need to beat the Red Raiders to have any chance of finishing in the top half of the Big 12 standings.
A 41-7 clobbering of Iowa State proved the Wildcats are improving. They have won back-to-back games, and their defense has gotten better each and every week. They will have momentum and confidence on their side when they head to Texas Tech, fresh off its first two losses, next week. Can they take advantage and once again prove their progress? Or will they stay where they are?
It will be an important game.
Here is a look at all that and more in this week’s Sunday Rewind:
1. K-State’s defense is no joke.
The Wildcats looked clueless on defense earlier this season, and their inability to get off the field doomed them in losses to North Dakota State and Texas. But encouraging showings against Oklahoma State and Baylor have now become legitimately strong performances. Granted, West Virginia and Iowa State aren’t offensive juggernauts. But K-State allowed a total of 19 points and two touchdowns against them. It held the Cyclones to 249 total yards. Credit Ryan Mueller and Ty Zimmerman for that improvement. Mueller has become a playmaker up front. Zimmerman is once again dominating games in the secondary. That combination is leading to punts and turnovers. If K-State continues to progress on defense, it will have a shot at winning its final four games.
2. John Hubert is back.
It looks like K-State has finally figured out how to keep its senior running back involved in a balanced offense. Hubert who failed to rush for 60 yards in four of K-State’s first five games, broke free for 105 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa State. It was his third straight solid outing, but Saturday’s effort was the most encouraging. Hubert looked like a new runner at times, even zooming to a 54-yard gain in the first half. He needs to average 90.2 yards the rest of the way (and K-State needs to make a bowl game) for him to reach his preseason goal of 1,000 yards, and he will have a chance of getting there if he continues to run like this.
3. K-State’s odds of making a bowl: Likely.
What does K-State need to do to reach a bowl game? Here’s the simple analysis: Win the two remaining games it will be favored in (vs. TCU and at Kansas). The Horned Frogs continued their tailspin with a loss to West Virginia on Saturday. The Jayhawks haven’t won a conference game since the Big 12 had 12 teams. Odds of reaching the postseason are now in the Wildcats’ favor.
– Tyler Lockett is the premier receiver in K-State’s offense, but Tramaine Thompson isn’t far behind. The senior wide out showed off his playmaking skills on Saturday with two jaw-dropping catches.
The first came on a desperation pass from Daniel Sams in which he muscled past a defender to make a circus grab. The other came in the end zone when he somehow managed to get his arm around a defender and catch a pass on his back.
Bill Snyder said his receivers made some amazing catches, and Thompson led the way.
– Jake Waters is best known as a throwing quarterback, but he showed off his mobility Saturday. The junior rushed for 32 yards on seven carries (he lost 16 yards on sacks) and reeled off a 23-yard run at one point.
Snyder wants both of his quarterbacks to be dual-threat players. It looks like they are reaching that point.
– Iowa State is a bad football team, but give K-State’s defense credit for keeping the Cyclones out of the game from start to finish. If not for a late fumble from backup running back Robert Rose, they wouldn’t have reached the red zone or scored.
– By forcing three turnovers and losing one, the Wildcats won the turnover battle for the first time this season.
Five different K-State players averaged more than four yards a carry on Saturday. Three different players scored rushing touchdowns.
K-State worked hard to climb out of a 2-4 hole. Now it can move above .500. But it won’t be easy. The Wildcats need to win at Texas Tech to keep their winning streak going. Though the Red Raiders got beaten up by Oklahoma State on Saturday, they have an explosive offense. And tight end Jace Amaro will be difficult for K-State to defend across the middle. Lubbock, Texas is also a difficult place to play. Another victory could vindicate K-State’s recent improvement.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“We have made strides in a lot of different ways. We are getting better at the right things, and those give you an opportunity to play better.” — Bill Snyder.
@RoseShow5 cut that out boy. A W is a W no matter how it look. Nobody looking at you as the bad guy. We forgot about it. You need too also.
— Daniel #LiFE Sams (@DS4ms) November 3, 2013
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