First of all, this is the only preview you need. Why? Because there’s no way Oklahoma State’s defense does anything to slow down Collin Klein and company. They just won’t. The Cowboys have been improving recently, but Klein has demonstrated accuracy that caught even the biggest Wildcat homers off-guard. Pease and Hubert are unstoppable. Minus Dwayne Bowe, there may be more receiving talent on the K-State sideline than in Kansas City. Plus, K-State will pin Oklahoma State deep on special teams while connecting on field goals and getting good return yardage.
Offense and special teams out of the way, the K-State defense/Oklahoma State offense match up offers a bit of intrigue. The first problem facing the Wildcats is that the Cowboys may be the most balanced team they’ve faced this year. Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Geno Smith (West Virginia), and Seth Doege (Texas Tech) have all had their names written in the same sentence as ‘Heisman,’ and K-State made each look much more pretender than contender. However, these teams rank sixth, ninth, and eighth, respectively, in rushing yards per game. And while you don’t see a ton of nickel packages from Kansas State, it certainly makes things easier when you’re not as concerned about the run and can focus attention on the passing attack.
Okie State, on the other hand, is the one Big 12 team that averages more rushing yards per game than K-State. Although their quarterback situation has been shaky (season starter Wes Lunt went down with an injury and freshman J.W. Walsh was forced to step in, only to go down with an injury of his own that forced Wes Lunt back onto the field), the running game has been solid. Joseph Randle has carried most of the burden and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry for 891 yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
Remember, this is the Oklahoma State team that took so much heat for opening their season with an 84-0 win over Savannah State. And while their 20-14 win over KU is embarrassing, they’ve scored over 30 points in every other game this year and average 44.3 points per game. That’s good enough for second in the conference, behind only K-State (44.4). And despite the turmoil at quarterback, the Cowboys are fourth in yards passing per game with 347 (as nice as Klein’s looked in the pocket, K-State only averages 205). So yeah, this is a balanced team.
So what’s the solution? Meshak Williams, all day. As much as any other game this year, the Wildcats need Williams to both shut down his end of the line on runs and apply enough pressure that K-State doesn’t have to rely on a lot of blitz packages. The key to beating West Virginia is trusting the front four to apply enough pressure to hurry throws, allowing the other seven defenders to roam the field and swarm to the ball. Unfortunately, this same strategy doesn’t entirely translate, because backing off the line will give RB Walsh unnecessary yardage all night long. Ty Zimmerman needs another signature play in the third quarter to kill a potentially momentum-swinging drive and let the offense do its thing. The Cowboys will score points Saturday, but there will be no reason to panic. Expect Oklahoma State to be playing behind in the fourth quarter and needing a crucial fourth down conversion. The Cowboys are only 37.5 percent on fourth down conversions this year – only KU is worse. So when Bill Snyder Family Stadium gets loud and the pressure’s on, you can be rest assured K-State walks away 9-0 on the season with another double-digit victory under its belt.