With Kansas State having a bye last week, the sting of the Texas Longhorns beat down is not as strong as it was when I worked on my column last week. Up this week, a promising preseason pick that just last week shockingly lost, the Oklahoma State Cowboys. One of the preseason picks to win the Big 12 conference; the 11th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys were shocked by the West Virginia Mountaineers, 30 to 21. And the Wildcats get to travel to another hostile environment, this time Stillwater, where the Cats are only 8-19 in their previous meetings with the Cowboys. Mike Gundy has won 3 out of the last 4 match-ups with Kansas State (last year Kansas State won 44-30). So how can Kansas State bounce back against an Oklahoma State team at home trying to do the same? I will showcase my key match-up for this weekend’s contest.
Last week, I showcased what has gone right and wrong for this year’s Wildcats. http://jugofsnyder.com/2013/09/27/third-2013-whats-gone-right-wrong-kansas-state-wildcats/ One thing I mentioned was the defensive line. To me, this was one of the strengths on last year’s squad. They were able to make plays and control the ground game; helping Bill Snyder control the clock with his run oriented offense. Currently the Wildcats defense has allowed opponents to average 4.4 yards per rush and 185.5 on the ground during the first 4 games. The entire defense has only collected 7 sacks as well. The defensive line is young and inexperienced, due to losing all four starters from last year’s squad. I see a ton of potential from the new group, and believe that they can continue and grow and build towards something. Ryan Mueller, as I have mentioned before, has really impressed me with his play. The former walk-on has collected 20 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks in his junior year, starting for the first time as well. I think Travis Britz could be the key, as the sophomore has shown me the ability to be a force in the middle with fellow Defensive Tackle Chaquil Reed, both contributing 1 sack a piece, and multiple tackles for losses (Britz 3.5, Reed 2.5). If the line can continue to improve pressure on the QB and help stop the run, this defense can continue to grow. This week, they will have to try to handle a very capable Mike Gundy offense.
Oklahoma State suffered an unexpected loss last week, which may not be a good thing for Wildcat fans. If the Cowboys thought they would breeze through the Big 12, Mike Gundy now has them focused. Gundy has turned the Cowboys into an offensive juggernaut during his tenure at his Alma Matter, producing such elite talents as Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, who all currently play in the NFL. His new quarterback is dual threat sophomore signal caller J.W. Walsh, last year’s Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. In Gundy’s offense, you know the QB will put up big numbers, and Walsh has so far this year, throwing for 964 yards (241 per game average) and 8 TD’s to 3 INT’s. Truth be told, 2 of those interceptions came in last weeks loss, where he went 20-47 for 322 yards, and added 3 TD’s. He was also the team’s leading rusher with only 52 yards. Once again, the Cowboys have another receiving threat to prepare for, this time with Josh Stewart, who has 312 yards receiving (78 yard average). But the running game has missed last year’s starter, Joseph Randle, as Walsh is also the leading rusher with 245 yards. Jeremy Smith sits behind Walsh with 195 yards to date. This is why I think the defense line can be huge this week. Okie State does not pose much of a threat on the ground, so a consistent pass rush from the defensive ends is key. Disrupting Walsh can be key, as he was inefficient last week, helping the Mountaineers pull off the upset. A solid push from the front line will also allow less time for the Cowboys receivers to work to get open, hopefully allowing the Kansas State secondary to provide solid coverage. All in all, I do not like the scenario going into this game; it feels eerily similar to the Texas game. But West Virginia showed us the Cowboys can be beaten; let’s see if it can happen again this weekend.