With K-State set to host Iowa State Saturday afternoon at 2:30, here are the five things I’ll be watching for during the game:
1. Boston Stiverson’s Effectiveness: Bill Snyder listed Stiverson at the top of the depth chart at the beginning of the season, implying he would start at right guard against North Dakota State. However, Stiverson saw his first in-game action last week against West Virginia after missing the first half of the season with a foot injury incurred during fall camp. His return does more than just put the top five players on the team on the offensive line – it also means Keenan Taylor is now available to replace any offensive linemen on a moment’s notice. Taylor was a starter last year when Stiverson was just a freshman, but better serves the team as a back up that can assume either guard or tackle duties. Stiverson had the West Virginia game to get up to speed – now he’s healthier, better prepared, and ready to get nasty on the offensive line.
2. Who Will Make The Next Great Special Teams Play: It seems like every week somebody does something that makes me jump up and down, hoot and holler, and otherwise befuddle my upstairs neighbors who aren’t aware of K-State football. Despite returning from injuries, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson were held silent last week in the return game (Lockett had just one punt return for four yards and averaged 21 yards on two kick returns, while Thompson didn’t have any returns). However, Travis Britz blocked a kick and the special teams dominance continued. Who steps up this week?
3. The Quarterback Carousel: Yes, this is an obvious one, but seven games into the season it’s more obvious than ever that no one will ever win the primary quarterback spot. I still think Daniel Sams is the better option of the two, but Snyder loves making teams prepare for both players, thus hampering their ability to focus on the weaknesses of just one quarterback. Watching to see if Sams is allowed to stay in on third-and-seven at any point, and conversely if Jake Waters is allowed to pick up a short-yardage conversion.
4. The Tight End Situation: This looked to be a position of strength going into the season, despite losing the greatness that was Travis Tannahill. The hulking beast that is Andre McDonald returned to the field and Zach Trujillo looked like a fast replacement. With two new quarterbacks looking for checkdown options and an emphasis on the rushing game, I was salivating at the potential this team had with double tight end sets. However, both players have had a couple bad drops, Trujillo was knocked out of the Baylor game, and they’ve combined for only five catches this year. Iowa State is banged up at linebacker position but once again has a solid secondary and receivers may struggle to consistently get open. There could be opportunities to go over the middle and exploit mismatches Saturday – especially with the 6’8″ McDonald.
5. Does K-State Cover The Spread: I’m still a bit surprised the Wildcats are picked to win by 17 on Saturday – two touchdowns and a field goal is a difficult chasm to cover against most DI opponents. Especially given how Iowa State has a penchant for winning ugly and K-State had a 2:1 rush:pass ratio last week (43:21) against West Virginia. The game plan will once again be to grind out a win against the Cyclones, particularly with Iowa State’s weaknesses up front and strong defensive backfield. Vegas predicted Iowa State to play closer games against both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech – two teams predicated on quick strikes to build big leads. Obviously the nation is ready for this Wildcat team to roar back into the thick of things in the second half of the season. Are you ready?