Last week was senior week, with K-State’s outgoing graduates honored in their final home game at Bill Snyder Stadium. And this weekend concludes the regular for the Wildcats, with a trip to a bowl (likely Holiday Bowl) waiting in the wings. Despite K-State’s bowl invitation and KU’s loss of a season already assured, there’s still a lot to play for. At 6-5 overall and 4-4 in league play, K-State will be playing to finish above .500 in both columns. Additionally, KU finally got over the hump with a victory over West Virginia after 27 straight conference losses. The Jayhawks will be looking to prove that win wasn’t a fluke by securing a second victory. Here are the things we’ll be watching over the course of the game:
1. Daniel Sams Playing Time: We’ve gotten away from mentioning the quarterback controversy in the things to watch because this one seems obvious, but Sams was nonexistent but for one series in the first quarter against Oklahoma. Jake Waters played great with the wind at his back, but his stats throwing into the wind were actually very pedestrian last week. After almost an entire season, it’s still impossible to predict when Sams will see the field. Assuming K-State jumps out to an early lead and keeps it, we’ll be watching if he gets a majority of the snaps.
2. Linebacker Play: Going into the season, I thought this linebacker unit was going to be stellar. Unfortunately, it’s fallen short of expectations. Brennan Clay had 200 rushing yards against K-State last week. KU has one of the Big 12’s (and nation’s) best running back in James Sims – if he was playing behind Baylor’s line, he could be in the running for the Heisman. With the quarterback situation in shambles in Lawrence, expect the Jayhawks to pound the rock early and often. Charlie Weis will be running a lot of spread packages and trying to get him in space. That will require sure tackling. Can the Wildcat linebackers step up and stop him?
3. Tyler Lockett’s Encore: There’s no way Lockett matches his 278 yard, three touchdown performance from last week. I think. Lockett missed two big games against Baylor and Oklahoma State early in the year, and is not in the All-American discussion right now. Playing for K-State, he may never be. But if he hauls in another 200 yards, voters will be on notice.
4. John Hubert’s Effectiveness: Running back John Hubert had a rough start to his senior year, and Bill Snyder insinuated he came into the season out of shape and lacking focus. Hubert has had three 100+ rushing games, but has also logged some duds. He was given the rock six times against TCU, and just nine times against Oklahoma. Last week he averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. However, he is unquestionably the number one back on the team. This is his last chance to get some confidence heading into the postseason.
5. Can K-State Break The 50-Point Barrier: The Wildcats have averaged 58 points the past three meetings. While this offense started the season slow, it’s caught on fire the second half of the year and the team is averaging 33.6 points per game. The most points the team has put up is 49 against Texas Tech two weeks ago. The ability to exceed that total is there. Let’s see how determined the players are to go out with a bang.