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Let's face it: with the results of the last two weeks, this Saturday's game at Faurot Field has officially become the biggest of the season. A win erases the bad feelings from the trips to Lincoln and Lubbock and gets Mizzou geared back up for a run at nine or ten wins. A loss results in all-out panic. While there are likely no conference- or division title stakes in the works, this is a huge game, and while Mizzou will probably win if they play well ... they will need to play well to win. Kansas State still lacks for overall athleticism, but they have an offense that can wear down what has become a thinner and thinner defense in recent weeks, and they have a defense more than capable of taking advantage of mistakes.
Standard Downs S&P+: 36th
Redzone S&P+: 66th
Q1 S&P+: 61st
1st Down S&P+: 59th
Rushing S&P+: 42nd
Standard Downs: 24th
Adj. Line Yards: 53rd
Passing S&P+: 69th
Standard Downs: 53rd
Adj. Sack Rate: 110th
The Kansas State offense might lack in the depth department, but they make up for it with identity. This team knows who they are, and with the added run threat of surprise starting quarterback Collin Klein last week, they showed they can move the ball very well against a good Texas defense because of it. Kansas State runs the ball 71.0% of the time on standard downs, 15th-highest in the country -- they rank 24th in Standard Downs Rushing S&P+, while Missouri's defense ranks a respectable 35th in the same category (a lot of Mizzou's rushing breakdowns have come on passing downs). Unfortunately, Mizzou has fallen to 84th in Adj. Line Yards allowed, thanks in part to the failures following Dominique Hamilton's injury. KSU doesn't have the greatest offensive line, but if they are getting a push, particularly up the middle, they could wear down Mizzou's defense in a hurry.
At the same time, if Mizzou is doing a good job of making stops on first down, everything should fall into place well for them. KSU is not a passing downs offense -- they rank 80th in Passing Downs Passing S&P+ and 118th in Passing Downs Sack rate. Third down is their worst down, and Mizzou should make it a priority that they see as many as possible.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to me in this data is in the efficiency/explosiveness splits. KSU's overall offensive rankings are propped up by strong PPP+ (explosiveness) numbers. With the power running attack that they attempt to employ, one would think they would be more efficiency-oriented.
Carson Coffman: 118-for-176 passing (67.0%), 1315 yards (7.5/pass), 8 TD, 6 INT; 67 carries, 127 yards (1.9/carry), 7 TD
Collin Klein: 6-for-9 passing (66.7%), 33 yards (3.7/pass), 0 TD, 0 INT; 40 carries, 222 yards (5.6/carry), 3 TD
Last week Bill Snyder threw the already-reeling Texas Longhorns a curve ball by starting Collin Klein at quarterback, and the surprise was effective. Kansas State scored 39 points despite throwing just four passes for nine yards. Klein carried the ball 25 times for 127 yards, taking quite a bit of the load off of Daniel Thomas while reaping the benefits of their surprising, unscoutable move. The problem now is that you can only unload the element of surprise once. Mizzou and future opponents now know what Klein will do if he is in the game, and it is a near-certainty that KSU won't get away with the same tendencies the rest of the way, at least not with the same level of success.
Just looking at Coffman and Klein, one would get exactly the wrong impression regarding who is the run-heavy quarterback and who is more likely to pass. Klein is a whopping 6'5, 233 -- he combines with Thomas (6'2, 228) to create one of the largest running attacks in the country. Meanwhile, Coffman is a downright svelte 6'3, 211. We will see who Snyder chooses to use this week. I assume he will start with Klein and end up with a rotation unless Klein and Thomas are clicking as well as they did last week.
Daniel Thomas: 214 carries, 1,102 yards (5.1/carry), 12 TD; 23 catches, 129 yards (5.6/catch)
William Powell: 23 carries, 250 yards (10.9/carry), 4 TD; 1 catch, 5 yards
If you can name just one KSU player, it is Thomas. You know what he is and what he brings to the table. He is not the most explosive back in the world, but he doesn't have to be. If KSU can keep it close, he is a wonderful fourth-quarter weapon.
|Daniel Thomas' Carries by Quarter, "Close" Game
|Quarter||Rushes||Yards||Yds/Carry||% of Runs
10+ Yds or
The longer Kansas State can keep this game close, the better. As we learned from the Nebraska-KSU game, Thomas is not somebody who can win a game by himself -- he needs help, either from the defense or from some other weapon (in last week's case, Klein) emerging. But if KSU as a whole can keep the game winnable into the fourth quarter, Thomas can seal the deal. Mizzou's offense absolutely must sustain some drives early in this game; Texas Tech wore down the thin Mizzou defense in the third quarter, and Kansas State is much, much more well-equipped to do the same if Mizzou can't keep their offense on the field.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
Aubrey Quarles: 32 catches, 429 yards (13.4/catch), 3 TD; 2 carries, 23 yards
Tramaine Thompson: 19 catches, 258 yards (13.6/catch); 2 carries, 17 yards
Brodrick Smith: 14 catches, 191 yards (13.6/catch), 3 TD; 3 carries, 21 yards
Chris Harper: 14 catches, 174 yards (12.4/catch), 1 TD
Adrian Hilburn: 14 catches, 98 yards (7.0/catch)
Well, I was right and wrong about this unit. Heading into the season, I was worried that too much stock was being placed into newcomers Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper, and to be sure, neither has done much. Smith showed potential before getting hurt (in relatively gruesome fashion) against Nebraska; Harper has picked up the pace in recent weeks -- he had seven catches for 84 yards against Baylor and Oklahoma State (he had zero catches against Texas, but ... since they only threw four times, you can't really hold that against him, eh?) -- but he still hasn't been tremendously effective. Still, this unit has performed marginally better than I expected thanks to something old and something new. Forgotten man Aubrey Quarles, who redshirted in 2009, has been a nice surprise, as has freshman Tramaine Thompson. Quarles had 15 catches for 190 yards against Baylor and Oklahoma State, while Thompson (who at 5'7, 165, fits the Brandon Banks-style, "little big man" role nicely) had nine for 104 against Kansas and Baylor. The pass clearly isn't a major threat, but if Mizzou is overly focused on the run like they were when Nebraska's Kyler Reed burned Carl Gettis with a slow-motion double-move, then they can do some damage.
LT Manase Foketi (6'5, 300, Jr.)
LG Zach Kendall (6'2, 317, Sr.)
C Wade Weibert (6'4, 303, Sr.)
RG Kenneth Mayfield (6'4, 349, Sr.)
RT Clyde Aufner (6'5, 300, Jr.)
If there is a saving grace for the Mizzou defense, it is this. While K-State's line rankings are far from terrible, this is still the worst-ranked offensive line Mizzou has faced since the Colorado game. Neither Nebraska's nor Texas Tech's lines were top-ranked by any means, but this still represents a bit of a step down. They will seem a lot better, however, if Mizzou's D is wearing down in the second half.
In all, there is a pretty simple recipe for stopping the Kansas State offense: take away the run on first down and force passing downs. At the very least, make the Wildcats stray from their typical script by forcing them to throw the ball on standard downs to succeed. Even if they are successful at that early, you still want them straying from their bread-and-butter as much as possible.
Standard Downs S&P+: 29th
Redzone S&P+: 27th
Q1 S&P+: 19th
1st Down S&P+: 17th
Rushing S&P+: 36th
Standard Downs: 37th
Adj. Line Yards: 79th
Passing S&P+: 39th
Standard Downs: 28th
Adj. Sack Rate: 78th
In one specific way, this is a "resistable force versus movable object" battle here. Kansas State has been downright solid on standard downs this season. They are a great first-down defense, which should be a scary thought after seeing Mizzou's offense struggle mightily on first downs last week. However, while Mizzou might see plenty of passing downs (and let's face it--passing downs aren't a source of major confidence for Mizzou fans even through the Tigers rank 25th in Passing Downs S&P+), almost no team in the country is worse at avoiding big plays on passing downs than Kansas State.
In this way, it is imperative that Mizzou avoid the predictability trap into which they fell last week. As discussed on Tuesday, Mizzou was rather run-heavy on standard downs last week, but they were far too predictable on passing downs, throwing 86% of the time. They will do KSU many favors if the Wildcats are able to correctly guess what Mizzou is attempting to do; mixing things up should result in a decent number of big plays.
(One other note -- you'll notice that KSU is very good on both sides of the ball in the first quarter. One would expect a Bill Snyder team to come equipped with a rock solid gameplan, and it appears they do just that. An early lead would a wonderful thing for Missouri, but that is easier said than done. KSU is built to play very well with a lead, at least on offense, and the first quarter could become a major pothole for Mizzou if they are not sharp.)
DE Brandon Harold: 28.5 tackles, 6.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 PBU
DT Prizell Brown: 25.0 tackles, 6.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 3 PBU
DT Raphael Guidry: 18.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 1 INT
DE Antonio Felder: 23.0 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FR
Alex Hrebec: 52.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 9 PBU
Jarell Childs: 35.0 tackles, 1 PBU
Blake Slaughter: 32.0 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks
Tre Walker: 18.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks
Troy Butler: 12.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 2 PBU
Kansas State's front seven is reasonably experienced this season, and one would think they would be benefiting from a second season under Bill Snyder (even though last year's defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning, left for Illinois this offseason). And to be sure, the results have been at least competent. The line isn't making many plays, but the overall run defense figures suggest that they know what they are doing, at least on standard downs. The front seven lacks for a true play-maker, however. Alex Hrebec is a machine at breaking up passes (and by the way, either KSU's statistician has a very liberal definition of a pass broken-up, or KSU is one of the best teams in the country in that aspect) and making tackles, but almost nobody in this lineup is a major threat to rack up the tackles for loss.
As a whole, this defense thrives on turnovers. When they are tipping passes, forcing fumbles and picking off passes, they are as good a defense as Mizzou will face. Just ask Garrett Gilbert, who threw five interceptions (including picks on three consecutive passes at one point) last week. But Blaine Gabbert isn't Garrett Gilbert. If he is smart (and at least reasonably accurate) with the ball, Mizzou should be able to do some damage. Kansas State can't really generate pressure without blitzing (often from the secondary, if you see the TFL stats below), which is a good thing unless Happy Feet Gabbert makes a return.
(By the way, I really didn't have much of a problem with Gabbert's "happy feet" the last two weeks. The narrative has continued, but it seemed to me he was willing to stay in the pocket a beat or two longer than earlier in the season. It's just that ... if nobody comes open, nobody comes open. I obviously had a problem with the receivers, and with Gabbert's reads and/or accuracy, but in terms of when he did or didn't leave the pocket, I haven't been too bothered by his recent play.)
CB David Garrett: 47.5 tackles, 10.0 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 2 FR, 7 PBU
SS Tysyn Hartman: 43.0 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PBU
FS Ty Zimmerman: 38.0 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 1 FR, 2 PBU
CB Terrance Sweeney: 32.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 9 PBU
CB Stephen Harrison: 23.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 11 PBU
FS Emmanuel Lamur: 19.0 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU
Now we come to the playmakers. We saw against Nebraska that this is not the most athletic secondary Mizzou will see this season -- in fact, they are one of the least athletic secondaries Mizzou will see. But they are aggressive and deep. Three plays have broken up at least seven passes, while four have two interceptions each. If Mizzou can get the ball into their receivers' hands, good things will happen ... but they have to get there first. Pass defense is a relative weakness for KSU -- as I said, they are all or nothing, either forcing a turnover or getting burned -- especially on passing downs. Mizzou will have their opportunities, and if they play well, they will move the ball just fine.
Along with killer linebackers and a deep set of offensive play-makers, one of the hallmarks of Bill Snyder's great 1990s teams was a downright fearsome special teams unit with great kicking and terrifying return me. Let's say the New KSU is about halfway there.
Opp. Punt Returns
Opp. Kick Returns
Mizzou holds the advantage in the kicking and punting departments, but one thing should stand out very, very clearly: kick returns. Senior running back William Powell has turned into a fantastic kick returns man ... and that just so happens to be Mizzou's single biggest special teams weakness. If Mizzou is running into a similar situation as last week, where they are starting drives at their 20 and their opponent is starting at their 40 or 50 because of kickoff returns and quick, ineffective Mizzou drives, then winning will be an uphill battle.
We'll wrap this up with the table that I use for 7th Day Adventure columns at FO. FEI = Brian Fremeau's ratings, F/+ = the combination of FEI and S&P+, and FPA = Field Position Advantage.
|OVERALL||When Kansas State
Has the Ball...
Has the Ball...
|2010 F/+ Rk||41||14||42||13||44||22|
|2010 FEI Rk||39||13||40||4||70||24|
|2010 S&P+ Rk||42||12||53||22||37||10|
|2010 FPA Rk||46||52|
|2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk||42||67||36||3|
|2010 Passing S&P+ Rk||69||4||39||31|
|2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk||36||15||29||17|
|2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk||77||40||112||25|
K-State's advantages: KSU rushing ... and a slight Field Position advantage. That's it.
Mizzou's advantages: Everywhere else, particularly KSU passing and passing downs on both sides of the ball.
That spells out the game in a nutshell. If KSU can get away with utilizing their running game, and if they can prevent Mizzou from leveraging them into passing downs, they will have a chance in this game. And if they can keep it very close (or get ahead) heading into the fourth quarter, things will get very scary. But Mizzou's offense will consistently have opportunities because of KSU's problems on passing downs, and if they mix it up well between the run and the pass (and whether you want to believe it or not, they did well in this regard last week, at least philosophically), they should score some points. Meanwhile, passing downs will be Mizzou's friend on both sides of the ball. If they can stop KSU's first-down run, they should shut the Wildcats down.
Really, there are two very clear scenarios in this game:
Scenario #1: KSU can't get the running game going, Mizzou opens up an early lead, and the floodgates open. Mizzou wins, say, 38-14.
Scenario #2: KSU does get the running game going, and even if Mizzou scores some points, the Mizzou defense begins to wear down. The Mizzou offense tenses up and fails to execute for at least a little while (in front of a crowd that is just begging to get tense and fall into "here we go again" mode), and we end up with a 24-21 game, one way or the other.
Honestly, I think it's 50-50 with these two scenarios. The first quarter will tell us a lot, as will the push KSU's offensive line is or isn't getting. This game makes me extremely nervous, but if I had to bet my life on one scenario or the other, I'm still leaning toward Scenario #1. Mizzou pulls this one off on Senior Day, and everybody can move away from the ledge.