K-State’s Offense vs. Auburn’s Defense

September 17, 20140 Comments

By Cole Manbeck

I’ll begin this with something obvious: Kansas State’s best defense against Auburn on Thursday night is the Wildcats’ offense. Long, ball-control drives that result in touchdowns and chew up clock, limit the Tigers’ offensive possessions and perhaps, get them out of rhythm while providing rest for K-State’s defense. The Wildcats held Baylor, the top offense in the country last season, to one of its worst offensive games of the season in 2013. They did so by possessing the football for more than 39 of the game’s 60 minutes. The game plan against Baylor was a powerful running attack, led by quarterback Daniel Sams, against a Bears defense that was actually decent against the run (Baylor finished 38th in the country in run defense, allowing 145 yards per game and less than 3.5 yards per rush).

 

Auburn’s defense isn’t elite like its offense, but the Tigers have the capability to be decent against the run. In 2013, they ranked 62nd in the country in run defense, allowing 162 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Through two games this season, Auburn is allowing only 2.9 yards per carry and only 110 yards per game. Auburn held Arkansas, the No. 2 rushing team in the country through three games, to 153 yards on 29 carries in week one. Still, that’s an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and any offense would happily take that average. In Auburn’s second game, it faced San Jose State, a team known much more for its passing game than its running attack. So we can essentially throw that game out.

 

K-State has averaged more than 5 yards per carry in two games this season, and coincidentally, averaged 4.6 yards per rush in 2013, exactly what Auburn gave up on the ground. If the Wildcats can establish the running game, that will open up the pass against a secondary that can be beaten downfield. But the Wildcats will need another receiver to step up and take some of the heat off Tyler Lockett. Ideally, Judah Jones or Andre Davis could fill that void as they have the speed to create separation, but neither has seen much playing time thus far.

 

I emphasize the run defense because this is where Auburn was expected to be better coming into this season. Auburn’s biggest weakness should be its pass rush. The Tigers averaged 2.3 sacks per game in 2013, but Dee Ford, who had a team-leading 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, is now with the Kansas City Chiefs. Carl Lawson, a promising young player who was second on the team with four sacks, is out for the season with an injury. Auburn’s defense thrives on getting a rush off the edge, and it doesn’t possess the same firepower that it had last season. The Tigers do have five sacks through two games, but K-State’s offensive line should be better at pass protection than Arkansas or San Jose State.

 

 

Auburn allowed 259 passing yards per game in 2013, ranking 100th out of 123 FBS teams. Chris Davis, who led the team with 15 pass breakups and was second on the squad with 74 tackles, is gone. The Tigers ranked 63rd in passing efficiency defense (K-State ranked 21st on defense in passing efficiency).  Through two games this season, Auburn ranks 47th, allowing 214 passing yards per game and 53rd in passing efficiency defense. But two games worth of action against average competition is difficult to gauge for both teams.

 

While I’ve pointed out some of Auburn’s weaknesses on defense, they do have several good players, led by junior middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, who led the Tigers with 75 tackles last season while also adding 8.5 tackles for loss. Through two games in 2014, McKinzy leads the team with 16 tackles.

 

Gabe Wright, a 6-foot-3, 284-pound senior, provides versatility along the defensive line. Wright, who has been a defensive tackle most of his career, has moved to defensive end after dropping some weight this offseason. Named to the preseason All-SEC First-Team defense, Wright was second on the team with 8.5 tackles for loss last season. Joining Wright upfront is 6-4, 306-pound sophomore defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who was named by Sporting News as a preseason All-American. Through two games, Adams leads the Tigers with four tackles for loss.

 

As I mentioned above, the Tigers lost their best corner in Chris Davis, but Jonathon Mincy returns and is probably their best player in the secondary. Mincy, a four-year starter at corner, was second on the team with 14 pass breakups last season and was named to the preseason All-SEC Second Team this year. He is joined by veteran free safety Jermaine Whitehead, who recorded 65 tackles in 2013 and has 28 career starts under his belt.

 

Auburn has plenty of speed on defense. I’d look for the Wildcats to counter that speed with some misdirection plays to see if they over-pursue and to slow them down.

 

K-State can win this game, but it will have to play mistake-free football. The Wildcats can’t afford to turn the ball over and put Auburn in favorable field position or commit silly penalties. And the Wildcats must capitalize by scoring touchdowns when they’re in the red zone, because field goals are not going to win this game.

 

Auburn’s offense has scored 30 or more points in 12 straight games, dating back to last season. K-State has scored 30 or more points in nine straight contests. The Tigers defense should not shut down the Wildcats’ offense. I expect K-State to score points against them. It will come down to whether or not the Wildcat defense can contain Auburn’s high-powered offense.

 

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