Powercat Gameday Panel: Texas

Hello and welcome to another installation of the Powercat Gameday Panel. Kansas State welcomes Texas to Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday for Homecoming at 11:00 a.m. CT.

The crew will be broadcasting live in Cat Town, just southwest of BSFS. Come stop by or tune into Powercat Gameday live on KMAN starting at 7:00 a.m. CT.

Thanks as always to everyone who submitted a question to this week’s Powercat Gameday Panel. To submit a question tweet us at @PowercatGameday or to any of the panelists: @jlkurtz, @Cole_Manbeck, or @StantonWeber.

Let’s get started:

First off, I know we haven’t specified this in the past but just so everyone knows for future reference, none of us are therapists.

So we can’t be much help with this one.

Again, questions that are very deep. We can confirm @KellisRobinett survived the press conference, though.

Ah, this is better:

John: I’d say a combination of falling behind early and the injury to Jesse Ertz had an impact on this. Getting in a 14-0 and 21-7 hole isn’t really conducive to K-State being able to control the game on the ground. They did get it to 21-10, but then Ertz was knocked out of the game. His incompletion to start the first drive of the 3rd quarter helped doom the first drive of the second half. Then Joe Hubener is the quarterback and I think there’s a temptation there to try to use his big arm down the field against an Oklahoma secondary that had really struggled heading into that game.

I really would still like to see Alex Barnes and Dalvin Warmack utilized more too in the run game. We saw earlier this week that Pro Football Focus rates K-State’s offensive line as the third best in the country. Seems crazy, right? I think part of that is that Silmon and Jones aren’t quite dynamic enough to take full advantage of what the offensive line is doing. Therefore the yards per carry numbers don’t look as good as they could.

Cole: K-State running backs have 125 carries for for 659 yards this season, an average of 5.3 yards per carry. We can all agree that’s solid. Over Jesse Ertz’s last four games, he has 233 yards on the ground on 32 carries (including sack yardage), an average of 7.3 yards a rush. So the numbers look good when the Wildcats run it. Unfortunately, K-State was playing from behind the entire game at OU and went to the pass more than it probably would have liked.

I still agree that they should have run the ball more. And like John, I want to see Alex Barnes get more carries. He’s the Wildcats’ most physical running back and always falls forward. It’s time to get the freshman on the field more. Just speculating here, but I would look for K-State to start sprinkling in Byron Pringle at the Wildcat position soon as well.

Stanton: John does a nice job of covering why we got away from the run at Oklahoma above. I will add, in general, K-State needs to get more out of its run game. The designed quarterback run is something that we have missed this season and, in my opinion, would help improve the offense if it was utilized more. We have seen Jesse Ertz in the open field and he is dangerous. If K-State wants to minimize the hits the quarterback position takes, they can run the wildcat in normal down and distance situations (lots of options there). Dana Dimel and Charlie Dickey are a great run scheming combination and having an extra blocker on every play can only expand their ability to draw up successful plays. I want to see that staple of the offense return.

Cole: I think the morale is fine for now. But lose to Texas this weekend and it may start to spiral downward. This is a game the Wildcats really need to win, especially with a road test against a hungry Iowa State team next weekend. Remember, the Cyclones are coming off a bye and will be motivated to get their first Big 12 win. So this Saturday could be the game that swings the morale up or down.

Stanton: Last year the team went through a six-game losing streak and it was miserable. Throughout the losing streak, though, the attitude of the team never wavered. The players showed up every day and bought into Coach Snyder’s 16 goals. The leadership on this year’s team has been quoted talking about how imperative their leadership is to avoiding these kinds of losing streaks. Due to last year, I think everyone on the team is more prepared to respond to loses and bounce back. I have no doubt that this team’s morale won’t be shaken by losing one at Oklahoma thanks to the combination of the culture that Coach Snyder has instilled in the program and the strong leadership.

John: They continue to say all the right things when talking to us in the media. This is a team that went through a six game losing streak last year, so they have some experience in having to deal with disappointing losses. Some of the leaders, Jordan Willis in particular, continue to mention that they learned some valuable lessons from that experience last year and they won’t let their effort and attitude dip like they feel like it did at times last year.

Having said all of that, this is a huge game this week. I think the players understand they’ve played three very difficult road games against teams with a combined 13-4 right now. There’s no real shame in losing three games in which you were clearly the underdog. However, if you lose a home game against a team that you’d at least think K-State is about even with, much more doubt would have to creep into your mind. The Wildcats really need to get two of these next three games to keep some positive momentum going into the home stretch of the season that includes road trips to Baylor and TCU.

Stanton: It took me roughly 2 years before I felt completely comfortable with the offense as a wide receiver at K-State. As a receiver, that understanding of the offense was only a fraction of the information that the quarterback is required to know to run the offense. We can’t forget Alex Delton is only a redshirt freshman. I think we can all agree that his physical tools are more intriguing than senior quarterback Joe Hubener, but if Alex Delton is not ready mentally, Hubener is the better option. Hubener’s understanding of the offense and experience made him the predictable choice to enter Saturday’s game in relief of Jesse Ertz, not to mention it was in one of the most intimidating environments in the Big 12. If Ertz can’t go Saturday, I would love to see what Alex Delton can do if he gets a shot against Texas. The friendly confines in Manhattan and a week to prepare a game plan tailored specifically to Delton would remind me a lot of the 2010 Texas game, Collin Klein’s first start of his career (39-14 win, 4 pass attempts).

John: Much like the Stanford game, I don’t think it would have been very fair to throw Alex Delton into the fire for his first real significant action on the road against a top 25 team (in this case with 82,000 fans bearing down on him). Bill Snyder said earlier this week that if Jesse Ertz weren’t able to play this week at home, there’s a good chance both Delton and Joe Hubener would play. It makes sense that the coaching staff would be much more willing to give Delton his shot at home when crowd noise wouldn’t be a limiting factor in what he can do with the offense.

I can definitely understand any frustration someone would have over not seeing him when Hubener clearly still struggles to consistently move the offense. However, I can also understand rolling with the guy who has 11 career starts in a situation where someone is getting totally thrown into the fire.

Cole: This is a frustrating thing for K-State fans, as the Wildcats’ coaching staff tends to rely heavily on experience over talented, younger players. Delton is still just a redshirt freshman, is still learning the system as well as developing his arm. He’s certainly gifted, and I’d like to see some packages created for him to get on the field and at the very least, run the ball with him.

I’m personally in favor of playing the younger guy for the future and taking the lumps of the growing pains now. Because let’s face it, K-State isn’t contending for a Big 12 championship this year. If they were, I’d be in favor of playing the veteran.

Still, it’s important to remember the only two times we have seen Hubener have been on the road against good teams playing from behind. If he were to start this Saturday and be on the field from the get-go, maybe we see an improved senior quarterback.

John: It really seems to me like this will come down to K-State finding some way to improve their passing attack. Much like Oklahoma, Texas really struggles to defend the pass and is pretty good against the run. Cole has some great numbers to illustrate this. Whether it’s a banged up Jesse Ertz, Joe Hubener or Alex Delton, the Wildcats are likely going to have to find a way to move the ball through the air to win this game. This is going to be the third straight week that K-State has played a bad pass defense, and so far the Wildcats are averaging just 164 yards per game against those defenses. Bill Snyder seemed intent on improving K-State’s passing game at his press conference this week, so you’d have to hope for a decent jump here.

Cole: K-State is going to have to find a way to successfully move the ball through the air against a Longhorns secondary that ranks 123rd out of 128 FBS teams in pass efficiency defense, the worst mark among all power-five teams. Texas also allows 9.1 yards per pass attempt, ranking 122nd nationally and second-worst among all power-five teams. One of the challenges will be giving whoever is behind center time to throw. Texas ranks third nationally in sack rate, sacking the QB on 11.1 percent of the time an opponent drops back to pass. K-State’s offensive line ranks 112th in the country in sack rate allowed, giving up a sack on 9.3 percent of its drop-back attempts.

Texas holds opponents to 3.7 yards per carry, ranking in the top 35 in the country. It’s one of the strengths of its defense. The Wildcats will still need to effectively run the football, and I think they can. But K-State will need improved play at quarterback if it’s going to win against a Texas defense that I believe is about to hit its stride with Charlie Strong taking over the unit two weeks ago.

Stanton: Kansas State needs to find a way to jump start their offense first and foremost but I will look to the defense for my key to success. Texas’ running back D’Onte Foreman has been on a tear lately, rushing for over 100 yards in his last 7 games dating back to last season. K-State’s rush defense is ranked 4th nationally, and will need to win the battle of strength on strength to break Foreman’s streak. That will be a good start to having an improved performance by a defense that was gashed last week.

Stanton: It’s fair to say that the next three games are critical to K-State’s run at bowl eligibility. In my opinion, Kansas State needs to go at least 2-1 in these next three or they’re looking at an uphill battle to the six-win mark. Fortunately, all of the next three are winnable games. Texas and Oklahoma State have consistently struggled in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, in fact, since 1989 the two teams have left Manhattan victorious only one time each (Texas 2002, Oklahoma State 2010). Looking at Iowa State, I think Ames, Iowa is one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12, but Bill Snyder hasn’t lost to the Cyclones in his second tenure as head coach.

I think the Texas game will determine how the following two contests go. If K-State gets a victory on Saturday, I think K-State will go 3-0 and, if they don’t, I think they will likely go 1-2. When Bill Snyder-coached teams get a win under their belt like this week’s matchup with Texas, they tend to build on the momentum but, as we saw last year, it’s tough to get that first win to get the ball rolling.

John: There’s no doubt K-State needs to go at least 2-1 to feel good about bowl eligibility. That would put them at 5-4 with a home game against Kansas still on the schedule. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on the Wildcats finding a way to win two of the next three. Take that with a grain of salt though because my college football lock of the year Indiana let me down last week (though we all know Nebraska really fumbled that ball late in the game).

It’s well documented how much Texas has struggled in Manhattan. Despite the fact that they’re clearly dangerous, Iowa State is still a one-win team right now. Plus, Oklahoma State will have only played road games at Baylor (a loss) and Kansas before heading to Manhattan on November 5th.

I know everyone seems to be panicking right now, but I still think this team is better than the 2015 squad and should be able to get to 6 or 7 wins. All three of the home games left are winnable, and I’d certainly put the road trip to Iowa State in that category too. This defense should be good enough to keep K-State in most of the games left on the schedule, and the offense still seems to have a higher ceiling than last year’s if Jesse Ertz can stay reasonably healthy.

Cole: Four weeks ago, I thought K-State would all three of its upcoming games. I no longer feel that way. As of right now, I’m picking Texas and Iowa State to defeat the Wildcats over the next two weeks. I hope I’m wrong. There’s a good chance I am. But if that occurs, I don’t see K-State making a bowl. But these are winnable games over the next three weeks, so as of now, I will play the percentages and say K-State will make a bowl.

John: Well according to Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard, a conference that’s on par with the Mountain West. I know it’s popular to unload on the Big 12 right now, but I’m still going to hold out some hope that the league can continue beyond the 2025 expiration of the grant of rights. It’s still only been six years since Missouri and Nebraska started the Big 12 mass exodus. Think of how much could change between now and 2025.

One take I really agree with coming out of Big 12 expansion (or lack thereof) is that the league should make a push to get the playoff expanded to eight teams. If that happens, and the Big 12 gets an automatic bid to the CFB playoff, there’s a reasonable case to pitch to Texas and Oklahoma that their easiest/best route to the playoff is to stay in the Big 12. It’s also still a conference where they’re clearly the top dogs and can push their agenda successfully most of the time. I’d have to think that’s a fairly compelling case.

Apparently I’m the optimist now…not sure what exactly happened there.

Cole: I am really tired of all the Big 12 is dead talk. The landscape eight years from now could be drastically different. In a couple of years, the Big 12 could be a power in football again with multiple teams competing for a playoff spot. Also, as a Stanton mentions below, there very well could be an eight-team college football playoff by the time the grant of rights expires. If that occurs, the Big 12 is always assured a playoff spot, which calms the realignment talk.

All of this talk is coming out during a year that the Big 12 is down in football, and because David Boren never shuts up. Remember, Boren will likely be retired by the time the grant of rights is up. I think the move to stay at 10 teams is fine. And I think the Big 12 will survive past 2025.

Now, if the Big 12 were to dissolve and there were four 16-team conferences, I could see K-State in the Pac-12. Here’s how I could see that happen:

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the SEC (assuming those two can’t part ways due to political pressure).

TCU and Baylor are in trouble as they are private schools, which the Pac-12 has always been reluctant on adding.

So I could see Texas Tech, K-State, Texas and possibly KU to the Pac-12.

Stanton: First of all, for the sake of my already broken heart in the realm of conference realignment, I am going to act like you asked where K-State will end up “if” the Big 12 dies. I grew up watching K-State compete in the Big 12 North, a division with great rivalries and tradition stemming from the old Big 8. Running around the backyard as a kid and dreaming of playing football for K-State was a pastime at my house. Those imaginary games weren’t taking place in Morgantown, West Virginia. I was dreaming of playing in Lincoln, Nebraska against the Huskers or Missouri at Faurot Field. Unfortunately, times changed.

I think it’s only a matter of time before the college football playoff expands to eight teams, and along with that, an automatic bid will be awarded to the Big 12 conference champion. If that happens, I think Texas and Oklahoma can be satisfied with the Big 12 as a vehicle to the playoff, bringing stability to the conference. For K-State’s sake, I hope this sense of security comes sooner rather than later, because if another major shuffle occurs, K-State could potentially be left out in the cold by the remaining power conferences.

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