PREVIEW AND PICKS: No. 9 Oklahoma St at No. 22 Kansas St

by Alec Busse • EMAWOnline – Recruiting Analyst

Saturday’s contest between No. 9 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) and No. 22 Kansas State (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) likely has Big 12 Championship game implications. Each team enters the game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium tied for second place in the Big 12 behind No. 7 TCU (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) in the conference’s standings.

Kansas State is coming off of a loss to the Horned Frogs last week when they gradually saw their 28-10 lead over TCU turn into a 38-28 loss through the second half. The Wildcats saw eight players who were listed in the starting either leave the game with injury or have their snaps limited because of injury, including starting quarterback Adrian Martinez and senior captain linebacker Daniel Green.

Martinez played just four snaps vs. TCU and was removed from the game after the Wildcats’ opening offensive series in which he had a long run. The transfer quarterback walked off the field after the game with a noticeable limp when walking with is left leg.

“I don’t know if he will be available,” Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman said on Tuesday when asked about the status of Martinez. “I don’t. Last week we tempered some things with him in practice and he felt pretty good and as the game got started he couldn’t go that’s the bottom line.”

Oklahoma State enters Saturday’s game with a long list of injuries too, and none are more glaring than quarterback Spencer Sanders. 

Sanders was questionable last week with shoulder issues in the Cowboys’ comeback win over Texas but proceeded to throw the ball a season-high 57 times for the Cowboys’ offense.

Mike Gundy’s team also faces injuries to wide receivers Jaden Bray and Braydon Johnson who have missed multiple games this season, including last week’s game against the Longhorns. Safety Jason Taylor II suffered, what appeared to be, a hyperextended knee in the fourth quarter on his game-sealing interception last week. Cowboys running back Dominic Richardson suffered a head injury last week in the second half.

The outcome of Saturday’s game could come down to which team is able to have more of their first-string players contribute in a meaningful way considering the number of questionable players.

Oklahoma State leads the all-time series with Kansas State 42-26 with the series dating all the way back to 1908. Gundy’s teams have won three consecutive games in the series, which mean that Klieman has yet to beat Oklahoma State in his tenure as Kansas State’s head coach.

GAME INFORMATION

No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Kansas State

Date: Sat., Oct., 29, 2022

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.

Location: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

Series: Oklahoma State leads 42-26

TV: FOX Jason Benetti (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst), Allison Williams (sidelines)

Radio: K-State Sports Network, Sirus Radio Ch. TBA, SXM App TBA

Betting Line: Kansas State -1.5, over-under 56.5

GAME NOTES

– Coming off a tough 38-28 road loss to No. 8 TCU, 22nd-ranked Kansas State will get a crack at yet another top-10 Big 12 foe as it hosts No. 9 Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Wildcats and Cowboys are currently in a tie for second place in the Big 12 standings at 3-1. The Homecoming game will kick at 2:30 p.m. from Bill Snyder Family Stadium and be televised nationally on FOX.

– K-State is 5-2 this season with both losses coming against teams that are currently ranked (No. 7 TCU, No. 23 Tulane). This week’s game will mark the first time that the Wildcats will face top-10 teams in consecutive weeks since 2017 (No. 6 TCU, No. 9 Oklahoma) and the first time that the Cats will face three top-10 teams in the same season since 2014 (No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 TCU, No. 5 Baylor).

– Last time out, K-State battled through a physical game in Fort Worth and led the ballgame, 28-10, late in the second quarter. The Horned Frogs responded with touchdowns on the final drive of the first half and the opening drive of the second half on their way to a 38-28 win. Quarterback Will Howard came off the bench and shined for the Cats, finishing with 225 yards passing on 13-of-20 aim with two scores.

– During the TCU contest, running back Deuce Vaughn went over 1,000 career receiving yards, while he enters this week with 2,790 career rushing yards. He is the eighth Big 12 player all-time to reach 2,500 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a career, but the quickest to ever do so as he accomplished the feat in his 30th career game. Second on the list is Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray (38 games).

– The Cats have been stellar on defense, allowing just 19.7 points per game and 374.6 total yards per game. This week, the Cats rank 16th nationally in turnover margin, 17th in interceptions, 18th in fourth down defense, 23rd in scoring defense, 23rd in sacks and 24th in tackles for loss. The Cats have kept each of their Big 12 opponents this year under their season scoring average entering its game against K-State.

– 231.1 – Rushing yards per game this season, which ranks 11th in the nation and fifth among Power 5 teams.

– 20.6 – Points per game allowed by K-State since its switch to the 3-3-5 alignment prior to the 2021 season (20 games).

– 9 – Number of interceptions recorded by the Wildcat defense, which leads the Big 12 Conference.

– 5 – Seasons since K-State has faced top-10 opponents in consecutive weeks (vs. No. 6 TCU and No. 9 Oklahoma in 2017).

– 3 – Number of top 10 opponents the Wildcats will face this season, the most since also facing three in 2014.

COWBOYS TO WATCH ON OFFENSE

QB Spencer Sanders is playing among the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 for much of the 2022 season. Sanders’ competition percentage has fallen below 60 percent this season, but he’s already thrown for 2,030-yard and 15 touchdowns with a career-low four interceptions on the season. Last week against Texas, the Big 12’s second-best defense by stop rate, Sanders threw two touchdowns and had 391 yards. He also rushed for 43 yards on 11 attempts. Sanders is Oklahoma State’s all-time leading rusher for a quarterback, and despite battling a nagging shoulder injury, it’s fair to assume that Sanders will find ways to be effective in the rushing game.

RB Dominic Richardson might not be able to play for Oklahoma State on Saturday as he was removed from last week’s game with what is reported as a head injury. Richardson had a career-high 175 scrimmage yards vs. Arizona Tate earlier this season.

RB Jaden Nixon is in his second season at Oklahoma State. In seven games this season he has just 114 rushing yards and 39 receiving yards. But Nixon is coming off of his best game of the season where he had eight carries for 64 yards, about 51 of those yards came on one play, though. Against Baylor earlier this season, he returned three kicks for 131 total yards, which includes a touchdown.

RB Ollie Gordon has 161 scrimmage yards on 28 touches this season, but he had a 53-yard rush vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff and was the highest-ranked player in Oklahoma State’s 2022 recruiting class.

WR Bryson Green is a sophomore that has 417 total yards on the season, and five touchdowns. Green has eclipsed 100 yards twice this season, including last week’s 133-yard performance against Texas where he also had a touchdown reception.

WR Brennan Presley has 413 yards this season and two touchdowns.his best game of the season was against Baylor when he had eight catches for 86 yards. Last week he had 60 yards on six catches and a touchdown.

COWBOYS TO WATCH ON DEFENSE

DE Brock Martin is tied for the team lead with three sacks and is second on the defensive line with 20 tackles this season. He’s played in 56 career games and he has started 28 of those games, which is second most on Oklahoma State’s entire team. Martin missed the Texas game and is likely questionable for Saturday’s game vs. Kansas State.

DE Tyler Lacy has the ability to also play defensive tackle, which makes him a highly coveted NFL Draft prospect. Lacy has 26 tackles this season and 8.5 tackles for loss. The senior has also recorded three sacks this season.

DE Trace Ford has three tackles for loss this season, including a sack.

DE Collin Oliver is a sophomore that has recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks this season. His best game of the season came against Texas Tech.

Jason Taylor II is questionable for Saturday’s game, but if he’s able to play he’s an impact defensive back for the Cowboys. Taylor is a Jim Thorpe Award semifinals and leads the Big 12 and is No. 7 in the Big 12 in tackles per game in 2022. He is the Big 12 leader in interceptions, with three.

WILDCAT IN THE SPOTLIGHT ON OFFENSE

Running back Deuce Vaughn has been able to play through minor injuries for much of the season, and last week he was limited because of them. But with the availability of Martinez in question, the Wildcats will likely need Vaughn to pace the offense.

In the first half, backup quarterback Will Howard was able to lead touchdown drives on his first three opportunities. But in the second half, Howard didn’t have the same success leading the offense, a shoulder injury sustained on a quarterback run may have contributed to more running plays in the fourth quarter.

Vaughn had a 50-yard touchdown run last week, but finished with 83 total yards in the game on just 12 carries, his second-lowest total of the season. Kansas State likely needs Vaughn to top 100 rushing yards and get close to 150 yards if Martinez isn’t able to play. The preseason All-American has also scored more than one touchdown in just one game this season. A couple of scores from Vaughn would be massive for the K-State offense.

WILDCATS IN THE SPOTLIGHT ON DEFENSE

Anudike-Uzomah has 6.5 sacks this season, which is the best in the Big 12. It speaks to how impactful he has been this season despite not being fully healthy. A game-breaking, explosive performance from Anudike-Uzomah would be massive for the Wildcats.

KEY TO THE GAME ON OFFENSE

Convert on third down. Oklahoma State was forced to replace defensive coordinator Jim Knowles after he departed for the same position at Ohio State after last season. Knowles orchestrated one of the best defenses in the country a year ago, and while his replacement Derek Mason is a notable name the Cowboy defense has taken a noticeable step back this season.

One area, though, that the Cowboys remain stout is their third down defense. Oklahoma State has the best third-down defense in the Big 12, by a long shot. Opponents are converting gon third-down just 25.5 percent of the time. The Big 12’s second-best third-down team is Iowa State at 31.8 percent.

Getting into manageable third downs where the Wildcats are able to hand it off to Vaughn for short yard gains or hit a wide receiver on a screen pass would strongly benefit the Wildcat offense, especially if Martinez isn’t able to play on Saturday.

KEY TO THE GAME ON DEFENSE

 

Keep Spencer Sanders in the pocket. Oklahoma State has the eighth-best rushing offense in the Big 12, but most of their rushing yards are buoyed by Sanders has rushed for 352 yards this season. If Kansas State can keep Sanders in the pocket, Oklahoma State is going to struggle to run the football for much of the afternoon.

But if Sanders is able to run effectively across the landscape of the Wildcat defense, Oklahoma State is going to have more success moving the ball against K-State.

PREDICTIONS

Mason Voth’s Prediction: On the face of things, Oklahoma State should be the easy pick. But despite blowing the 18-point lead against TCU last week, the Wildcats were encouraging despite playing without Adrian Martinez. Will Howard looked good and was confident and decisive with his throws, but momentum halted when the Wildcats missed a field goal one play after Howard exited with an injury, that field goal could have given the Cats a touchdown lead. After two failed series with Jake Rubley and momentum fully shifted to the Horned Frogs, it was too late when Howard returned.

The only thing that gives me pause is that Oklahoma State is an underdog despite signs indicating they shouldn’t be, which is a good indicator that the Cowboys are struggling with a ton of injuries of their own. Meanwhile, outside of Martinez and Daniel Green, it appears certain everyone else that was banged up at TCU will play for K-State. The legs of Spencer Sanders will be limited as well as he nurses injuries on both sides of his body. I can see a path to the Wildcats winning and people in Vegas are far wiser than I am, so I think the K-State defense makes enough plays against a beat-up Cowboy offensive unit and Deuce Vaughn puts the team on his back. K-State 30 Oklahoma State 27

Alec Busse’s Prediction: Last week I felt good about TCU going into an important game for K-State, and I felt that beating Oklahoma State was always more likely. But with all the injuries that Kansas State sustained in last week’s game, it’s hard to get a good feel for where things are going on many of them, particularly quarterback. With the availability of Martinez in question — and his effectiveness if he does play — I’m going to side with Oklahoma State because I trust their depth a bit more than Kansas State’s at this point. Oklahoma State 27, K-State 24

Gabe Swartz’s Prediction: The uncertainty surrounding Adrian Martinez’s lower leg injury — and the array of injuries for Oklahoma State — makes this game incredibly hard to pick. Since 2018, Oklahoma State is 15-2 against the spread as an underdog, and I’ve said earlier this year that I think Oklahoma State is the best team in the league. If not for TCU’s absurd run of luck and comebacks I think this would have wound up being the Big 12 championship game matchup. Without Khalid Duke in the first half I think Oklahoma State can take advantage and be proficient offensively. No outcome would shock me, but I would guess that Oklahoma State finds a way to win this game despite being an underdog. Oklahoma State 30, Kansas State 28

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