Non-conference games for K-State usually don’t attract this much attention. The 20th ranked Wildcats will face their highest ranked non-conference opponent since 1969 when the 5th ranked Auburn Tigers come to Manhattan, KS on Thursday night.
It will be Auburn’s first road test of the season, and when it comes to college football atmosphere, K-State has one of the finest. From the students, to the alumni, they all gather to support their hometown team. A new attendance record is possible as crowds are expected to surpass capacity.
Auburn is a well-coached team under Gus Malzahn. The Tigers stand 2-0 after defeating Arkansas and San Jose State. The run game has played a big role in the success for Auburn this season, averaging 330 yards on the ground. Wide receiver Sammie Coates is expected to play on Thursday, returning from injury. He has the potential to add a spark to Auburn’s passing attack. Coates proved to be one of the premier playmakers in all of college football last season, helping the Tigers reach the national title game.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers lost a great defensive end in Dee Ford, to the NFL draft. They will have to rely on some new talent to make a statement this season. One potential candidate is senior defensive back Jermaine Whitehead. He has two interceptions this season and returned one for a touchdown.
The Wildcats will look to rally behind the leadership of head coach Bill Snyder and senior quarterback Jake Waters. Waters has lead K-State to a 2-0 record, including a come from behind win to defeat Iowa State in the final minutes. The Wildcats have had a balanced offensive attack thus far, averaging nearly 240 yards through the air and 240 yards on the ground. Senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett is a proven game changer, averaging over 20 yards per reception this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive end Ryan Mueller has become the leader. Last season, Mueller racked up 11.5 sacks and was named the 2013 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
K-State has shown some weak points on defense this season, allowing Iowa State to rack up over 300 yards of total offense and score 21 points. 214 of those were passing yards.
This game will come down to the wire. I look for K-State to challenge Auburn, attempting some deep passes early in the game. Scoring early will be the key for the Wildcats success. I don’t expect Auburn to come with an elaborate game plan. If the Tigers can find success in the run game, it could mean big trouble for the Wildcats.
But, never count out Bill Snyder. He will go down in history as one of the greatest coaches in the game. Combine Synder’s genius with a rowdy fan base, and it will be a major test for Auburn. Big games like this one often times come down to momentum. K-State will have the benefit of playing at home in front of one of the largest crowds in school history. This will swing the momentum in favor of the Wildcats, and will lead to some key plays down the stretch. With a Bill Snyder coached team playing a top 5 opponent at home, it’s hard to see Auburn leaving Manhattan with a victory.