Here is everything you need to know about the season-opening showdown between the Big 12 and the Pac-12 in our Kansas State vs. Stanford preview and prediction.
Saturday, September 4, 2021; 11:00 AM; AT&T Stadium; Arlington, Texas
TV: FS1 (Eric Collins and Ben Leber)
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson and Stan Weber)
Spread: K-State -2.5
Fun Fact: K-State QB Skylar Thompson enters the game with 30 career starts.
RB Austin Jones
Stanford will play two quarterbacks in this game, Jack West and Tanner McKee, but much like K-State, the Cardinal are a run-first oriented team. Jones, a junior, rushed for 550 yards and nine TDs on 126 carries in six games last season and added another 156 yards on 21 receptions. He’s a reliable back who has only lost one fumble and dropped one pass in his career. Jones is not known for an ability to gobble-up large chunks of yardage at a high rate, but his consistency and steadiness will be needed as the Cardinal offense carves out a new identity and sorts out the quarterback position.
ILB Levani Damuni
Damuni worked his way into the Cardinal starting lineup early last season and provided a bright spot for a linebacking corps plagued by injuries and inconsistencies. He’s an excellent tackler who only missed three tackles on 45 attempts in 2020. He does a good job in pass coverage as well and netted one interception last season. His steady tackling and pass coverage skills will be needed to help keep K-State RB Deuce Vaughn contained.
Kansas State Wildcats
QB Skylar Thompson
Thompson returns as a super-senior from an injury that cut his 2020 season short after a little over two games. With 30 career starts and three victories versus Top 10 opponents under his belt, he is the Big 12’s most experienced QB. Thompson has 5,021 career passing yards and 30 TDs with a 59.9 completion percentage and 12 interceptions. He is extremely effective in play-action concepts, which account for about a third of K-State’s passing offense, but just average without play-action. He is also a threat with his legs and has rushed for 1,358 career yards and 22 TDs on 191 carries. Stanford should present Thompson with opportunities to do serious damage with his legs.
DT Timmy Horne
Horne is a 6-5, 321-pound senior transfer from UNC Charlotte who turned heads in the spring and fall camps. His acclimation to life at K-State has gone so well that he’s been named a team captain and given the unenviable task of trying to replace Drew Wiley along the defensive interior line. K-State will need Horne to use his considerable size and length to absorb blockers and plug-up the middle in order to keep Stanford’s rushing attack under control.
After winning no fewer than eight games every season since 2009, including six seasons with 10 or more wins, Stanford fell flat in 2019 at 4-8. The Cardinal recovered last season to go 4-2 with several narrow victories and a couple of narrow defeats; now they want to get back winning games at a high rate in 2021. With one of the toughest schedules in college football, notching an opening day win versus K-State is critical to a successful season.
Kansas State Wildcats
After a 4-1 start to 2020, K-State ended the season on a five-game losing streak that included narrow defeats to Oklahoma State and Baylor. Of K-State’s six loses last season, three of them came by a combined total of seven points. The Wildcats are desperate to wash the bad taste of 2020 out of their mouths with a win over a Power 5 opponent and return to their 2019 form that saw them win eight games.
Prediction: Kansas State 27, Stanford 23
This is going to be an intense slobber-knocker of a game. Both teams are well coached and both like to play a physical brand of football. The battle in the trenches is going to be fierce, but with a veteran quarterback and the most explosive player on the field in RB Deuce Vaughn, expect Kansas State to have just enough to secure a much-needed opening day victory.