Here is everything you need to know about Big 12 game in our Kansas State vs. Southern Illinois preview and prediction.
Saturday, September 11, 2021; 6:00 PM; Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS.
TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+
Radio: K-State Sports Network (Wyatt Thompson and Stan Weber)
Rankings: Southern Illinois is ranked 8th and 9th in the FCS polls
Fun Fact: Kansas State has not lost to an FCS team since falling to North Dakota State on opening day 2013.
QB Nic Baker
Baker, a sophomore, threw for 460 yards with four touchdowns and one interception last Thursday in the Salukis 47-21 win at Southeast Missouri State. Baker completed 73.5% of his passes (25-25) in his first start for the Salukis to pile up an eye-popping QB rating of 220.1. K-State’s defense and Bill Snyder Family Stadium will present Baker with another level of challenge than SEMO, but he should enter the game brimming with confidence.
WR Avonte Cox
Cox caught five passes last week for 187 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a 99-yard lightning strike that came on SIU’s first play of the game. Cox is undersized for a receiver at 5-10 and will need to find more separation against K-State’s long secondary. He has speed to burn, however, and be Baker’s tops target.
QB Skylar Thompson
Thompson will look to improve upon on an up and down passing day last week against Stanford in which he went 9-14 for 144 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Thompson did rush for two touchdowns last week, and there were times when he had K-State’s offense gobbling-up yards at a feverish clip. In fact, K-State’s offense did not have its first third-down of the game until 6:17 remained in the second quarter. Some of Thompson’s struggles in the passing game last week may have due to rust after spending the majority of last season recovering from an injury. K-State needs Thompson shake the rust off this week and provide the Cats with a more balanced attack.
RB Deuce Vaughn
Vaughn is K-State’s biggest offensive weapon. The diminutive running back has game changing speed and agility, and he will look to rush for over 100 yards for the second game in a row after posting 124 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries last week against Stanford. Vaughn is often a factor in the passing game as well, but last week he caught just two passes for 12 yards. He’ll be the most explosive player on the field Saturday and should have a big game.
LB Cody Fletcher
With LB Daniel Green, the Cats leading tackler last week, out for the first half of this game due to a targeting penalty in the second half of last week’s game, Fletcher’s senior leadership in the middle of the K-State defense will be even more important. While SIU revealed a prolific and explosive passing offense last week, the Cats have the size in speed in the secondary to deal with any attempts by SIU to stretch the field. Discipline among the linebacking corps, however, will be key as the SIU likes to run reverses and spread the field.
The Salukis are one of the best FCS teams in the nation, and K-State head coach Chris Klieman, who won multiple FCS national championships at North Dakota State, said that SIU is an FCS national contender this season. The Salukis are a veteran team loaded with super-seniors and will be eager to make a statement against a Power 5 opponent.
The Wildcats are coming off a big win against a nonconference Power 5 opponent and will try to avoid a letdown against a dangerous FCS in their first true home game of the season (last week’s game against Stanford was played in Arlington, TX). The Cats looked sharp in dominating Stanford last week, but they will need to shift gears quickly from Stanford’s button-down run-first offense to deal with SIU’s wide-open offense that specializes in reverses and gadget plays.
Prediction: Kansas State 35, Southern Illinois 17
Don’t expect a Chris Klieman coached team to overlook a dangerous FCS opponent. Hearing Klieman talk about SIU, you’d think K-State is taking on Alabama. While SIU is a really good football team, they probably do not have enough size and depth to play four quarters with Kansas State. This game might be close for about a half, but K-State will pull away by the fourth quarter.