(3) Kansas State (9-0) at TCU (6-3)
Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: With the Big 12 Conference crown theirs for the taking, the third- ranked Kansas State Wildcats head to the Lone Star State for this Saturday's pivotal matchup with the TCU Horned Frogs.
Kansas State is one of only six undefeated teams left in the FBS, the team winning all nine of its bouts thus far by an average of 25.7 ppg. The Wildcats are 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Big 12 for just the third time under legendary coach Bill Snyder, and the first time since 1999. K-State is ranked second once again in this week's BCS standings, the highest BCS ranking in school history. The 'Cats took out visiting Oklahoma State last weekend, 44-30, and following this bout, will play at Baylor next Saturday before wrapping up the regular season at home versus Texas on Dec. 1.
TCU's first season as a member of the Big 12 has had its up and downs, the team sporting a 6-3 overall record, but just a 3-3 league ledger. Last weekend, the Horned Frogs paid a visit to the other new team in the conference, West Virginia, and escaped in double-overtime with a 39-38 victory. That win snapped a two-game losing streak for coach Gary Patterson's squad, which continues a murderous second-half stretch following this clash as it face Texas and Oklahoma on Nov. 22 and Dec. 1, respectively.
TCU owns a 3-2 lead in the all-time series with Kansas State, but the two teams have not met since a 35-22 victory for the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth back in 1986.
The Kansas State offense is one of the more potent not only in the Big 12 but the nation as well, and the unit is led by Heisman hopeful Collin Klein. With the gifted quarterback at the controls, the Wildcats are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 44.3 ppg, behind nearly 440 total ypg. Klein is a true threat in every sense of the word, as in addition to completing 71.1 percent of his passes for 1,875 yards, 12 TDs and only two interceptions, he ranks second on the team in rushing with 698 yards and a whopping 17 scores. John Hubert paces the club with 760 yards, and he has reached the end zone a dozen times. Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett are Klein's favorite targets down field, the duo combining for 69 catches, 1,070 yards and five TDs.
Defensively, the Wildcats are permitting just 18.6 ppg as foes have had trouble finding running lanes (99.2 ypg, six TDs), enjoying more success with the pass (259.3 ypg, 11 TDs). Still, the KSU defense has made a slew of big plays, logging 24 takeaways and 21 sacks. Arthur Brown continues to lead the unit with 67 tackles, while Allen Chapman and Ty Zimmerman have come up with four picks apiece. Nigel Malone has three.
Klein was once again in top form last week against Oklahoma State, throwing for 245 yards while rushing for 64 yards and a TD -- his 50th career rushing TD. However, he suffered an undisclosed injury in the second half and was replaced by Daniel Sams, who was nearly perfect in completing 5-of-6 passes for 45 yards. Klein is apparently fine and will likely be under center in this clash, but there's no telling how K-State's season might unravel if he is out for any significant amount of time. Angelo Pease was the team's leading ground gainer last week with 72 yards on nine carries, while Hubert added 38 yards and scored twice on only nine totes as well. Harper, Lockett and Travis Tannahill each finished with five catches, with Harper tallying a team-high 89 receiving yards. Lockett returned a second-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a score.
Chapman snared three interceptions in last week's win over Oklahoma State, one of which he returned 29 yards for a TD, as the Wildcats took advantage of five turnovers despite allowing 417 passing yards to the Cowboys. K-State did hold the Pokes to just 87 net rushing yards, and allowed them control of the ball for just over 22 minutes. OSU was just 3-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts. Amazingly enough, Kansas State has outscored the opposition 111-0 off turnovers this season.
At his press conference earlier this week, coach Snyder immediately addressed the 800-pound gorilla in the room, that of course being Klein's status, without getting into too many specifics.
"Would I expect him to play? I certainly hope that's the case, and I would expect that to take place."
While not as prolific as its counterpart, the TCU offense can hold its own with most in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs averaging 169.3 ypg rushing (fourth in the conference) while tallying 264.8 ypg passing. Of the 33 TDs the team has scored this season, 24 of them have come through the air. TCU has committed 23 turnovers, 14 of which have been on fumbles. Casey Pachall (.660, 948 yards, 10 TDs, one interception) was the team's starting QB, but he is undergoing therapy following a DUI arrest, thus Trevone Boykin has assumed the job and has thrown for 1,376 yards, with 13 TD passes and seven picks. Josh Boyce is the Frogs' top pass catcher, having grabbed 50 balls for 687 yards and seven scores. The run game features four guys with at least 248 yards, led by B.J. Catalon and his 401 yards. Matthew Tucker paces the club with three rushing TDs.
The Horned Frogs possess one of the nation's top defenses, ranking eighth in the FBS against the run (96.6 ypg) and 25th in total defense (333.7 ypg). Joel Hasley leads the squad with 68 tackles, while Devonte Fields has a team-best eight sacks and 14.5 TFL. Jason Verrett heads the secondary with five interceptions and 12 PBU.
In last week's thrilling win at West Virginia, Boykin completed just 12-of-29 passes, but they went for 254 yards, two TDs and one interception, both scoring strikes going to Boyce who finished with six catches for 180 yards. The TCU run game accounted for just 126 yards, with no player amassing more than the 39 yards Catalon had.
West Virginia was held to just 78 net rushing yards, and while star QB Geno Smith threw for 260 yards and three TDs, the Mountaineers were limited to 126 yards after halftime. Derrick Kindred and Sam Carter tallied 10 tackles apiece, the former making nine of his stops unassisted. and the Frogs as a collective unit were credited with eight TFL, and the defense scored a TD on a 15-yard fumble return by Dominic Merka in the third quarter.
Coach Patterson, who is a K-State alum, was asked recently about facing his former school.
"It's hard because you love seeing that they have come so far, and they are so close to maybe playing for a national championship. On our side, we just want to win our seventh game."
If this were the TCU team that rivaled Boise State for BCS respectability in the past, this game would likely be a lot harder to pick. As it is, the Frogs aren't about to roll over and hand the game to K-State, but the Wildcats are a team on a mission and it will take a slew of mistakes for them to drop this one so late in the season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas State 38, TCU 24
11/07 10:37:00 ET