To a certain extent, the game between Auburn and Kansas State tonight will be a case of strength vs. strength, at least when the Tigers have the ball. The Wildcats' rushing defense has allowed an average of 87 yards rushing in K-State's two games, and 3.0 yards per play. The Tigers, as you might know, are fairly accomplished at running the ball -- averaging 330 yards a game and 6.7 yards per carry. Kansas State has also allowed a mediocre passer rating to opposing quarterbacks, but the success against the run could be more significant against Auburn.
Then again, Auburn is not Stephen F. Austin and Iowa State. And while Kansas State dispatched SFA with ease, the Wildcats struggled in Ames. After Iowa State took the lead early in the second quarter, K-State only regained it with 1:30 left to go in the game. Iowa State could always end up being a much-improved team this year, but the 20-point loss to North Dakota State would indicate otherwise, and the Cyclones are almost certainly not as good as Auburn this year.
The Tigers' defense has also held up relatively well this year, clamping down on opposing quarterbacks, though it struggled a bit with the Arkansas running game, allowing 5. 3 yards a rush. Again, Kansas State will likely be the toughest test Auburn has faced so far this year. Quarterback Jake Waters is a capable (if somewhat average) passer and a good runner, averaging 96.5 yards a game and 5.2 yards a carry. And he has a go-to receiver in Tyler Lockett, who went off against Iowa State to grab six passes for 136 yards after a quiet game against SFA. And never forget that the Wildcats' coach is Bill Snyder, the wily wizard of the Big XII.
You also can't ignore the fact that it's a Thursday night game on the road. Manhattan might not be as intimidating as it was before last year -- the Wildcats lost one game at in the 2011 and 2012 seasons before going 5-3 in their own stadium in 2013 -- but it's still a lengthy midweek trip for Auburn. And we've all seen the bizarre games and sluggish outings that afflict even the best teams on Thursday evenings.
There's a touch of conference pride on the line here, for those who like to keep up with those sorts of things. The Big XII and the SEC have played each other three times so far this season, with Alabama beating West Virginia, Arkansas blasting Texas Tech and Oklahoma clocking Tennessee. A tie could only be broken in the bowl season, and would likely allow more Bob Stoops-style pronouncements to go unquestioned until then.
Game Time: 7:30 p.m.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Brandon's prediction: Auburn 28, Kansas State 21