Know Your Enemy – Keys to the Kansas State Wildcats
Throughout the Mack Brown era, the Texas Longhorns have been more Superman than Clark Kent on the field. The Men of Steel have been contemplating a 20-13 loss to TCU on Thanksgiving in their Fortress of Solitude, giving them plenty of time to prepare for the seventh-ranked Kansas State Wildcats, who have been Brown's Kryptonite. Brown owns a 2-6 record against the Wildcats and a win this week would help shake some critics off Superman's cape.
Two weeks ago, Kansas State was on pace for a BCS title game appearance until they were clawed by Baylor in Waco. Collin Klein and the Manhattan maulers come off of a bye and will be ready and out for blood at home as they fight for a Big 12 title and the conference's automatic BCS bowl bid. It would be only the third conference title in the team's history.
Who are the main villains Texas must prepare to knock out of the sky? Horns Illustrated drops the knowledge faster than a speeding bullet. It's time to "Know Your Enemy."
Stiff-Arm Swan Song
Senior Quarterback Collin Klein, who I dubbed Tim Tebow 2.0 last season, was the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy until an aberration of a performance against Baylor in prime time. Klein threw a career-high 50 times that game, which is not where his strengths lie. The 3 interceptions he threw in that game equaled his total all season.
Klein gets one last chance to make a case for the Heisman in Saturday's showdown with Texas, and one would be wise not to dismiss the opportunity. Robert Griffin III locked up the trophy last season by beating the Longhorns at home, so a superhero performance against the boys in burnt orange carries a lot of weight. If Klein has any chance to catch Johnny Manziel, he has to be part of a blowout.
Kansas State is looking for their fifth straight win against Texas on Saturday. At this point, it feels like James Brown was under center the last time Texas beat Kansas State but that's also because I'm spoiled and used to seeing Texas beat up on whoever they play.
The Kansas State defense seems to be drawn to the ball, with a nation's best plus-19 turnover margin. It seems obvious but ball protection is at a premium this week against a Wildcats defense who has a knack for knocking the ball out. Ty Zimmerman, Allen Chapman, and Nigel Malone each have at least 3 interceptions in Big 12 play.
Free Safety Ty Zimmerman has shined all season, serving as a team captain and recording 5 interceptions, but suffered an ankle injury in the team's loss to Baylor and looks to be a scratch against Texas. Dante Barnett will be his replacement, which could provide Case McCoy a chance to exploit the Wildcats on long passes, provided the Longhorns can keep the Kansas State defenders out of the backfield on pass plays.
With or without Zimmerman, the Wildcats are full of mature players fit to lead, and senior linebacker Arthur Brown is one of them. Brown was announced as one of the four finalists for the LOTT Impact Trophy today, which is given to the Defensive Player of the Year. Even though it's a foregone conclusion that the award will go to Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, Brown is also worthy of the award. The transfer from the University of Miami has led the team in tackles for two straight seasons and can lay quite a lick.
I See Your Point
Remember the good old days when every Big 12 defense was a sieve? TCU and Kansas State don't subscribe to that concept, and the Wildcats are tops in scoring defense in the Big 12, giving up only 23.2 points per game in Big 12 play. With David Ash out due to a rib injury, the Wildcats are likely to bring pressure at Case McCoy. The McCoys are no stranger to being punished by Kansas State. Case's brother, Colt, was knocked out of the game in 2006 as the Longhorns were stunned by Kansas State in a 45-42 loss.
No, we're not ready to hand off Earl Campbell's nickname to any player in Manhattan, or any part of the universe for that matter. That said, Wide receiver Tyler Lockett is a special player who can break a kickoff return for six points at any point. Lockett's 34.5 yards per kickoff return puts him second nationally. His father, Kevin, is the Wildcats' all-time leading receiver.