As No. 14 Oklahoma State prepares to visit Kansas State at 3 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas, we reached out to Jon Morse of SB Nation’s K-State site Bring On The Cats for some insight on the Wildcats.
CRFF: What is the K-State stat OSU fans should pay attention to Saturday?
BOTC: Technically, it’s an OSU stat: your third-down conversion ratio. If K-State is forcing the Cowboys to punt, it’s going to be a long day for OSU. If, instead, they’re just letting Chuba Hubbard run for 14 yards every time there’s a third-and-8, it’ll look a lot like last week’s disaster in Morgantown.
CRFF: Who is the unsung hero is for the Wildcats?
BOTC: I’ll have to lean heavily into “unsung” here, because everyone who pays a basic level of attention to the Cats already knows about their offensive weapons. Ekow Boye-Doe, a redshirt sophomore who was pressed into action during the “40+ guys with COVID” extravaganza on opening week, immediately forced himself into the starting corner role. K-State has had decent corners, but none have looked as good in pass defense as Boye-Doe in a long, long while. You’ll want to keep an eye on the receiver matchup with him. If Boye-Doe’s having a bad game, he’s still going to bust up some plays. If he’s having a good one, he’ll take that receiver entirely out of the contest.
CRFF: What is this team’s Achilles heel?
BOTC: Catching the football, apparently. Most people pointed to the bad game Will Howard had last week. While that’s not untrue, his receivers have not been overly helpful. He had seven incompletions two weeks ago; one was a ball he deliberately threw out of bounds and the other seven were either drops or in one case a missed route assignment. Last week, the drops continued — and two of them directly led to interceptions. I am told by reliable sources that offenses move a lot better when receivers catch the balls that are thrown to them. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, I’m all ears.
CRFF: What is this team’s biggest strength?
BOTC: Right now, it’s the secondary. In addition to Boye-Doe, Justin Gardner has had a great season at the other corner while Jahron McPherson has been a stud at safety for a couple of years now. Ross Elder, a converted wideout, has taken over at free safety; he was shaky early in the year but has visibly improved every week.
CRFF: What is the overall pulse from the fanbase regarding this K-state team? What are they expecting the rest of the season?
BOTC: After the Arkansas State debacle, the fan base mostly decided this was an exhibition season. That changed a bit with the 4-0 league start, but it didn’t entirely go away as evidenced by post-game reactions to last week’s loss. They realize that a 1-3 finish over the final four games is totally on the table, but there’s also some optimistic feeling that it could just as easily go 3-1 (or even 4-0 if K-State can escape with a win Saturday). Ultimately, I’d say right now the expectation is a third- or fourth-place finish and at least a 6-win season.
CRFF: Score prediction?
BOTC: Oh, I have no idea. The health and effectiveness of Deuce Vaughn and Briley Moore is still an open question, and it’s unclear just how much of last week’s mess was a lack of experience on Howard’s part as opposed to West Virginia simply doing an exceptional job preparing for the Wildcat offense. Similarly, the defense had been nails for a month before suddenly turning into matadors in a bullring last week. What I will say is that the best case for K-State is to win a close one, and the worst case is suffering another blowout.