Michigan-Kansas State: A First Look

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

What will Michigan see when it faces Kansas State later this month in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? Let's take a quick look at the Wildcats.

Kansas State Wildcats (7-5, 5-4)

Resume

Best wins: 49 - 26 over Texas Tech.  The Wildcats stormed out to a big lead, scoring five touchdowns before halftime and never allowing TTU to seriously challenge.  The Red Raiders were ranked in the back end of the top-25 at the time, but KSU ripped them apart with a balanced 6.5 yards/carry and 6./9 yards/pass attempt averages.

Worst loss: 24 - 21 vs. North Dakota State.  Kansas State was held scoreless over the final 25 minutes of game time after scoring two touchdowns to open the second half.    North Dakota State sealed the game with an eight minute drive that went 80 yards in 18 plays and left just 28 seconds left on the clock.

Other factoid:  Against the Big 12's three ranked teams, Kansas State fared well.  The Wildcats only lost to OklahomaState by four points and kept games against Baylor and Oklahoma within ten.

Players to Watch

Jake Waters (Jr. QB) is an effective, if not overly relied upon part of Kansas State's offense.  He attempts just under 20 passes per game on average, but has a 9.4 yards/attempt average and completes just shy of 60% of his passes.  He has 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions and has added 270 yards rushing on the ground.  Backup QB Daniel Sams (So.) will also be featured, but as more of a run threat (784 yards, 11 TDs, 5.3 ypc) than a passer (four attempts per game).

John Hubert (Sr. RB) is the primary tailback option for Kansas State this season, and he is just a handful of yards shy of 1000 for the season with nine touchdowns and a respectable 5.3 yards/carry average.  This may obscure how effective he is, as he racked up 220 yards against hapless Kansas.  He has as many 100 yard + games (four) as games with 30 yards or less.  As long as Michigan's run defense from the Ohio State game doesn't show up, the Wolverines should be able to contain him.

Tyler Lockett (Jr. WR) leads the way as a receiver, currently having more yards receiving than the next three Wildcat receivers combined.  On the season he has 71 receptions for 1146 yards and eight touchdowns.  His two best games of the season came against Texas (13 for 237) and Oklahoma (12 for 278 and three touchdowns).

Blake Slaughter (Sr. LB) is perhaps the most aptly named linebacker I've ever heard of.  He is also as effective as his name implies, leading the team with 103 tackles and ranking second in both tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (3.0).

The big threat in the backfield is Ryan Mueller (Jr. DE) who leads the team with 18.5 TFLs and 11.5 sacks.  Travis Britz (So. DT) is third on the team in both categories.

Numbers

Category Off. (Rk) Def. (Rk)
Total Yds/Gm 401 (72) 367 (t-36)
Rush Yds/Gm 180 (53) 145 (38)
Pass Yds/Gm 220 (73) 221 (46)
Points/Gm 33.4 (37) 23.7 (36)
3rd Down % 47.7 (16) 41.2 (79)
Sacks/Gm 2.0 (63) 2.25 (46)
TFL/Gm 6.5 (84) 5.5 (85)
Turnovers -24 (93) +24 (35)

Outlook

This should be a good matchup for Michigan assuming that the Wolverines can look more like the functional offense displayed against OSU and ND and less the outfit that fell apart against Michigan State and Nebraska.  A couple extra weeks of bowl practice could really benefit Michigan's young players on the line and it isn't out of the question to see Michigan come out aggressive and with a good game plan (last year's Outback Bowl is a good example).

Defensively, Michigan just had a tough go of it against Ohio State, but Kansas State is decidedly not that.  The offense doesn't look too fearsome, but it is balanced and does a good job keeping the chains moving.  Michigan's MO this year on defense has been to force teams into long drives and capitalize on mistakes and turnovers, and it certainly looks like KSU is susceptible to mistakes on offense.

Right now it looks as though Michigan should be very capable of getting a win in this one, but a lot of that depends on what offense shows up.

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