BWW Bowl: Kansas State Preview

K-State's Numbers
7-5 overall, 5-4 Big 12
Head Coach: Bill Snyder
     Career: 177-90-1 (22nd year)
     @ K-State: 177-90-1 (22nd year)
Offense: Pro-Set
     Rush: John Hubert (182-968 yards, 9 TDs)
     Pass: Jake Waters (138-233, 2,198 yards, 15 TDs)
     Rec.: Tyler Lockett (71-1,146 yards, 8 TDs)
Defense: Multiple
     Tackles: Blake Slaughter (103 tackles)
     Sacks: Ryan Mueller (11.5-66 yards)
     Int.: Ty Zimmerman (3-75 yards, 2 TDs), Dorrian Roberts (3-73 yards)
     and Dante Barnett (3-58 yards)

When Michigan has the ball
Well, the Morris era at Michigan is upon us. At least for one game. I assume Devin will return to the QB spot in 2014, but for at least for tomorrow night, true-freshman Shane Morris will call the shots.

First things first. Shane is left-handed and he's not a mobile quarterback. Those two things will become apparent immediately on Saturday night. He was a highly-touted prospect out of De La Salle HS in Warren, MI. Other than that, there's not much else we really know about him. We know he sat out most of his senior year in HS with a severe case of mono. So he's only seen very limited action in the last two years. We've heard how well and hard he's practiced at Michigan since arriving last summer, but as far as real game experience...he has almost none.

That puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line and the running backs. Actually, an inexperienced QB puts pressure on every other position group...even the defense. For Michigan, they must be able to run the ball effectively.

Kansas State surrendered a ton of rushing yards to Oklahoma in the only K-State game I've seen this year. On paper, they aren't really that bad, but they're not really that good either. It will all come down to whether the OL can make holes for Green and/or Smith.

When Morris drops back, he'll be looking for Gallon or Funchess. If they're not open, Dileo and then Chesson. They'll need to really help bail Morris out if he starts scrambling.

K-State does have some good defenders. The linebacker play from guys like senior Blake Slaughter and junior Jonathan Truman has been good. Defensive end Ryan Mueller is truly exceptional, leading the conference in tackles for loss and second in sacks. The Wildcats give up an average of 367 yards per game, 36th overall nationally. The run defense ranks 38th. The pass eff. defense ranks 26th. And KSU gives up an average of 23.7 points per game, 36th nationally. Decent numbers, but not great when you consider their non-conference schedule.

When K-State has the ball
Forgive the copy/paste from my BWW primer post from earlier this month...

Kansas State offense will run multiple looks...spread, option, wildcat...all with varying degrees success depending on what's clicking that day. They don't do anything particularly great, but they're no slouch either. But when push comes to shove and they need to score points, they go all Indiana and start throwing the ball everywhere. The beauty of running a flexible scheme, I suppose.

The Wildcats utilize a two-quarterback system since the departure of Collin Klien and his 3,380 yards of total offense last season. Daniel Sams and Jake Waters are the two guys splitting snaps. Waters is by far the bigger passing threat. He's 138 of 233 for 2,198 yards and 15 touchdowns with 9 INTs. His yards per completion is 15.9.

Sams is the running threat...he's pretty much just a running back who lines up at QB. He has a decent arm, but his 452 passing yards/4 TDs pale in comparison to his 784 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. Pretty much, whichever QB is in the game, you know what's coming. KSU won't even try to mask the different QB they will cycle Waters in on obvious passing downs.

Against Oklahoma, Kansas State did what most mediocre teams do when they're down by two scores and their "ideal" offense isn't getting it done...they start to air it out...a lot. And it worked. Waters was forced to be the hot hand as Oklahoma was having none of the KSU running game – allowing just 24 yards on the ground in that game.

Much of those struggles were due to KSU's offensive line. Oklahoma was able to neutralize the run pretty effectively, and also get good pressure while typically rushing 4 down linemen. Early on though, blitzes were very effective.

But the primary reason the Wildcats are able to air it out so well is they have some good receivers. Tyler Lockett is maybe the best receiver in the Big 12. His 71 receptions for 1,146 yards and 8 touchdowns are great numbers...good enough for 17th in the country in yards. To compare, Jeremy Gallon has 80 grabs for 1,284 yards and 9 TDs. Tramaine Thompson and Curry Sexton are also dangerous receiver options.

With a true-freshman QB starting his first game, overall expectations are lowered substantially. I won't say that Michigan doesn't have a shot in this game, they surely do...K-State is not unbeatable. But it will take the sort of focus we saw against Notre Dame/Minnesota/Ohio State in order to leave Tempe as victors.

We've been hearing all week about how this team has practiced well and remained that's good. But we've heard that a lot this year. I do think that when this team decides they can execute and come out loose and confident, they can beat anyone. They have that kind of talent...especially on defense.

Michigan will have their hands full with Klein and Sams...and especially WR Tyler Lockett, who's also a huge threat on special teams as a kick returner.

Limiting mistakes by Morris and mixing up the play-calling is going to be key. I don't expect a ton of downfield throws, so Michigan will try to pace the K-State defense with a lot of runs and short throws/screens. I wouldn't rule out some trickery by Al Borges either.

Tweet obnoxiously if...
• Morris is hitting his receivers and looking confident.
• A consistent running game emerges.
• K-State goes all out Indiana, and airs it out like crazy, and Michigan is prepared.
• Turnovers lead to points for the good guys.

Commence panic if...
• Morris looks shaky and gets rattled.
• Tyler Lockett makes some big plays either on offense or special teams.
• K-State scores a non-offensive TD, which Snyder is 17-0 when they do.
• Michigan is down by a score late, in a must-score situation.

Kansas State 29 Michigan 23

Related Content:
BWW Bowl: Friday Coaches Press Conference Photos and Transcript
Official: Gardner Out, Morris In
With Gardner Likely Out, the Focus Shifts to Freshman Shane Morris
Who Are You Kansas State? A BW3 Bowl Primer

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