Auburn vs Kansas State: Game Day Prediction


Sep 6, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Cameron Artis-Payne (44) celebrates a touchdown with tight end Brandon Fulse (11) during the first half against the San Jose State Spartans at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn vs Kansas State. Finally, game day has arrived.

After waiting and watching the rest of the college football world last Saturday, the Auburn Tigers and Kansas State Wildcats will have an opportunity to take the stage alone on a Thursday night and star under the bright lights of a prime time kickoff and national television audience.

Ranked No. 5 in the nation, and as the defending champions of the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers enter this game with eyes focused on a national championship, especially after falling just 13 seconds shy of the ultimate prize last year. A win over the 20th ranked Wildcats in the Little Apple would be a major boost to those hopes because it would look very good to the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Of course, it will not be easy for Auburn to win in Manhattan. Since 1990, Kansas State has won 80% of the games played at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, thanks largely to the man whose name is now featured in its title.

Bill Snyder, now 74 years old, has already become one of the greatest coaches in college football history. This is not because of the national titles he has won (because he has not won a national championship) or for the conference crowns he has brought back to campus (K-State has won only two under Snyder in 23 seasons). Instead, Snyder is beloved and respected because he turned a hapless program into a consistent contender and winner.

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The blueprint Snyder has used to build Kansas State is unique. Annually, the Wildcats feature a roster of junior college players and walk-ons – basically, players that other programs did not want – in greater numbers than nearly any other at the FBS level.

For the most part, the Kansas State roster is not overly talented. Most of the players do not impress with size or speed like those found throughout the SEC. Yet, Snyder takes them in – the JUCOs and the walk-ons – and incorporates them with the players he recruited from Midwestern high schools. Then, he and the Wildcat coaching staff develop them all into a tightknit team that can beat anyone on any given night.

But can they beat the high powered Auburn Tigers on this night?

There will be 50,000 fans draped in purple screaming for the Wildcats tonight against Auburn, but it will feel like there are many more. They will yell for quarterback Jake Waters, who has shown the ability to orchestrate game-winning drives with his feet and his arm – just like he did in the 32-28 victory over Iowa State September 6.

Kansas State fans will urge running backs Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson to find holes in the Auburn defensive front and burst through for big yardage. They will cheer when Tyler Lockett makes a catch – yet another on his way to All-American honors as well as breaking his father’s many school records.

When Auburn has the ball, the crowd will be louder than any the Tigers have faced in 2014. Quarterback Nick Marshall and company will have a tough time communicating with one another, and standout Wildcat defenders like Ryan Mueller, Jonathan Truman (two of those former walk-ons we discussed), Travis Britz and Morgan Burns will try to do something no one has done in a very long time: stop the Auburn offense for four quarters.

And that is what this game will come down to. We’ve heard for decades that “defense wins championships.” However, thanks in part to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, offenses are more powerful than ever.

Auburn has one of the best rushing attacks in the country. Marshall can fly and is a true dual threat, and Cameron Artis-Payne has emerged as a legitimate replacement for Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason. Corey Grant is the fastest player on the roster, and perhaps in the nation, and all three will run behind a solid offensive line.

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  • In the passing game, D’haquille Williams has already emerged as the playmaker the Tigers thought he could be coming out of junior college. Plus, the team will have Sammie Coates back in the mix after he sat out the last game with a leg injury.

    From a pure talent standpoint, it’s no contest. The Tigers are bigger, stronger and faster.

    The Tigers will have their hands full on defense with Waters, Lockett and the rest of the crew and their diverse offensive attack. K-State will score, but can they outscore Auburn?

    The Kansas State defense allowed 16 points in Week one to Stephen F. Austin and 21 points to Iowa State (the Cyclones had a punt return for a touchdown). The Wildcats’ offense is averaging 43.5 points per game. On the other hand, Auburn has scored 45 and 59 points in the first two games against Arkansas and San Jose State, respectively and the Tigers have allowed fewer total points (34) against better competition.

    Of course, there are a few outside factors to consider. Auburn will be playing on the road for the first time – and it is quite a way from home at that – and they will be without senior starting safety Jermaine Whitehead. Those elements will have an impact early, but as the game progresses, it will become just another football game.

    The crowd will be loud, and the Kansas State Wildcats will play with maximum effort. K-State will be stronger and faster than they appear on recruiting rankings and NFL scouting reports. They have one of the best head coaches in the game, and it will be a hard fought contest to the end.

    But it won’t be enough. Behind an unstoppable offense, and a defense that has shown a knack to make a big play when it is needed most, the Auburn Tigers will find a way to win the game.

    Auburn 39, Kansas State 31