New No. 1 BCS team Kansas State has just two tests remaining before the national championship matchup is decided. This week, they'll travel to Waco, Texas, where the Baylor Bears await in a must-win-for-a-bowl situation.
It's been a good week for coach Bill Snyder's Wildcats, who knocked off TCU and saw no ill effects from Collin Klein's injury that knocked him out of the second half against Oklahoma State. With Alabama losing to Texas A&M, the Wildcats took over the No. 1 spot in the polls for the first time all season.
Although it is led by Heisman candidate Klein, a good running game and one of the nation's toughest defenses, Kansas State won't simply walk into Waco and leave with a victory. Art Briles has this Baylor team putting up points on offense like very few teams in the country can.
QB Nick Florence continues to shine for the Bears, who can't seem to get a defensive stop to give the offense a chance. Baylor is 118th in points allowed and dropped a close decision to the Oklahoma Sooners (42-34) in Week 11.
This week, Baylor will try to play spoiler to the BCS picture while also in desperation mode as bowl season approaches. With just four wins, the Bears need to finish the season 2-1 to gain a bowl bid. Here's an early look at everything you need to know about this Big 12 matchup.
When: Saturday, November 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Floyd Casey Stadium; Waco, Texas
Betting Line: Kansas State -11.5 (according to Vegas Insider)
The Wildcats are on top of the rankings. They've been chasing that mark for most of the season, but now hold it while Oregon and Notre Dame are still gunning for the top slot. How will Klein and the defense respond on the road in Kansas State's first game as the nation's top-ranked team?
Injury Report via USA TODAY (as of 11/12/12)
S K.J. Morton—Questionable for Saturday
LB Tre Walker—Out indefinitely
BCS/Top 25 Implications
The game means very little for Baylor as far as the Top 25 or BCS is concerned. For Kansas State, though, it's a chance to continue down a path toward the national championship.
A win would guarantee the Wildcats at least a share of the Big 12 title, while a loss would put them as the front runners for the Fiesta Bowl game. Obviously, this is a trap game for Kansas State, which can't lose sight of the task at hand with so much else going on in the rest of the BCS.
What They're Saying
Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that while Kansas State isn't flashy, it makes up for what some calling "boring" play with a relentless defensive approach and a scheme built perfectly for its personnel.
Chalk it up to relentless efficiency, which wins championships but doesn't wow fans like Oregon's up-tempo offense or Notre Dame's rich tradition. With Alabama destined to relinquish the top spot in the BCS standings after Saturday's loss to A&M, the Wildcats' primary competitors to wind up in the national title game boil down to No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Notre Dame.
Adam Rosen of RedRaiderSports.com notes that a seemingly low spread indicates that Baylor could be a popular pick to upset the Wildcats.
Baylor is currently an 11.5 point underdog to Kansas State, but I may have to call for an upset by the end of the week. #feelingcrazy— Adam Rosen (@DSportsGuide) November 12, 2012
Kansas State Player to Watch: RB John Hubert
Hubert went to Midway High School, right smack dab in the middle of Bear country. His hometown college didn't recruit, offer or show any interest in the running back out of high school, and he chose to head to Kansas State instead.
It's worked out quite nicely for him so far. He is the lead complementary piece on one of the nation's most conservative, yet deadly, running attacks. Back home in front of his friends and family, you can bet Hubert will be looking to run all over a defense that ranks near the bottom in almost every statistical category this season.
He's poised for a big day with revenge on his mind.
Baylor Player to Watch: RB Lache Seastrunk
Seastrunk, also a Central Texas ISD product, had his breakthrough game against OU last weekend, rushing for 91 yards and three scores while OU was determined to stop Florence and the passing attack.
It appears he has jumped Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin III for the lion's share of carries in the backfield. That's a good thing for Baylor, which has been without a running threat for most of the season.
It's clear that he's got the most big-play potential out of the three, and if we've learned anything from Baylor's offense over the past three years, it's that the Bears love the big play. Look for him to be the focal point of the K-State defense with his role set to expand.
Key Matchup: Baylor Quick-Strike Offense vs. K-State Methodical Tempo
Much like when Peyton Manning is running the offense in the NFL, time of possession rarely matters against Baylor. Despite a couple of long drives against the Sooners, Baylor still prides itself on an up-tempo offense that thrives when staying on the field for about three minutes per possession.
By comparison, Kansas State looks to grind it out and force teams to get greedy. The Wildcats want to turn the game into a shortened affair, both on offense and defense. Look for the Wildcats to copy the model of OU, which played two high safeties most of the game and forced Baylor to turn into a running team in the second half.
Who you got?
In a game of differing styles, it might be the team who plays the least like its game plan that comes away the loser.
Don't underestimate Baylor. A competent defense would have given it wins at West Virginia and Texas, and games against OU and Iowa State might have been different, too.
Baylor struggles at tackling the ball-carrier, and the Bears will see a lot of the speed-power duo of Hubert and Klein. I like Baylor to score more than that national panel predicts on this stingy defense, but Kansas State finds a way to keep its perfect season alive once more.
Kansas State 40, Baylor 36
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.