Reeling after a crushing defeat at the hands of the Baylor Bears last Saturday, the No. 6 Kansas State Jayhawks will get a much-needed week off before facing the No. 16 Texas Longhorns on Dec. 1.
While it will undoubtedly help the team pick up the pieces of its shattered season, getting a Saturday off will also allow the national championship and Big 12 conference picture to clear up. Though the Wildcats sit behind four other one-loss teams heading into Week 13 action, it's still theoretically possible that they could make the trip to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 7.
Nevertheless, the team must concentrate on winning the Big 12 first and foremost. With Oklahoma also having just one in-conference loss, a win against Texas next week is the only way to guarantee a conference title.
With that in mind, here is a look at what the Wildcats must do to take down the Longhorns and clinch a Big 12 championship.
Collin Klein Must Have a Bounce-Back Game
Facing off against a rather weak defense, the senior star went 27-of-50 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Still, he threw three interceptions and was only able to account for 39 yards on 17 rushing attempts.
That was Klein's first multi-interception game of the year and doubled his total to six for the season.
Luckily for Kansas State, the Longhorns defense has been exploited on a consistent basis by elite offenses all season. Coming into Week 13 action, Texas ranks in the back half of the Big 12 in points per game allowed (29.1), yards per game allowed (429.6) and rushing yards given up (2,000).
Nevertheless, Baylor actually ranks worse than Texas in all of those categories except for rushing yards allowed. So while it's likely that Klein will bounce back with a brilliant performance, it's not as guaranteed as most would like you to believe.
Suffocate David Ash, Force Him to Make Mistakes
Ash's ascent is a far cry from his freshman season, when he was almost completely ineffective and was replaced by Case McCoy.
That being said, it hasn't been all roses for Ash this season. In games against Oklahoma and Kansas, the Texas quarterback was absolutely dreadful, completing a combined 24-of-48 passes for 176 yards and four interceptions.
The failure against the Jayhawks was particularly disconcerting considering they are just 1-10 on the season.
Both poor performances led to benchings in favor of McCoy, who was effective in both outings.
While Kansas State is certainly not among the best pass defenses in the nation, the secondary has gained a reputation as a ball-hawking unit. The Wildcats' 16 interceptions on the season are second-best in the Big 12, and the team has given up just 14 touchdown passes as well.
If Kansas State can get a pick early and create momentum, it could force Ash into his third downward-spiral game in 2012.
Don't Fall into a Bye-Week Lull
The team had the inside track at a national championship without the worry of a conference championship game and blew it against a less talented team.
With a full week off, it will likely go one of two ways: Either the Wildcats will use the week off to get better, or they will soak in self-pity and Texas will wipe them off the map.
By correcting the mistakes they made against Baylor and using the time off well, Kansas State should be able to win. After all, even if the national championship is out of the picture by Dec. 1, the Wildcats need to remember that the Big 12 title isn't guaranteed.