Guest Columnist: Christian Favalora, sports editor, The Daily O’Colly
Sean: The K-State Wildcats obviously haven’t gotten off to the best of starts in 2013. The losses to North Dakota State and Texas certainly weren’t pretty. But Oklahoma State’s loss to West Virginia is the biggest upset of any team in the Big 12 this season. North Dakota State is a legitimate team that would probably end up in a late December to early January bowl game if it played at the FBS level. West Virginia may be lucky to get to a bowl this season, and its defense swallowed up J.W. Walsh and company. Although K-State’s defense hasn’t been that successful this year, it’s still better than West Virginia’s.
Christian: Both teams are clearly discovering new issues week by week, but there’s a hard line here. Oklahoma State’s loss to a Big 12 team can’t possibly be worse than a Big 12 team’s loss to an FCS school. Regardless of North Dakota State’s ability, K-State is at a major advantage in terms of recruiting, competition opportunities and resources. That loss puts a black mark on the conference, which is already suffering a slump of its own. Give West Virginia’s defense credit. It held OSU to 433 yards of offense, but that’s only 41 yards below the team’s average — not crippling defense. And J.W. Walsh came near his personal rushing average on a day when he never looked comfortable on the field. That said, K-State’s defense comes in below the Mountaineers in almost every major category: points against, total defense, pass efficiency defense and rushing defense. All things being equal, Walsh and company should put up above average numbers Saturday. Playing in Boone Pickens Stadium makes a big difference, too. K-State’s defense hasn’t played at this pace yet, so it should be a good test for the defensive line.
Sean: Obviously Boone Pickens Stadium makes a world of difference. But the entire Big 12 is full of loud atmospheres. The Wildcats are used to competing in loud atmospheres and have enjoyed great success in them. Just look at our win at Oklahoma last year. And the Cowboys made Clint Trickett, an average quarterback at best for West Virginia, look like a superstar. What do you think an arm like Jake Waters, the nation’s best junior college quarterback last year who threw for 275 yards against Texas, can do to the Cowboys weak secondary?
Christian: I think you’re raising questions about the wrong secondary. The Cowboy secondary’s poor performance a year ago still comes up in conversation and that’s fair, most people blame Justin Gilbert. But this is not last year’s secondary, and Gilbert looks like an altogether different player. He has two interceptions and the rest of the defensive backs have added four more. OSU is on the positive side of the turnover battle, K-State is not.
Sean: Turnovers are certainly a huge part of any team’s success. And the fact that K-State has struggled with turnovers is a huge reason the Wildcats are 2-2 and not undefeated, like they could be. But, struggling with turnovers is also very uncharacteristic of Bill Snyder coached teams. Snyder preaches to death the fundamentals and controlling the things you can control. So especially with the Wildcats coming off a bye week, you’ve got to think that Snyder has coached up the Wildcats to turn the ball over less. And that will certainly bode well heading into Stillwater.
Christian: It’s hard to predict what any game will be like against K-State. Snyder has a way of getting the most out of his players and taking the most out of the other team. The biggest question mark to me is whether Snyder can get his team to run the ball more successfully than the Cowboys. After last week, that ought to come easy, and I think it would be the linchpin in a game plan designed for an upset.