Know Your Opponent: Examining Mississippi State’s offense

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Skylar Thompson, Kansas State junior quarterback attempts to run the ball against Mississippi State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018. The Wildcats lost to the MSU Bulldogs 31-10. (Andrea Klepper | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State Wildcats make their first road trip of the season down to Starkville, Mississippi, to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs this Saturday.

The Wildcats lost 31-10 in Manhattan in this matchup last season, and even though a lot has changed for both of these teams since then, one thing has not: junior running back Kylin Hill.

Hill put up 211 yards and two touchdowns in the matchup last year, and will look to put up similar numbers this year. He would be a legitimate first round draft talent if it were not for the NFL’s general apathy toward running backs.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who threw for 154 yards and two more touchdowns in last year’s matchup, has since graduated, leaving a vacuum at the position.

His heir apparent last season, junior Keytaon Thompson, has not played this season due to personal reasons related to a possible transfer.

That leaves the starting quarterback spot open for Tommy Stevens, who grad transferred in from Penn State. He sits on top of the depth chart, but suffered an injury last week. I would expect him to be available this week.

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Running down the field, then-junior wide receiver Isaiah Zuber attempts to speed past Mississippi's defense. K-State played Mississippi State Sept. 8, 2018, falling to the bulldogs 30-10. (Meg Shearer | Collegian Media Group)

Stevens is a very solid thrower and is more than capable of handing the ball off to Hill, which is the key to the Bulldog offense.

If the injury to Stevens is severe enough to hold him out this week, the only quarterback left on the depth chart is true freshman Garrett Shrader. Last week, he was 7-11 for 71 yards and looked like a more than capable thrower.

While the quarterback situation is interesting and will definitely have a bearing on the game, it is truly the Kylin Hill Show on offense. He only got 14 carries last week, but in a closer game in week one he got 27.

Their offense is based on their big, strong offensive line getting a push and opening holes for Hill. The matchup in the trenches (on both sides) is really going to be the key to this game.

Mississippi State is the third heaviest offense and sixth heaviest defense by average weight in the country, so they will be hard to move in the trenches.

On defense, Mississippi State has not been nearly as impressive as they were last season. They have really good athletes in secondary, but their defensive line is not as good as it was last season.

They are replacing all four starters from their defensive line from last season, which was one of the best in the country and gave the Wildcat offense a ton of issues. Two of them were first round draft picks and one more went in the sixth.

The offensive line getting a good push against the defensive like is so important to K-State’s new-look offense and is also the biggest concern heading into this week.

Prediction: K-State’s defense does just enough to slow down Stevens and Hill and the Wildcats get a win, 28-24.

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