PREVIEW: Football prepares for LSU in Texas Bowl

Skylar Thompson hands the ball off to Deuce Vaughn on Nov. 17, 2021 against West Virginia. (Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Welp, we’ve finally made it. After over a month of waiting, we’ve finally made it.

A roller coaster of a season for Kansas State football – starting out 3-0, then 0-3 in conference play, back to 7-3 and ending with bad losses against Baylor and Texas – is finally coming to an end in the TaxAct Texas Bowl against LSU on Tuesday, Jan. 4. The game is taking place in NGR Stadium in Houston, Texas.

The Wildcats come in with a record of 7-5 (4-5 Big 12), while the Tigers see a record of 6-6 (3-5 SEC). K-State finished fifth in the Big 12 and LSU fifth in the SEC West. The Tigers won their final two games to reach bowl eligibility after starting the season 4-6.

Wildcat fans should be excited heading into the game, as it looks like star super-senior quarterback Skylar Thompson will be able to play in his final career game. This might have been doubtful had the team played an earlier bowl game, as Thompson went down with an injury against Baylor and kept him out of the regular-season finale against Texas.

Out of the game for sure, though, are former Wildcat running backs Joe Ervin and Jacardia Wright. Both Ervin and Wright announced they were entering the transfer portal after the regular season, as the two served back up to all-American sophomore Deuce Vaughn for the 2021 season.

Sophomore running back Jordan Schippers will serve as backup to Vaughn for the bowl game. Schippers sat at fourth in the depth chart throughout the season and picked up seven yards on two carries against Kansas.

LSU will be without former head coach Ed Orgeron, who “parted ways” with the program after the regular season — just two years removed from his 2019 national championship. The Tigers will also be without new head coach Brian Kelly, who was hired from Notre Dame in December. Interim coach and offensive line coach Brad Davis will lead LSU for a one-game stint.

Orgeron moved on after a 9-8 record following his 13-0 national championship team, including a 5-5 2020 record and a 4-3 start to the 2021 season. LSU came into the season ranked 16th in the nation, but losses to UCLA, Auburn and Kentucky led to the former coach’s firing.

K-State will also be without an important member of its coaching staff – former offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, who was let go after the loss to Baylor. Quarterbacks coach Collin Klein will serve as the interim offensive coordinator for the bowl game, as head coach Chris Klieman says he hasn’t begun looking for a replacement yet.

Even with the changes inside the program, it seems the Wildcats are having fun in preparation for their season finale. On Saturday, Jan. 1, the two schools competed in the “Rodeo Bowl,” where the two teams competed in rodeo events — unfortunately, LSU won this round.

Deuce Vaughn has also been having fun in Houston, saying on Sunday, Jan. 2, that he wore a cowboy hat for the first time in his life and that it “may go into my new hat rotation.”

Here’s what else to look out for against LSU:

COVID Cancellations

It’s what everyone has been scared of the most heading into the game: what if it gets canceled because of COVID-19 protocols? So far, five games have been called off, all during a week’s span in late December.

With the CDC’s new guidelines regarding isolation times and mask requirements, there might be less to worry about. Hopefully, if the game doesn’t happen, the public will know before K-State fans flock their way down south.

Conference Records

SEC fans are known as being loud fans for how good their conference is, and deservingly so. The SEC constantly puts out great teams, recruits well and has put Alabama and Georgia back in the national championship game.

However, the SEC has not been an almighty powerhouse in bowl season, going just 5-6 in postseason games. The Big 12, on the other hand, has gone 4-2, with some close losses. With a win against LSU, K-State would help the Big 12’s record and dampen the SEC’s.

Out With a Bang

With this being Skylar Thompson’s last game wearing purple, will the team rally around him to send him out in style? Players seem to love their team leader, so maybe they will play a little extra tough to make sure his phenomenal career ends in the right way.

K-State will take on LSU in the TaxAct Texas Bowl at 8 p.m., with the game airing on ESPN. Stay caught up with the Collegian for recap.