Know Your Opponent: K-State wants Bama

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Junior running back Deuce Vaughn battles a TCU defender to score a touchdown. K-State beat TCU 31-28 in overtime to win the Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium on December 3, 2022. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

No. 9 K-State (10-3) (7-2)

Kansas State has a unique opportunity to take down Alabama even with a year of trials. Throughout the season, the Wildcats have dealt with injuries since game one when they lost guard Taylor Poitier; quarterback Adrian Martinez and safety Kobe Savage have also missed time with injuries. They even lost key players in the Big 12 Championship game such as wide receiver Malik Knowles and cornerback Ekow Boye-Doe who were replaced by freshman wide receiver RJ Garcia II and wide receiver-turned-cornerback Keenan Garber. It will be all hands on deck to take the win against Alabama.

No. 5 Alabama (10-2) (6-2)

The Crimson Tide enter every season expecting to be national champions but now find themselves just out of the college football playoff. Suffering from a surprising two losses, the team was supported by the pass-rushing excellence of outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and the heroic efforts of quarterback Bryce Young. Alabama possesses great talent, though some key players may not be seen in the matchup. While some Crimson Tide stars may prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft, the rest of the team still has a battle to prepare for against the Wildcats.

 

Matchup to Watch: Alabama Stars vs. The NFL Draft

The dream matchup for the Wildcats may be spoiled by future endeavors. Ten Alabama players already entered the transfer portal, and multiple players who are likely to declare for the NFL Draft may sit out of the Sugar Bowl to avoid injury. There is an unlikely chance of Alabama having all their main stars out on the field in New Orleans. 

The top prospects in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft from Alabama include Young, Anderson Jr., running back Jahmyr Gibbs, linebacker Henry To’oTo’o, safety Jordan Battle and cornerbacks Eli Ricks and Brian Branch. All seven players have a chance to go in the first round, with Young and Anderson Jr. likely to go in the top-five picks. Potentially losing most Alabama stars would force more inexperienced players to go against a veteran K-State team. The worst case for the Crimson Tide would be if Young sits out. As a Heisman finalist, Young has been the main catalyst in keeping the Crimson Tide afloat in an off year. It is nearly guaranteed that more than one of these players will sit out the game, giving K-State the edge in team continuity and experience. 

 

Key Players

K-State: 

Center Hayden Gillum

Nose Guard Eli Huggins

Alabama:

Running Back Jase McClellan 

Safety DeMarcco Hellams

 

Prediction: K-State 24-23

 

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