Know Your Opponent: Wildcats welcome Golden Knights to the Big 12

Cornerback Will Lee III high-fives safety VJ Payne after making a defensive play. The Kansas State Wildcats fell to Missouri University 30-27 on Sept. 16 at Faurot Field Memorial Stadium. (Julia Smith | Collegian Media Group)

K-State (2-1)

A 61-yard field goal handed Kansas State its first loss of the year. Even with the extraordinary kick, the Wildcats majorly underperformed. Poor execution from all areas of the field caused K-State’s issues against Missouri. K-State’s third-best rushing defense in college football will also suffer with the loss of linebacker Daniel Green from injury for the season. With the head coach declaring quarterback Will Howard questionable and running back Treshaun Ward doubtful against UCF, injuries continue to define the early season in Big 12 play.

UCF (3-0)

After a multi-week injury to quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, the Golden Knights seemed in trouble. So far, backup quarterback Timmy McClain has answered the call. In a 48-14 win against Villanova, McClain threw for 321 yards while running for 44. He stepped up in the pass game while also filling Plumlee’s role as a runner. McClain and UCF’s second-best rushing offense in college football can lift the Golden Knights to compete well in its first Big 12 season.

Matchup to Watch: K-State rushing defense vs. UCF rushing offense

K-State’s rushing defense and UCF’s rushing offense are both among the best at their respective games. The Wildcats have maintained teams to just 50 rushing yards per game while UCF has run for just under 300 yards per game. Nothing will determine the outcome of the game more than this matchup — maybe besides injuries.

Stopping the run has been easy for K-State. Against Missouri — K-State’s only Power 5 opponent — the Wildcats limited the Tigers to just 2.6 yards per carry, including a 36-yard run which was nearly half the team’s production. There is one problem with the run game. Against Troy and Missouri, the Wildcats allowed a big run of over 35 yards to each team, with the Tigers’ run coming on the final drive which led to K-State’s defeat. With the loss of Green in the front seven, UCF will test the rest of the linebacker core.

The Golden Knights have fought in the run game through multiple runners. Running backs RJ Harvey and Johnny Richardson have each collected over 200 yards on the ground this season. The team suffered as Plumlee averaged over 80 rushing yards per game alongside the duo in the first two games. McClain has stepped up with his 44 yards but the impact still may not be the same. UCF should still remain a big running offense but will be tested without Plumlee with K-State’s stout front.

Key Players


Linebacker Austin Romaine (Daniel Green’s replacement)

Defensive tackle Uso Seumalo


Quarterback Timmy McClain

Running backs RJ Harvey/Johnny Richardson

Prediction: K-State 27-24