No. 25 K-State 6-2 (4-1)
Kansas State football continues to excel late in the season. The Wildcat defense is improving at all levels, both shutting down offenses’ rushing and passing games. After allowing a second-half touchdown against Texas Tech on Oct. 14, K-State has outscored opponents 103-3. This comes as quarterback Will Howard appeared to take back control of the quarterback room during the Houston shutout. Everything is running smoothly ahead of the showdown in Texas.
No. 7 Texas 7-1 (4-1)
The Longhorns have impressed this season but now must survive without injured star quarterback Quinn Ewers. Despite an early-season victory over Alabama, Texas has repeatedly left a lot on the table by playing down to competition. This includes struggling to put away a Houston team that K-State shut out. Nevertheless, the elite talent at all levels of the field provides them the highest potential in the Big 12.
Matchup to Watch: K-State defense vs. Quinn Ewers-less Texas offense
K-State’s defensive success comes from a flurry of contributors. Safety Kobe Savage and linebacker Austin Moore are tied for a team-leading 43 tackles. Defensive ends Khalid Duke and Nate Matlack have brought in nine combined sacks, Duke leading with five. Savage and cornerback Will Lee III have both snagged two interceptions to lead the team. The No. 14 ranked scoring defense in the FBS has thrived from a group effort.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns’ offense has similarly played together as a unit but now have lost possibly their biggest contributor. Ewers tossed 13 touchdowns on the season with an additional five on the ground. His 1,915 passing yards rank third in the Big 12, with the top two passers having each played one more game than the former No. 1 high school prospect. Coming in to replace him is redshirt freshman and former four-star quarterback Maalik Murphy.
Murphy’s one start against BYU did not show much. Completing 16 of 25 passes for 170 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, Murphy provided little evidence that he could imitate Ewers’ play. Texas was still able to dominate the Cougars in a 35-6 win with a strong run game and good defense, emulating K-State’s recent path to victory.
For the Wildcats, their blueprint likely goes with their ability to force Murphy to make the key plays as opposed to his teammates. This would not be needed for Texas if the offensive line can dominate the K-State front seven like they did to BYU. This matchup will determine the style of play and likely determine the winner.
Running back DJ Giddens
Linebacker Austin Moore
Quarterback Maalik Murphy
Linebacker Jaylan Ford
Prediction: K-State 24-23