There will be a huge and very important Big Cat Fight in Manhattan, Kansas on Thursday night. Over 50,000 fans will cram into Bill Snyder Family Stadium to watch the hometown Kansas State Wildcats take on the Auburn Tigers. There will be clawing. There will be scratching. There will be weeping. There will be wailing. There will be gnashing of teeth. The entire football world will be tuned in to ESPN. Big stage. Big game.
Auburn and K-State, as the Wildcats are often called, have only faced off on three occasions in times past.
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In 1978 Auburn made the long trip to the “Little Apple”. The Tigers came out on top 45-32. James Brooks set a single game rushing record, in the 101 degree heat, that afternoon. He carried the ball 30 times for 226 yards in leading the Tigers to a victory.
Auburn swept the short home and home series at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1979. They defeated the other Cats by a 26 to 18 score.
The last time these two teams squared off was in 2007. Auburn also took this contest, 23-13. Thursday’s battle will mark the end of another two game set.
Auburn was established as a 6.5 point favorite initially but that line jumped to 9.5 points in blinding speed. Auburn Fast huh?
K-State coach Bill Snyder will bring a 180-90-1 record into the game. He has been the head man in Manhattan for twenty two seasons but not consecutively. He retired in 2005 only to be coaxed back to the sidelines in 2009 after the program went back into a deep slide. Snyder is a lock to be named to the College Football Hall of Fame. He is one of the best to ever grace the gridiron.
K-State is 2-0 with wins over Stephen F. Austin, 55-16, and Iowa State, 32-28.
On offense the Cats will be led by quarterback Jake Waters. It will be critical for the Tigers to contain him if they are to come away with a win. He can light it up both on the ground and through the air. Waters has hit 69% of his passes for 462 yards in the two games they have played. He is also the team’s leading rusher, toting the rock for 193 yards. The guy is flat out dangerous. He can put the team on his back and carry them.
Waters likes to throw the ball to Tyler Lockett. Lockett has 7 receptions for 142 yards in 2014.
The leading defenders for KSU are former walk-on Ryan Mueller and Jonathan Truman.
Mueller is a defensive end. He had 62 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in 2013. Truman, a linebacker, made 89 tackles last year and had 4.5 tackles for loss.
The Wildcats are not loaded with four and five-star talent but, as a team, they are very tough. They are extremely well-coached and they don’t tend to make silly mistakes, mental or physical, that will get them beat.
Gus Malzahn will lead his Tigers into the opponents den with a 23-5 record as a head coach. He was 9-3 during his one season at Arkansas State.
Auburn is also 2-0. They have beaten Arkansas, 45-21, and San Jose State, 59-13.
Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are the Tigers leading rushers. CAP has 289 yards while Grant has gained 196 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Nick Marshall has found leading receiver Duke Williams 13 times for 214 yards. Sammie Coates will return to the lineup, Thursday, and that will be BIG for the visitors.
Middle linebacker Cassanova McKinzy is Auburn’s leading tackler with 16 stops. Big Montravious Adams is first on the team in tackles for loss with 4.
Now here are some very interesting numbers to consider (with a thanks to Stat Tiger).
Auburn has rushed for over 200 yards for thirteen consecutive games. They have scored at least 30 points in the last 12 contests. Since Snyder returned to K-State in 2009, his record is 5-11 when his defenses surrender 200 or more rushing yards in a game. His record is 2-11 when opponents have a winning percentage of .700. This bodes well for the Tigers.
Auburn also leads the SEC in rushing, churning out an average of 330 yards in the two games they have played. Since 1992 the Tigers are 43-0-1 when they run the ball for at least 250 yards per game; another good sign for the visitors, if they can run the ball well.
There is no doubt that Marshall and Jeremy Johnson will have to roll up some passing yards to give Auburn some balance. With the open date they have had time to get in some valuable reps. This should help Auburn as well.
According to the Associated Press Poll Auburn comes in at number five and Kansas State is ranked number 20.
This is shaping up as a very good football game.
I expect both teams to acquit themselves well. The Wildcats can take a quantum leap in the rankings and in the eyes of college football fans everywhere with a win. Auburn can solidify and, possibly, advance its position with a victory out on the Great Plains in a very tough environment.
K-State should be able to hang close to Auburn for at least a half and maybe three quarters. But, in the end, the Tigers superior talent and depth will prove to be too much for the Wildcats in this battle of fighting felines.
Auburn 41, Kansas State 20
Feature Image: Kansas State University