Both K-State and Missouri have opened the season 2-0, yet the way in which their games played out are drastically different. While Kansas State was taking it to a solid Troy Trojans team, the Missouri Tigers were barely squeaking by MTSU. We’ll preview their matchup this weekend before going over which side I’ll be backing.
Over the offseason, the Kansas State Wildcats lost Deuce Vaughn to the NFL Draft, and while that is a tough loss, Will Howard has seemed to make it his mission to make sure that the offense doesn’t miss a beat. Through their first two games of the year, K-State is averaging 43.5 points per game, and Howard has already racked up five passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns.
In their 42-13 win over Troy this past weekend, Howard certainly had the offense clicking, as they finished the game with 397 total yards while going 10 for 15 on third-down conversions. The K-State defense also made their presence felt in the game, holding the Trojans to just three points in the second half and forcing two turnovers.
In two games this season, granted against lesser opponents, the Wildcats have picked up eight total sacks while ranking 19th in points per play. This weekend will mark the Wildcats' first test against a power five offense, but that offense certainly isn’t playing to an SEC-caliber level.
Missouri is fresh off a 23-19 win over Middle Tennessee State, in which they averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, and quarterback Brady Cook was sacked four times. The Tigers quarterback finished the game 14-19 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but his QBR came in at 67.5. Missouri’s offense is very dependent on one man, wideout Luther Burden. The star sophomore pulled in eight of Cook’s 14 completions on Saturday and already has 213 receiving yards.
Much like Kansas State, the Tigers have faced two lesser offenses, but over the weekend, Missouri struggled to contain the MTSU passing game. Quarterback Nicholas Vattiato put up 214 yards and two touchdowns on the Tigers' secondary, which does not bode well for them this weekend against the reigning Big-12 champs.
Kansas State is currently listed at (-4.5) point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. It’s wise not to overreact to the early weeks, but I don’t think it’s an overreaction to say the Missouri offense lacks balance and may struggle this season. With K-State coming into this game with eight sacks already, the Missouri offensive line could be in trouble after they allowed four sacks last week and struggled with run blocking since the Tigers couldn’t even average three yards per carry.
Regardless of the competition level, the Wildcats' defense has been impressive, as they enter this weekend ranked 10th in early down EPA and 35th in 3rd/4th down success, according to CFB Graphs. If Kansas State can dominate the trenches and take away the run game, they can key on Luther Burden all game, which will make Brady Cook prove he can succeed without his safety blanket.
On the other side of the ball, I think Will Howard will be able to throw the ball all over the yard on a Missouri defense that is 78th in EPA per pass play. In total, K-State has an EPA margin that is 9th in the country, while Missouri is 41st, so the fact that they are on the road won’t stop me from backing the Wildcats as favorites.
Kansas State (-4.5)