They have the clearest identity of any team in the league and they also have the league's best pure X and O head coach. Snyder is an evil genius who likely intends to burrow into NORAD and overthrow our government, but at least his New World Order will be incredibly organized and fiercely upgrade junior college curricula the world over.
KSU puts tremendous pressure on your defensive ends, linebackers, and secondary to make good decisions and fight through the constant pounding and indecision of their option run game. Put them in negative situations and they're a turtle on its back. Find yourself in constant 3rd and 2s and you're in for a long day.
Collin Klein is the Wildcat offense. He is Planet Wildcat, everyone else is a satellite. Blow him up and they all go spinning off into space. No one has been able to do it, save OU in the second half. He's a 6-5, 225 pound long strider who consistently breaks arm tackles, breaks ankles as defenders realize he's faster than his loping stride, and will carry the ball 40 times if the game requires it. If he can't go, the Horns catch a big break, but recall that Klein's introduction to college football was last year when KSU's starting QB couldn't go against us in Manhattan. You remember the rest.
Klein is a mediocre passer and does his best work off of play action to punish overreaction to their running game. 6.9 Yards Per Attempt isn't exactly killing it. He doesn't throw dumb picks and he has knack for pulling plays out of his ass. He's Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt crossed with Matt Jones (without the pesky cocaine addiction and Chris Mortensen fan mail).
241 carries for 1009 yards and a 4.2 average reveals not only the incredible workload he bears, but also how much of the KSU offense is built on simple volume in the running game. This isn't Oregon popping people for 75 yard runs. They're masters at keeping drives going, but you own them if you inflict a negative play. Klein has an incredible 24 rushing touchdowns and is the entire KSU red zone offense. When they split out five wide - it's a QB draw. When they line up in shotgun, it's a QB lead. When they roll him out, he's supposed to run it.
Stop Collin Klein. He averages over 24 carries per game. He throws 22 per game. Check down and distance and defend accordingly.
John Hubert is a mid tier FBS runner. Little guy. He has 748 yards at 5.1 ypc and only 2 TDs. Which reminds you what his red zone role is. If you overcompensate for Klein, he can certainly run through empty space, forward-like, at a goodly pace. Very shifty and Hodges Mitchell-ish.
They lost Lockett for the season and it's a blow as he was an all-purpose wonder and their second best WR.
Their receivers are big, strong guys who can run and excel as blockers (best two go 6-1 225 and 6-1 210). They outsize your smaller DBs and push them around in the run game, work the screen game, and then try to hit you over the top when the D is mesmerized by Klein. Chris Harper (Oregon transfer) has been their greatest beneficiary and you saw his work against the Aggies. He'll catch 2-5 balls and whether that goes for 40 yard or 100 depends on your secondary's decision-making.
They're good at what they're asked to do, which is move their feet, body up 'til the whistle, and fire out over and over at the same intensity level from the first snap to the last. They're effective blockers, mostly because of their coordination with each other and their ability to pass off more athletic defenders and give each other angles. Scheme is everything to their success. They are not adept pass blockers, but they certainly benefit from a Thousand One, Thousand Two hesitation from the defensive ends who are generally mind-fucked by the KSU option game by the mid-2nd quarter. Klein has 222 yards in losses and it's not because he likes running backwards.
KSU's defense forces turnovers and they play hard. Their O certainly takes care of the ball, but the Wildcat's favorable Turnover Margin is also because their secondary is very good at suckering people. Think of a less talented version of OSU's secondary.
Forget their statistics - good passing teams can pass on them, good running teams can run on them. They actually do pretty damn well against bad to average offenses and without our best players, that's exactly what we are. Good offenses blow their doors off. Their offense tends to own TOP and that helps them minimize the number of stops they need to make a game.
They're smallish in their back 7. Bergeron at full strength would be nice to have.
Kibble and Lutui are strong inside against the run. They're negligible pass rushers. They play a lot of guys at DE and Meshak Williams and Voelker are their best pass rushers. Nothing remarkable here, but all high effort guys.
MLB Arthur Brown is their leading tackler and a legitimate stud. Great quickness and physical despite his size. Walker and Lammur are both lean guys that can run at the other spots. None of them are great at the point of attack, but they are adept at running under blocks and making a play. None of the 3 goes over 230.
Terrible from a pass efficiency standpoint, despite their ability to force turnovers. Drilled by OU and OSU in the passing game, but we can't really duplicate that. Nigel Malone is a big-time playmaking cornerback (7 ints) who specializes in lulling QBs into "open" throws and then taking them the other way. If they're smart, KSU will man him up on Davis, tell him to play tight, offer a little help behind him, and watch our passing game die before it starts. The other CB, Garrett, is athletic and competitive, but way undersized. His 5-8, 175 listing seems charitable. Hartman and Zimmerman are fine at safety - at least for their purposes against us. If we were capable of spreading KSU out and matching quality #2 and #3 WRs on them in space, they'd be in trouble. Zimmerman is reputed to be really good, but I don't ever see it when I'm watching them.
Lockett was their special teams magic bullet just as Fozzy was ours, so we should be at a push here. Of course, this is KSU and Snyder probably already identified some weakness in our protection that he'll exploit. FG kicker is 13 of 18 on the year.
This is an extremely well-coached team with a sprinkling of excellent players lined up next to overachievers and late bloomers completely bought into a specific style of play. This isn't a great team by any stretch, but it's hard to shake them.
If we're healthy at RB and WR, I like our chances. If not, we lose. If both teams are unhealthy (Klein out), it will be two bald men fighting over a comb, and the winner is whichever offense can blind the opposing D with Grecian formula.