Texas-Kansas St. Preview
Kansas State finds itself leading a tight Big 12 title race ahead of welcoming conference-rival Texas to town.
The No. 11 Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) are also on the brink of a milestone, needing a win over the Longhorns on Saturday to mark the 500th in program history.
More than one-third of those victories - 183 - have come under Bill Snyder, whom Texas coach Charlie Strong expressed his admiration for prior to this matchup.
"Coach Snyder, I've always had a tremendous respect for him," Strong said. "When I took over the program at Louisville I called him, because that's the type of program I wanted to run. I wanted to run Louisville just like it's being done at Kansas State."
The Wildcats, the only unbeaten team in Big 12 play, picked up win No. 499 last Saturday with a narrow 31-30 victory over then-No. 11 Oklahoma and subsequently jumped three spots in the AP Top 25.
Kansas State blocked an extra point that would have tied the game early in the fourth quarter before the Sooners missed a 19-yard field goal attempt with 4:11 remaining.
Senior quarterback Jake Waters also played a significant role, passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns while gaining 51 yards on the ground with a score.
"As I have said often in here, I see a young guy that is committed to becoming a better player and works diligently at it," Snyder said of Waters. "He studies the game, has made that improvement, has gained more and more confidence about his abilities in all the facets of the game."
Waters, a community college transfer last year, is tied for the sixth-fewest interceptions in the country among quarterbacks with at least 100 completions.
The Wildcats face a Texas team in the early stages of a rebuilding effort under Strong. Strong and the Longhorns defeated Iowa State last week 48-45, bouncing back from their worst six-game start since 1956.
Kansas State has always fared well against Texas (3-4, 2-2), rebuilding or not. The Wildcats own an 8-6 series lead over the Longhorns and are the only current Big 12 team with a winning record against them.
Texas won last year's meeting in Austin 31-21 but also got a strong taste of the Wildcats' passing attack. Waters completed 13 passes to Tyler Lockett, who finished with a school-record 237 receiving yards.
Waters and Lockett have continued their dynamic connection this season, hooking up for 485 yards and four touchdowns in six games, including 86 and a score against Oklahoma.
They will face a Texas defense that has allowed just 163.9 passing yards per game - fifth-fewest in the country.
"He makes big plays," Longhorns cornerback Duke Thomas said about Lockett. "The quarterback throws it up, he comes down with it. Being a defensive back, you've got to negate those plays and be ready to make the plays on your end."
Texas running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray return to face the Wildcats after combining for 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns in last season's matchup. They will be joined by first-year starting quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who passed for 321 yards and one touchdown, and rushed for 95 yards and a score versus the Cyclones.
"You can just see the progress that he has made," Snyder said of Swoopes. "He is a talented, talented young guy who is extremely capable. The numbers just show what experience will do in a particular system. He is growing rapidly."
Kansas State looks to slow the emerging Swoopes with a defense that has allowed the 19th-fewest yards in the FBS this year.