Last year's meeting: Kansas State 28, Miami 24 This looked like a bad loss in late Sept. 2011, but in hindsight was much more understandable as the Wildcats continued to reel off wins. But this was certainly a winnable game for the Canes, even beyond Kansas State's mildly famous goal line stand. The Canes defense just could not get off the field when it needed to, giving up 265 yards rushing.
Last week's game: Kansas State 51, Missouri State 9 The Bears kept it closer than anyone in Manhattan wanted, going into the half down only down 9-6 and tying the game early in the third. But the Wildcats exploited an area where teams like Missouri State are often lacking: special teams. Kansas State rode a few big punt returns, a back-breaking interception and the reawakening of their own offense to a second half route.
Offense: The Wildcats offense made mush of Miami's defense last year, but that might give you a skewed idea of just how good they were. In reality, it was only a merely average offense according to Football Outsider's S&P Rankings. QB Collin Klein is the engine, the battery, the wheels -- basically every part of the car except the frame and the paint job. He is one of the most indispensable players in college football. But if you look a bit closer at KSU's stats from last year, you can see some of the cracks. Klein ran the ball for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns, but for only 3.6 yards a carry. That number is likely slightly dragged down by sacks, but he isn't exactly Cam Newton. Klein also only completed 57% of his passes and had a TD:INT ratio barely over 2:1. The offense will almost always be in his hands -- even if he hands it off to RB John Hubert (970 yards, 4.9 ypc) it's probably an option.
Defense: We all know about Arthur Brown, and we'll hear more about him during today's game. But there is a good bit of experience behind him, too. The secondary lost two starters from last year's team, but corner Nigel Malone and safety Ty Zimmerman are very good, experienced players. Miami's passing offense will be a good test for the new starters, but there is a solid backbone there.
Good news matchup for Miami: It's hard to recruit to Manhattan, Kan. This is no secret, and head coach Bill Snyder has made a career out of luring JUCO talent to his program and squeezing all the juice out in two years. But it's not an ideal way to build a team, which is why almost no teams do it. This year, three of Kansas State's four starting defensive linemen are JUCO transfers, though two, end Meshak Williams and tackle Vau Lutui, saw meaningful action last year. But in last week's game vs. Missouri State -- an FCS opponent -- the Wildcats defensive line totaled one tackle for loss and zero sacks. If the Canes can run the ball and give Stephen Morris time, the offense could start rolling again.
Bad news matchup for Miami: We already know from last week's game against Boston College that Miami can make average -- or poor -- passing games look exceptional. Maybe the Canes will improve after having gotten their feet wet, but Kansas State boasts a veteran receiving core. The team returns Chris Harper, Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett, its top three receivers who combined to catch 79 passes for 1,131 yards and nine touchdowns. The running back Huber is also able out of the backfield, and KSU returns its top two tight ends. Miami players who are still stepping into roles -- Thomas Finnie, Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Kacy Rodgers, Eddie Johnson -- will be tested, even by a quarterback who's throwing ability isn't something many teams have to worry about.