Two Top 25 college football teams meet on Thursday night in one of the most intriguing early games of the 2014 season when the No. 5 Auburn Tigers travel to Manhattan, Kansas, to face the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
It will be the first real test for both programs this season, after both school won their first two games. The Wildcats got a scare from the Iowa State Cyclones on Sept. 6 when trailing 28-20 entering the fourth quarter. Rushing touchdowns from Charles Jones and quarterback Jake Waters helped seal the road win for the Wildcats, 32-28. In the season opener, Kansas State had little trouble with the Steven F. Austin Lumberjacks with 478 total yards in a 55-16 route.
Gus Malzahn’s squad has trounced their opponents this season. The Tigers were even at halftime with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Aug. 30, but went on to score 24 unanswered points. The following week, Auburn put up 493 total yards in a 59-13 thumping on the San Jose State Spartans.
Auburn will finally have the full services of Sammie Coates. The star wide out only has one reception this year, while battling a left leg injury. Coates, a redshirt junior, is among the best receivers in the nation and is expected to be a first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
In the absence of Coates, the Tigers have received great production from the running game. Cameron Artis-Payne has starred for Auburn this season, rushing for 289 yards and four touchdowns.
In 2013, the Wildcats failed to beat a ranked opponent at home, with losses to Baylor and Oklahoma. Head coach Bill Snyder is well aware of how the Wildcats will be up against a talent-loaded Tigers offense.
“They are a physical offensive line. They have speed in the backfield at the running back positions and the quarterback position,” said Snyder on Sunday.
“They run the ball well and they’re deceptive in the way they run the ball. The ball carriers are exceptional. They can make you miss. The wide receivers are big, fast, and physical. I don’t think I left out a position, did I? In other words, they are very talented.”
The quarterbacks will be particularly visible. Auburn relies heavily on the versatile Nick Marshall, while Waters proved his worth with a crucial 80-yard drive in 91 seconds against Iowa State, and is also a dual threat.
“He’s like another running back,” Malzahn said of Waters. “He’s very good at running the football, but he’s also good at throwing it. The ball comes out of his hand really quick. He’s a cool customer, too, you can really tell that on film.”
Point Spread: Auburn by 8 (according to MGM Grand)
Start Time: 7:30 pm ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream Info: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Auburn over Kansas State, 21-20
An IBTimes staff reporter contributed to this report.