This season I’ll be breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup.
Let’s dive into the battle for first place in the Big 12 between TCU and Kansas State.
Kansas State vs TCU Total, current line:
Kansas State vs TCU Best Bet Prediction:
TCU has topped 54 points on its own twice this season, and there’s little reason to believe the Kansas State defense can slow them down – bet on a high-scoring affair and take the over.
When Kansas State is on Offense
Kansas State relies on a slow-paced, run-heavy offensive attack.
The Wildcats rank 106th in pace of play, and run the ball 61% of the time in neutral game situations, per Campus2Canton.
The diminutive Deuce Vaughn is an explosive playmaker in the Kansas State backfield, but he can be eliminated from the game if the defense generates consistent contact in the backfield.
Take a look at Vaughn’s stats based on first contact, per Sports Info Solutions:
- 0.6 yards per attempt when contacted at or behind LOS (ranked 72nd in FBS)
- 8.1 yards per attempt when clearing LOS without contact (ranked 18th)
Assessing TCU’s ability to create contact in the backfield is complicated. TCU has exclusively faced offenses who spread defenses out and limit the ability to stack the box 一 which makes early contact hard.
According to Sports Info Solutions, TCU has stacked the box against just 10 rush attempts, the fewest in the nation. But on those 10 attempts, TCU created contact at or behind the line of scrimmage at an 80% clip 一 technically the highest rate in the nation, but the sample size raises doubts as to the sustainability.
Kansas State’s more traditional rushing attack forces its ball carriers to run into a stacked box 41% of the time 一 the highest rate among teams TCU has faced this year. So perhaps, TCU will be a tough matchup for Vaughn.
If TCU can create negative plays for Kansas State’s run game, the Wildcats are in trouble. Kansas State ranks 117th in third-down conversion rate, so it cannot afford negative plays on early downs.
In the passing game, Adrian Martinez is efficient but lacks the ability to challenge defenses downfield.
Martinez has thrown 15 or more yards downfield on 18% of his attempts, while completing only 36% of his throws at that distance, per Sports Info Solutions.
The most concerning issue for Kansas State is its inability to protect Martinez. The Wildcats rank 122nd in opponent-adjusted pressure rate allowed.
TCU does not have an elite pass-rush, but still holds a clear advantage, ranked 67th in opponent-adjusted pressure rate generated.
The TCU defense rarely blitzes (17% blitz rate, ranked 117th) but Martinez has been pressured on 28% of his dropbacks with no blitz, ranked 102nd.
When TCU is on Offense
Unlike Gary Patterson’s TCU, Sonny Dykes’s squad relies heavily on the passing game.
The Horned Frogs are throwing the ball 55% of the time in neutral game situations this year, compared to 35% in 2021, according to Campus2Canton.
Dykes runs a version of the Air Raid offense which doesn’t challenge downfield often and relies on the receiver’s ability to make plays after the catch. This year’s TCU squad has excelled in that area, picking up 8.1 yards after the catch per reception, the nation’s seventh-highest rate.
This has been an explosive TCU passing attack, gaining 20 or more yards on 14% of pass plays (ranked 27th).
The Kansas State defense has done a nice job limiting big plays this season, ranking 31st in explosive pass plays allowed.
Although TCU is a pass-first team, the Frogs may have a more substantial advantage in the run game.
TCU boasts the nation’s second most explosive rushing attack, gaining 10 or more yards on 21% of attempts.
That explosive ability could create issues for Kansas State’s defense, which ranks 58th in explosive rush rate allowed (12%).
TCU’s owes some of its run game success to a strong offensive line 一 the Frogs rank eighth in the nation in opponent-adjusted rushing yards before contact, per Sports Info Solutions. Kansas State’s defense ranks 50th by that metric.
Final Thoughts on Kansas State vs TCU Best Bets
The unknown element of Kansas State’s run game versus TCU’s run defense should lower our confidence on this game a bit, but many of the other numbers point to a game dominated by the offenses.
The over has been a winner in five of seven games for TCU this season. This is the lowest total for a TCU game this year, which appears to be giving the Kansas State defense too much respect.
Against a similarly explosive offense in Oklahoma (with a healthy Dillon Gabriel), Kansas State gave up 34 points and 550 yards of offense 一 expect TCU to do something similar to this Wildcats defense.