(5) Auburn (2-0) at (20) Kansas State (2-0) (ET)
GAME NOTES: A Top-25 showdown takes place on Thursday night when the 20th- ranked Kansas State Wildcats play host to the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers.
Both teams are undefeated, and come in after enjoying byes last weekend.
Auburn hits the road for the first time this season, and Gus Malzahn's squad has had a relatively easy time of it in dismissing both Arkansas (45-21) and San Jose State (59-13) at home. The win over the Razorbacks in the season opener also means the Tigers are 1-0 in SEC action, and following this clash and next week's with Louisiana Tech, they will get into the meat of their league slate beginning with an Oct. 4 visit from LSU.
Kansas State kicked off the 2014 campaign with a 55-16 rout of FCS foe Stephen F. Austin, but had a tougher time of it in its Big 12 Conference lid lifter against Iowa State (32-28). Bill Snyder's Wildcats are poised for another solid season, and after next week's visit from UTEP, they will get back to conference action when they play their third straight home game against Texas Tech on Oct. 4.
Despite being idle, coach Snyder was treating last week like any other during the season, and doing his best to prepare his team for the next challenge.
"It's our intent to treat this week like it's game week as much as possible. As far as what I share with our players, my interest right now is correcting mistakes and making improvements by each individual in the program."
This bout marks the fourth meeting between Auburn and Kansas State, and the Tigers have won the first three. The last was a 23-13 decision in 2007.
Averaging a robust 52 points and 544 yards per game, Auburn has had very little trouble imposing its will in the early stages of the season. The Tigers' preferred method of attack is the run, which had pounded out 660 yards (330 per game) and accounted for nine touchdowns. The team boasts three players with more than 100 yards, with Cameron Artis-Payne leading the way with 289 yards and four scores. Corey Grant (176 yards, one TD) and Nick Marshall (122 yards, two TDs) have also done extensive damage with their legs.
Marshall and Jeremy Johnson have both taken snaps for the Tigers, with neither having thrown an interception. Hitting 75 percent of his pass attempts, Johnson has been much more efficient and he has two scoring strikes to only one for Marshall (.560 completion percentage, 151 passing yards).
The team's leading receiver is D'haquille Williams (13 receptions, 214 yards, one TD), while Melvin Ray has turned four grabs into 107 yards and a score.
In the win over San Jose State, Artis-Payne ran for 112 yards and three TDs, while Marshall tacked on 103 yards and a score of his own. Marshall only threw for 101 yards, but had a TD pass. Williams paced the receiving corps with four grabs for 60 yards.
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee also spoke about the extra week of preparation he and the team have had since last suiting up.
"I just think it's good because you've got two games on film now. Now, we can go back and correct things that actually happened in a game."
The Auburn defense shut down the Spartans' rushing attack, yielding a mere 65 yards on 45 totes (1.4 ypc). SJSU was able to tally 254 passing yards, but that was only because the visitors had to air it out in an attempt to mount a comeback following four straight AU touchdowns scored over a span of roughly 18 minutes in the first half, one of which was a 55-yard punt return by WR Quan Bray. The Tigers came up with three picks in the contest, and recorded four sacks. Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy paced the defense with 10 tackles.
Although the season is just a few weeks old, the Tigers have surrendered only 218 yards on the ground (2.9 ypc). They have been a little looser with regard to defending the pass, permitting nearly the same number of yards (214.5 ypg) as they generate (214.0 ypg).
McKinzy sits atop the tackles list with 16, Jonathan Mincy is next with 14, Johnathan Ford has 13 and Jermaine Whitehead 12.
Kansas State hasn't been quite as potent on offense, or as stingy on defense, but the Wildcats have done enough to keep themselves from suffering a defeat. They have used a balanced attack to keep their first two opponents at bay, amassing 474.5 ypg (236 rushing, 238.5 passing), and they are scoring 43.5 ppg.
Defensively, they are permitting 22 ppg, but only 306.5 ypg. They too have played the run exceptionally well, as foes pick up just 87 ypg in averaging a scant 3.0 ypc. They have scored eight rushing TDs while allowing three, and their effort against the pass has resulted in only two aerial scores.
Quarterback Jake Waters has been solid in completing 61.4 percent of his throws for 462 yards, two TDs and one INT. He hasn't really honed in on one particular player, hitting four different guys at least five times. Although Tyler Lockett leads the way with seven receptions for 145 yards and a TD, making him the only pass catcher with more than 65 receiving yards at the moment.
Waters is also the team's top ground gainer, having scrambled his way to 193 yards and four TDs. Charles Jones is next with 130 yards, and he has found the end zone four times as well.
Linebacker Jonathan Truman spearheads KSU's defensive stance with 15 tackles, while Randall Evans and Dante Bennett are right there with 13 and 10 stops, respectively. The Wildcats would love to be more active in the turnover department, having logged only two takeaways to this point. They have however, been credited with five sacks, half of which belong to freshman LB Elijah Lee.
A victory in this bout would give K-State its first win over a top-5 opponent since beating No. 4 Texas at home back in 2006. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they are the second-best team in this matchup and it will take a near-perfect effort from them coupled with a mistake-prone performance from the Tigers for them to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Auburn 31, Kansas State 20