West Virginia is two days away from kicking off its Big 12 slate and it feels as if we’ve been away from football for much longer than just a week. Kansas State is coming off of a lopsided win against an unimpressive UTSA squad and looks to assemble a win streak by toppling the heavily-favored Mountaineers in Morgantown. While Kansas State may not be in peak form this season, there are still several Wildcats on the offensive side of the ball to be aware of as opening coin toss approaches.
1. Skylar Thompson, QB- Kansas State is nothing if not a creature of long-practiced habit. They run, they control the clock and they are no stranger to rotating players under center. Thompson, a sophomore, seems to be the current favorite at quarterback. Three games in, the Missouri native has been serviceable in leading the ‘Cats to a 2-1 record. He posted his best line of the young season last week against UTSA going 13/18 for 213 yards passing while also chipping in 66 yards rushing for a total of three scores. While Thompson has outplayed fellow signal-caller Alex Delton up to this point, neither of Kansas State’s quarterbacks have been dominant in any sense. Thompson will face a significant test against WVU’s front six on Saturday and will need to make quick decisions with the football if he wants to eat up the clock and keep West Virginia’s vaunted offense off the field per the tried & true Bill Snyder way.
2. Alex Barnes, RB- Kansas State might as well be Big 12 team in name only, as it goes directly against the pass-happy spread attack that the rest of its conference brethren strongly adhere to. The beating heart of Kansas State’s run offense lies at the running back position and with junior Alex Barnes. Barnes, a preseason all-conference selection in certain polls, is having a decent year thus far having totaled 228 yards on the ground in 51 carries. While he’s only hit pay dirt on one occasion in 2018, Barnes is big, strong back at 6’1″, 225 who does exactly what Bill Snyder requires: keeps the clock rolling. Look for #34 to get his largest total of touches to-date on Saturday and be a safety valve for Skylar Thompson in the passing game.
3. Dalton Risner, OT- You can’t win games via clock control and ground & pound unless you have an ox or two up front to clear running lanes, so it makes sense that Kansas State has one of the nation’s best linemen in senior Dalton Risner. Considered by many to be a first-round prospect, Risner is a mobile right tackle who holds up well in both the pass and run game. Two weeks ago, during Kansas State’s poor outing against Mississippi State, Risner was legitimately challenged in having to defend fellow first-round prospect Montez Sweat, the results of which were clearly detailed by CBS’ Chris Trapasso. Saturday will provide yet another weighty task for the Colorado native as he goes up against an aggressive and athletic Mountaineers defensive line lead by Kenny Bigelow and Ezekiel Rose. Truly, this offense will go as far as the offensive line takes them and Risner is the unquestioned pace-setter of this O-line. If Risner is unable to fend off pressure from Bigelow, Rose, and co., it could be a very long day for the Wildcats and QB Skylar Thompson.