The Wildcats visit the Farm for a Big 12 v PAC 12 matchup to kick off the season on Friday night.
To say that both Stanford and Kansas State are coming into the 2016 in a state of flux is an understatement.
Both programs have enjoyed success over the years, but both will look to see how their newly retooled lineups will fair against major competition to kick off the 2016 campaigns.
What to look for on offense for Stanford?
Stanford will have a new signal caller under center for the first time in 4 years as Senior Ryan Burns won the battle during camp and will look to build upon that success into the season. Burns will have plenty of support at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball with Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey and 5th year Senior Michael Rector leading the way.
Stanford however heads into the season with another major unknown on the offensive side of the ball, as the Cardinal will have 4 new starters along the Offensive Line this year. A major point to success for the Cardinal this season will depend upon how well this unit gels together, and if they can repeat the success of years past.
Look for Head Coach David Shaw to take a lot of the pressure off his new QB with going with his bread and butter power running game. Sophomore Bryce Love is doubtful to be playing in this game, but the Cardinal will use a heavy dose of other runners including sophomore bruiser Cameron Scarlett to go along with a heavy workload for Junior Christian McCaffrey.
What to look for on offense for K-State?
The K-State offense is one that really depends upon the personnel that Coach Snyder has for the season. Coach Snyder has used the speed option, the spread or a hybrid of the two. Look for Coach Snyder to use a hybrid of the spread and option this season, as he will have Jesse Ertz as the signal caller as the junior won the job out of camp after suffering a major knee injury early last season. The 6’4" Ertz has a wealth of talent, but his option running ability may be limited due to his prior knee injury. Fans of the Wildcats are expecting big things from their young QB in 2016, and are hoping he puts up huge numbers this season.
K-State has Senior Charles Jones leading the way at the RB position as he won out a hotly contested battle during camp. Jones led K-State last year with 696 yards and will be called upon to support his young QB this season.
K-State has a history of producing solid WRs; but this year, the Wildcats are in a state of flux as there are several unknowns at this position heading into the season and are hoping this group becomes the most improved unit on the team. The Wildcats offensive strategy has changed year by year, but look for more of the "Spread" formation under legendary Head Coach Bill Snyder, and look for this group to be led by Sophomore Byron Pringle this season.
The biggest unknown for the Wildcats is much like the Cardinal, will their young offensive line hold up against the pressure? They are young and will be facing several teams, including Stanford, with stalwart defensive fronts. Look for the battle between the Stanford front 4 and the offensive line of the Wildcats to be a major battlefront in this game. If the Wildcats can hold off the rush of Thomas, Phillips, and Kalambayi up front, they will have a good chance at victory this week.
What to look for on defense for Stanford?
The Stanford defense can become their ultimate strength this season. Junior Solomon Thomas leads the line with returning stalwart Harrison Phillips to produce a fierce front that will wreak havoc this season upon opposing teams. Thomas came into his own last season, and is an early-season pick to become a possible All-American for the Cardinal. Phillips is returning after tearing his ACL, and is already back to his ways in camp of being a thorn in the side of the opposing offense. Look for this battle upfront as a major key to victory for the Cardinal this weekend.
The difference on defense this year compared to years past is the outright speed of the Cardinal secondary and linebackers. To say that these young athletes are incredibly athletic and talented is an understatement. Head Coach David Shaw has adapted his defense to coincide with the bulk of the offenses in the PAC 12 and has solidly recruited players that are athletic enough to keep up with high-powered offenses. Look for the Alijah Holder, Quenton Meeks, and Terrence Alexander to be highly tested this week by the Wildcats spread attack; and look for returning Senior Zach Hoffpauir to take back the title of "tackling machine" this week.
What to look for on defense for K-State?
The Wildcats and Head Coach Bill Snyder are well aware of the ability of the Stanford run game, and will be challenged up front by the much larger offensive line of the Cardinal. K-State has several new starters along the front and will be tested early by the power run game of the Cardinal.
K-State has redshirt freshman Trey Dishon as the surprise starter up front and will be tested in his first game with the Wildcats. Dishon is replacing former starter Travis Britz and will have some big shoes to fill early on in his career.
The Wildcats will need to utilize their speed up front, and will have to hope the young Cardinal line has issues with their first time under the lights to have any chance at stopping the #Wildcaff train.
What to look for from both Coaches?
K-State Head Coach Bill Snyder is a legend. Coach Snyder has built one of the best football programs over the last few decades in Manhattan, and the Wildcats are looking to again be a power in the Big 12. The Wildcats have played in the postseason the past 6 years, and are looking to keep their streak this year in 2016. Coach Snyder will look to take the pressure off of his new QB, and spread the ball around the field with quick short passes and quick option runs.
Stanford Head Coach David Shaw is building his legend on the Farm. Coach Shaw has built a perennial power at Stanford, and again this year is looking to reload – not rebuild. The Cardinal will look to utilize their power run game, and will spread the ball around to multiple athletes this season, especially in the opening contest against their Big 12 counterpart. The defense of the Cardinal will again be a major piece as in years past, and will look to have a "party in the backfield" once again against the Wildcats attack.
Stanford goes up early and cruises to a 27-14 victory over the Wildcats. Christian McCaffrey has a solid start to his season, unlike in last year’s debacle in Chicago, and runs for over 150 yards and two scores. The Wildcats will see what the rest of the country will soon learn; the Stanford defense is no longer a bend – but don’t break, they are an attack and conquer defense in 2016.