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NC State vs Kansas State in 1-2-3

What I’m thinking about with this game

North Carolina v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

One Thing I’m Worried About

  1. This is a really really good Kansas State team. In the last about 90 years of Kansas State football, there’s basically Bill Snyder and Chris Klieman. Everyone else has been awful. From 1935 until Snyder’s third season with the program in 1991, Kansas State topped six wins in a season only once (1954’s 7-3 campaign). Snyder is a damn wizard, going 215-117-1 over 27 years across two separate stints with the program. Klieman is already the program’s 2nd winningest coach with a 38-24 mark over his five seasons at the helm. Klieman was a home run hire for K-State, having won four national titles over five season at North Dakota State prior to taking the job with the Wildcats. At a tough job, Klieman has already won 8+ games in four of five years, including a 10-win season in 2022. Aside from Klieman’s four and Synder’s ridiculous 16, only Bo McMillan (8-2 in 1931) can claim an 8-win season in program history.

That’s a lot of background that isn’t completely necessary to the point, but is interesting nonetheless. The point is that Klieman is a proven winner and he does one thing really well: prepare his team to win football games. As Steven noted in his preview article, this Kansas State team is just a handful of plays away from going undefeated and competing for their second straight Big XII title. Even with some key pieces sitting out, this is an experienced and talented team that’ll be opposite the Wolfpack on Thursday in Orlando. Expecting them to be ill-prepared for the bowl game is expecting disappointment.

Two Things I’m Confident In

  1. The ability of NC State’s defense to make K-State’s offense work for every yard. Kansas State put together a very efficient offense in 2023 (15th in non-garbage time Success Rate), but not an explosive one (104th in Explosiveness). For a Wolfpack defense that’s built to not allow the big play, it sets up nicely to allow the Pack to focus on creating more havoc in the Wildcats backfield.
  2. The Wolfpack popping a big play or two or three or... While the Wildcats sport a very good defense, the weakness of that D is in stopping the big play. Kansas State ranks 125th in the nation at opponent Explosiveness, and that weakness will be tested by both an NC State offense that finally found its’ identity late in the year and by the absence of multiple key components of the secondary.

Three Stats You Should Know

  1. This game will feature two of the nation’s best defenses at smothering opposing offenses. NC State ranks 32nd in opponent Success Rate while Kansas State ranks 25th.
  2. Short yardage situations when NC State has the ball will be a big key to this game. NC State’s offense ranks 17th in Power Success Rate while Kansas State’s defense ranks 9th in opponent Power Success Rate.
  3. K-State ranks 2nd nationally in Points Per Opportunity, with the Wildcats scoring an average of 5.08 points per drive that cross the opponent’s 40 yard line. Only Oregon was better this year. For an offense that didn’t really pop a ton of big plays, that’s a true indicator of their ability to continually churn out positive plays to move the ball and put points on the board. Two huge components of that success are an offense that ranks 10th in Havoc Rate (percentage of plays that end in a TFL, forced fumble, interception, or PBU) and 10th in Rush Play Success Rate.

Bonus Bowl Game stats:

  • NC State’s defense ranks 15th in opponent PPA. K-State ranks 42nd.
  • K-State’s defense ranks 4th in Stuff Rate. NC State ranks 23rd.
  • The Wildcats’ defense ranks 16th in Opponent Points Per Opportunity. The Wolfpack rank 53rd.
  • NC State ranks 11th in Defense Havoc Rate. K-State ranks 29th.
  • K-State ranks 26th in Opponent Rush Play Success Rate. NC State ranks 31st.