The Missouri Tigers will be traveling to Manhattan, KS this Saturday to take on old Big-12 foe Kansas State Wildcats in a game that will probably reveal a lot about both teams early in the season.
Kansas State currently sits as a 7.5 point favorite according to most betting sites and many consider them a dark horse pick to win the Big-12. They are favored in this game for a reason as they are coming off an 8 win season in 2021 and might have the best player on the field for this game in running back Deuce Vaughn who ran for 1,404 yards last year as a sophomore.
That said, Missouri looked impressive in week one against Louisiana Tech. Particularly on defense, an area in which Missouri struggled last year at all levels. Missouri was once ranked last in the country in run defense in 2021 and though it's early in the season, they are currently first in the nation in run defense after holding Louisiana Tech to just 8 yards in week one. The effort was led by Florida transfer linebacker Ty'ron Hopper who flew around along with the defensive line which might be the deepest position on the team. If Missouri can replicate that performance even a little bit, this game will be a lot more winnable as neutralizing Deuce Vaughn makes Kansas State a little one-dimensional.
There seems to be a lot of hype around Manhattan for transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez, but it seems to be based on hope for the most part. Despite being a rushing threat, Martinez had a lot of turnover issues at Nebraska, throwing 30 interceptions in 39 games for the Cornhuskers and Kansas State appeared to hide him a little bit in week one versus South Dakota which is strange. They didn't ask much of him and although they didn't need to, you would think they'd want to get him going against an FCS opponent before facing Missouri. Missouri's defense recorded 3 interceptions last week against Louisiana Tech and made it nearly impossible for Louisiana Tech to move the ball.
Offensively, Missouri will probably need to be a little more efficient and effective than they were against Louisiana Tech to win this game. Head coach Eli Drinkwitz even said he'd like to see that side of the ball improve. Kansas State has a stout defense with multiple preseason all-Big-12 selections including defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah who may be able to exploit a Missouri offensive line that is still figuring some things out.
Five-Star Luther Burden definitely lived up to the hype in week one as he caught and rushed for two touchdowns and showed off his explosiveness. Sophomore Dominic Lovett also showed to be a nice second option who can accumulate a lot of yards after the catch with his speed. Cook definitely has options when it comes to the passing game.
Quarterback Brady Cook didn't do anything spectacular in week one and you'd like to see him connect on a few more deep passes, but he was certainly an upgrade over what we saw from former Missouri quarterback, Connor Bazelak, last year. Cook was still able to use his legs to evade pressure and move the chains which is an element the Tigers simply did not have last year. Stanford transfer Nathaniel Peat also seemed to establish himself as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart among a solid committee that also includes Cody Schraeder and Elijah Young.
Missouri just looks like a better, more talented team than they did last year but they'll have a good early season test against a formidable opponent in the Wildcats who are looking to make a Big-12 bid this season. If Missouri can pull off the upset, it will be a huge win that will signify the program is moving in a positive direction. If they lose, there's no shame in the loss, but it might mean that Drinkwitz and Missouri need more time before we can talk about them contending for the SEC east.
If Kansas State wins, it'll be a good win for bragging rights and it will solidify the perception they can contend for the Big-12 title. If they lose, however, it probably means Missouri is a better team than people though and the wildcats simply lost to a more talented team.
Kansas State is a more vetted team at this point in time, but Missouri is quickly closing the talent gap on a lot of its rivals and it wouldn't be a shock if they won this game. Missouri has struggled on the road under Drinkwitz thus far in his tenure but that has the potential to change this weekend. It will be a tough, hard-fought game for both teams, but Missouri takes this one and shows once again that being in the SEC means something and they're still a better program than Kansas State.
Missouri 31, Kansas State 27