STILLWATER, Okla. – Kansas State and new head coach Chris Klieman have won over some preseason skeptics with a 3-0 start. But the true tests still await, starting Saturday night when the 22nd-ranked Wildcats kick off Big 12 play at Oklahoma State.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+. LINE: Oklahoma State -5
Klieman's crew was picked to finish ninth in the 10-team Big 12 preseason media poll but opened the season with routs of Nicholls (49-14) and Bowling Green (52-0), followed by an impressive 31-24 road win at then No. 23 Mississippi State. "I'm happy, obviously, that we're 3-0," Klieman told the Kansas City Star last weekend during the Wildcats' bye. "But, big picture, we haven't even started conference play yet. We know every game is going to be a dog fight. ... I'm thrilled that we're 3-0, but we have a lot of work to do." Oklahoma State also started 3-0 before dropping a tight 36-30 road decision against No. 12 Texas on Saturday. The Cowboys are among the teams receiving votes in the coaches poll for the fifth straight week and are looking for their fourth consecutive 4-1 start.
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (3-0)
Klieman has made the jump to the Big 12 after winning four FCS national titles in five seasons at North Dakota State. He's brought with him a ground-oriented mindset as the Wildcats rank seventh nationally, averaging 280 rushing yards per contest behind graduate transfers James Gilbert (277 yards on the season) and Jordon Brown (154) who have rushed for a trio touchdowns apiece. Linebacker Da'Quan Patton and free safety Denzel Goolsby have each notched 15 total tackles to pace a defense which ranks ninth nationally in total defense (256 yards allowed per game) and 13th in scoring defense (12.7 points).
ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE (3-1)
Coach Mike Gundy's Cowboys are known for their high-powered offenses and this season looks like it will be no exception as Oklahoma State enters the contest ranked 11th in total offense (533.8 yards) and 12th in scoring (44.5 points). Like the Wildcats, the Cowboys also feature a top-10 FBS ground attack (10th with 270.5 yards) behind national rushing leader Chuba Hubbard (642 yards, nine TDs) while wide receiver Tylan Wallace leads the Big 12 in receiving yards (473) and receiving touchdowns (six). Defensively, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez is averaging a team-best 9.5 tackles but Oklahoma State is surrendering an average of 415 yards and a Big 12-most 26.8 points per contest.
1. Oklahoma State has won six of the last 10 meetings, including five of the last six in Stillwater, Okla. Those six Stillwater contests all have been decided by a touchdown or less with an average margin of victory of four points.
2. It's the first time Kansas State will enter Big 12 play unblemished since 2015, but that season then brought six straight conference losses en route to a 6-7 overall finish.
3. Even with the loss to Texas, Oklahoma State is 6-2 in its last eight games against ranked opponents.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 27, Kansas State 24