Auburn at Kansas State Preview

bill snyder 1

Auburn at Kansas State Preview

On Thursday night, September 18, 2014, the 5th ranked Auburn Tigers will play the 20th ranked Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. Widely considered the toughest place to play in college football, Auburn will have to play mistake free football and be firing on all cylinders to ensure a victory over the well-coached Wildcats.

Will Auburn’s hopes of making another run to the national championship game be put to rest after Thursday or can they weather the storm that awaits them at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium? No one knows for sure but we’ll take a look at what makes the Kansas State Wildcats tick, what they need to do in order to pull off the upset against the 5th ranked Tigers, and a little bit about the man who orchestrated the greatest program turnaround in college football history…

Bill Snyder

Bill Snyder is considered one of the best college football coaches in the history of the game. What he’s been able to accomplish at Kansas State is simply amazing. Snyder took over as head coach in 1989 and inherited a program that boasted the worst record in Division IA football. Prior to 1989 Kansas State had only managed to accumulate 4 winning seasons in the previous 44 years and one conference title since 1934. To top it off, the Wildcats hadn’t won a single game since October of 1986.

Success didn’t come immediately but steady improvement was apparent. In Snyder’s first season Kansas State managed to win only one game (hey, one is definitely better than 0) but in the following season (1990) they were 5-6 and 7-4 in 1991. The Wildcats wouldn’t make it to bowl game until two years later though (1993), making an appearance in the Copper Bowl to cap off the second 9 win season in program history and the first Top 20 ranking in school history.

The 1993 season started a run of 11 consecutive bowl game appearances in which Kansas State won 6 of the 11…only six other schools had ever made 11 consecutive bowl game appearances. During their historic run from 1993 – 2003, Bill Snyder led Kansas State to a Big 12 conference title, six 11 win seasons over a seven year span (only the second team in college football history to do so), one undefeated season and their first ever # 1 national ranking. After disappointing seasons in 2004 and 2005, Snyder retired from Kansas State only to return as head coach in 2009.

Since 2009, Snyder’s second run as head coach has resulted in two 10-2 seasons, bowl game appearances in the Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, one Big 12 conference title and the programs first BCS # 1 ranking. Bill Snyder’s work at Kansas State, specifically his career from 1989 – 2005, is regarded as the greatest turnaround in college football history and he will, without a doubt, be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Kansas State Offense

The Wildcats’ offense is led by quarterback Jake Waters who is an athletic, dual threat quarterback that leads the team both in passing and rushing (sound familiar?). Waters also has one of the more talented wide receivers in the country to throw to in Tyler Lockett and a very capable running back in Charles Jones. While Jones is listed at only 5’10” and 197 lbs he shouldn’t be underestimated as he’s accounted for 4 TDs and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry over the first two games. He runs hard and fights for every yard possible.

The third threat in the offense is H-Back, Glenn Gronkowski. If you don’t recognize that last name, you don’t watch much football…Glenn is the younger brother of one of the best Tight Ends in the game and the starting Tight End for the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski. Much like his older brother, he can do it all and is a very good blocker whether he’s on the line of scrimmage or out in space and, of course, is a receiving threat when the Wildcats want him to be.

Kansas State’s offense can be very multiple at times and, in my opinion, comes from Bill Snyder’s experience as a football coach. Simply put, he’s pretty much seen it and done it all on both sides of the ball and he has a vast understanding of the game…that’s why he’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport. To be more specific though, he likes to have a running quarterback (see Collin Klein as an example) and likes to run variations of the Veer and the Speed Option.

As a side note, some contend that Bill Snyder is responsible for creating the Zone Read principle with quarterback Michael Bishop in the late 1990s. Others contend that Rich Rodriquez is the original innovator but no matter who you believe created the Zone Read it’s clear that Bill Snyder had a hand in developing that aspect of football and making it popular.

Below we’ll look at a diagram of the Speed Option out of the shotgun drawn up by Chris Brown, author of the sports website It should be noted that the Speed Option, and the Option Offense in general, was originally executed with the quarterback under center and not out of the shotgun. The adaptation of running the Option Offense out of the shotgun is a more modern idea that developed as true spread offenses evolved.

Many teams run the Speed Option, or some variation of it, and they do so because it’s a simple yet effective play for an offense to incorporate regardless of talent level at the skill positions. However, it becomes increasingly more difficult to defend when the quarterback is very mobile, athletic, and/or physical.

Speed Option

speed option

The blocking scheme for the offensive line is a basic outside zone blocking scheme in which the offensive linemen step to the play side blocking defensive linemen then moving to the linebackers at the next level. This creates a vertical seam or running lane to the outside. One of the keys here is that either the defensive end or the outside linebacker (depending on base defensive alignment) will remain unblocked. When the ball is snapped the quarterback runs directly at the unblocked defender and based on his alignment or angle, the quarterback then makes the decision to keep or pitch. The general rule for the quarterback is simple…if the unblocked defender is playing wide then the QB keeps it, if the defender is playing inside or pursues the QB then he pitches to the running back.

Obviously Kansas State does more on offense than just run the Option, after all, they do have one of the most talented wide receivers in the country so they can and will throw the ball from various formations and incorporate play action into their passing game. Much like Auburn, when you have a quarterback that poses a running threat the play action pass becomes much more effective. By and large though their core offense has been centered on the Option game and a running quarterback. Auburn will have to find a way to cover Lockett while keeping Waters contained.

Kansas State Defense

Defensively the Wildcats base out of the 4-3 with nickel personnel. They have several All-America and All-Big 12 players on defense which include senior defensive end Ryan Mueller and defensive tackle Travis Britz. While there may not be a true superstar on Kansas State’s defense they all play fundamentally sound, disciplined, and are relentless in their pursuit.

Ideally, Kansas State would like to be able to keep one safety deep and utilize the other for run support but with Auburn’s Sammie Coates being healthy and back in the game I don’t think that will be possible. Auburn’s offense will pose too many true downfield receiving threats for the Wildcat defense to consistently play with only one high safety protecting against the deep threat. Kansas State cornerback Randall Evans is capable of covering and even shutting down one of Auburn’s receivers downfield but between Sammie Coates and D’haquille Williams the Kansas State defense will have to choose carefully which receiver they want take away on a given play.

There’s no question that Kansas State’s defense will have its work cut out for them trying to defend Auburn’s offense but at the same time Auburn’s offense must execute their assignments and Nick Marshall will not be afforded many errant throws to Randall Evans’ side of the field. The Wildcats are hungry for a piece of the 5th ranked Tigers and if Auburn’s offense makes some fundamental mistakes early on the Wildcats will make them pay for it by creating turnovers or forcing quick three and outs.

Game Prediction

I think it goes without saying that Auburn is more talented across the board than Kansas State. To be honest though, I think that’s part of the genius and magic of Bill Snyder as a coach…he consistently gets more production out of walk-ons, two star rated athletes and JUCO transfers than anyone in the game and he’s done that his entire career. Bill Snyder’s teams typically have a few things in common…they play disciplined (if my facts are correct they are one of the least penalized teams in college football every year), they know their assignments, and they’re relentless in their attack for four quarters.

I truly believe Kansas State will come out swinging and I think they’ll land a few punches but in the end I don’t think they’ll be able to keep up with the speed and athleticism of Auburn’s offense. Conversely, Auburn’s defense will have to play well to keep Waters and Lockett in check which will not be an easy task. My guess is that Bill Snyder will try and slow the game down to keep Auburn’s fast paced offense off the field but he won’t be hesitant to have his offense taking shots downfield if they’re open. I’m sure we’ll see a heavy dose of Jake Waters running with some downfield passes to Lockett for potential points or big gains. In fact, Auburn’s defense will have to defend many of the same plays and concepts that its own offense runs each game…of course the formations and pace of the offense will be different but the two offenses share some similarities.

Ultimately, I see this game ending up a lot like the Arkansas game…gridlocked at halftime but Auburn runs away with it in the second half. Kansas State’s defense didn’t seem to fair to well against Iowa State’s Read Option style offense which doesn’t bode too well for them playing a team like Auburn. I think Auburn’s defense will have some problems initially stopping Kansas State’s option attack along with their extremely talented wide receiver but I don’t see those problems persisting into the second half.

Bill Snyder is a legendary coach and I have no doubt that he’s seen it all, done it all and coached against it all. I also know that Snyder will have his team ready to play and Auburn will most certainly get the Wildcats’ best shot, but I just don’t think it will be enough to upset the 5th ranked Auburn Tigers Thursday night.
Auburn 41 – Kansas State 20



Speed Option Play Diagram –

This document is not to be sold or used for profit in any way and is not to be copied and/or distributed without the consent of the original author. The original photos and diagrams contained in this document can be found in the sources listed above this statement. This document is to be used for entertainment purposes only.

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  • 2 Comments to Auburn at Kansas State Preview

    1. Jean Merkle says:

      Bo, this was without a doubt one of your best articles. I could understand this one and was very informative , I too, think the Tigers will really show their stuff tomorrow night.

    2. Blake Thomason says:

      Great article. Makes me a bit nervous though. I hope it isn’t that close at halftime.

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