Based strictly on rankings, the best college football game this week won’t take place this weekend. Rather, it will take place Thursday night when No. 20 Kansas State (2-0) hosts No. 5 Auburn (2-0) at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas.
“We’re so excited,” Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I’m so excited. We’ve been anxiously trying to get through these practices and to be able to go play. It’s such a great opportunity for us. We couldn’t be more fired up about it.”
Auburn, of course, played for a national championship last season, while Kansas State has become a more than respectable program under Bill Snyder. Throw in home-field advantage, and it’s not difficult to envision the Wildcats walking off with the upset.
“We definitely knew this was a big game when we found out it was going to be on our (schedule),” Waters said. “The challenge was going to be not overlooking the other two opponents before this game. I think we did a great job of coming out with a great win over Iowa State and Stephen F. Austin.”
The Wildcats beat Stephen F. Austin, 55-16, in their season-opener Aug. 30 and beat Iowa State, 32-28, Sept 6. When Thursday night rolls around, Kansas State will have been off for 12 days.
“For us to finally be here, it’s a special time around here,” Waters said. “It’s going to be a special game obviously. That’s kind of what you dream of and want to be a part of growing up.”
Waters, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, has been exceptional this season. He’s averaging 231 passing yards and 96.5 rushing yards per game and has six touchdowns (two pass, four rush). Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, in fact, said that Waters is almost like a running back.
Wait, did Malzahn just take a shot at Waters’ throwing ability?
“Oh no, not at all,” Waters said. “I (knew) our offense would ask the quarterback to run, and I’ve been pretty successful the first two games running the football. That’s something that they have to prepare for because we’re obviously going to run the quarterback and do some special things there. I have no problem with (what he said).”
Kansas State, like it or not, will also be carrying the Big 12 banner Thursday. Yes, Oklahoma beat Alabama convincingly in the Sugar Bowl – and dominated Tennessee, 34-10, this past weekend – but the SEC is still seen, by and large, as everybody’s big brother.
Does that put any pressure on Kansas State?
“We haven’t really thought about it like that,” Waters said. “The biggest challenge is playing the game against a great team like Auburn. The SEC gets a lot of credit and a lot of exposure – but deservedly so. They’re consistently in the top 10, top 25 and playing for national championships. We know that if we’re fortunate to come out with a win, that would help Kansas State as a program – and the Big 12. It’s definitely going to be a huge challenge for us. We’re excited. But it would definitely help out the Big 12.”