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K-State Q&A: Will Iowa State fight back or fold? Defensive changes, Ryan Mueller, Sam Richardson and North Dakota St.

North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz tries to break a tackle by Iowa State linebacker Jared Brackens. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz tries to break a tackle by Iowa State linebacker Jared Brackens. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

It’s time for another edition of K-State Q&A.

Before we get started, here’s a rundown of reading material leading up to Kansas State’s football game at Iowa State on Saturday: Jake Waters is heading back to his home state, I’m predicting K-State to beat Iowa State 28-17, the Wildcats are hoping to run on the Cyclones, Mark Mangino seems rejuvenated in Ames, and DeMarcus Robinson reflects on his first start, a moment he long coveted.

Now, let’s get to your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

Losing to North Dakota State is not the sign of a bad team. The Wildcats dropped their opener to the Bison last year and rebounded for eight victories. They were one of the hottest teams in all of college football late in the season. Sometimes an unexpected loss can bring a team together and help them in the long run. So it’s definitely possible for Iowa State to bounce back.

But it is difficult to see a team that lost to North Dakota State by 20, lost its top receiver to injury and lost its starting right tackle to personal issues turning things around in one week. The Cyclones clearly aren’t a perfect team. They surrendered 302 rushing yards in their opener and look to be in for a long season. But it’s also hard to see them quit. Paul Rhoads is an excellent motivator, and he had Iowa State playing hard late last year in a lost season. I expect the Cyclones to fight back against K-State. I just don’t think they are good enough to win this game.

It has to be quarterback Sam Richardson and his dual-threat capabilities. Bill Snyder was furious with K-State’s defense for allowing Stephen F. Austin’s quarterbacks to scramble for long runs last week. When the game was over, he said Richardson’s eyes would light up when he saw the replay. Then Snyder watched the replay and said, “It was as bad as I thought.” Richardson had 151 yards passing and 58 yards rushing last week. He is capable of taking off on designed runs, so K-State will need to be ready to defend the middle of the field until the whistle on every play.

K-State’s star defensive end was surprisingly quiet against Stephen F. Austin, making just two tackles and failing to pressure the quarterback. Going up against a backup right tackle is, indeed, the perfect scenario for him to rebound with a big game.

From Todd, via e-mail: K-State was apparently slow in a couple of cases getting people in position to tackle the QB when he ran out of the pocket. Those who remember the OU game from last year may have had visions of Trevor Knight, who ran out of the pocket quite a bit that day, with plenty of room to roam. Zimmerman was not on the field vs. OU, and we all know that he graduated. Is safety a position to be concerned about this year?

I don't know if safeties were the biggest problem against Stephen F. Austin. Everyone shared blame against the quarterback scramble. When SFA had its longest gains, it was because the quarterback took off when the entire defense had its back turned to him in pass coverage. Linebackers and defensive backs both seemed unaware, and the defensive line couldn't contain.

In the Oklahoma game last year, Knight gained big yards with the zone read. That was a bit more concerning, because those were designed plays everyone saw coming. Mueller had a very hard time reading Knight. Zimmerman’s absense was noticeable, and Dante Barnett took poor angles trying to stop the run. But Barnett and Dylan Schellenberg have both improved since then.

The Iowa State game will say a lot. If K-State lets Richardson run wild after a week of working against the quarterback scramble, well, everyone will know the weakness of this defense.

I could see North Dakota State winning six games. It already beat Iowa State, so that’s one win. It beat Kansas in the past, so let’s call that win No. 2. It would probably also beat Stephen F. Austin and UTEP. That’s four victories. I don’t like its chances over the long haul of a Big 12 season, though. Throwing everything you have at Iowa State and then playing a FCS schedule is easier than pouring your heart and soul into a trip to Ames and turning around and playing Auburn, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Baylor. It’s just different. You need depth and experience to consistently win against those teams. Limited scholarships would put the Bison at a big disadvantage, regardless of their strong FCS talent.

West Virginia and TCU are perfect examples of just how hard the transition can be. They were both kings of their old conferences. West Virginia won the Orange Bowl. TCU won the Rose Bowl. Then they joined the Big 12 and both had losing seasons a year ago.

All that being said, the Big 12 should ban teams from scheduling North Dakota State in the future. The Bison have already beaten half of the old Big 12 North in recent seasons. I would like them to schedule Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri next to see if they can run the table.

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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