Southeast Missouri State at No. 16 Kansas State, Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Line: No line, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Kansas State was the surprising Big 12 champion last season, beating eventual College Football Playoff participant TCU for the title. The Wildcats return quarterback Will Howard, their entire offensive line and several key pieces on defense, though they lost do-everything running back Deuce Vaughn and pass rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah. The Wildcats hope to build on their Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama against Southeast Missouri State, which is ranked No. 11 in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Howard against the Redhawks defense. The senior quarterback has 15 career starts but is entering his first season as the clear-cut starter. Howard took over for Adrian Martinez last season and led the Wildcats to a 4-1 record in five starts, including wins over No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 3 TCU in the Big 12 title game. Southeast Missouri State’s defense is led by defensive back Lawrence Johnson and linebacker Bryce Norman, both of whom are on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the nation’s top FCS defensive player.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SEMO: RB Geno Hess needs 1,038 yards to break the Ohio Valley’s career rushing record of 5,149 yards, which Eastern Kentucky’s Markus Thomas set from 1989-92. Hess has 4,112 yards entering the season.
Kansas State: RBs DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward will be tasked with replacing Vaughn, the two-time All-American now with the Dallas Cowboys. Gidden ran for 518 yards and six TDs as a freshman last season while Ward is a fifth-year senior who transferred from Florida State, where he ran for 649 yards and seven touchdowns while catching 28 passes for 210 yards and a score.
FACTS & FIGURES
The only ranked Power Five school Southeast Missouri State has faced was No. 6 Missouri, which beat the Redhawks 52-3 during the 2008 season. … Redhawks coach Tom Matukewicz is from Silver Lake, Kansas, which is less than 45 miles away from the Kansas State campus in Manhattan. … Hess already has SEMO career records for rushing attempts (689), touchdowns rushing (53), 100-yard games (17), 200-yard games (4), points scored (330) and total touchdowns (55). … Kansas State coach Chris Klieman is 102-33 as a head coach, including his time at FCS-level North Dakota State. … The Wildcats averaged 418.8 yards of total offense last season, the fifth-best total in school history.
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