Kansas State running back Deuce Vaugh
Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn (22) sprints past Stanford cornerback Ethan Bonner (13) on his way to the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

TEXAS BOWL PREVIEW

Mike Shara

TaxAct Texas Bowl
Tuesday, January 4, 2022  9 p.m. on ESPN
NRG Stadium, Houston TX
Lousiana State Tigers vs. Kansas State Wildcats

SPREAD: Kansas State -7.5 on FanDuel
OVER/UNDER : 47.5 on BetMGM
MONEYLINE: LSU +235 on PointsBet

Yep, it’s weird. The second-to-last college football game of the 2021 season features two teams that had a combined record just two games over .500. Welcome to college football in Covid season, folks! Don’t think too much about why it’s happening now – just be grateful that you can enjoy a college football game on a Tuesday night in early January when there isn’t a hell of a lot else on in the sports world.

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LSU (6-6, 3-5 in the SEC)
After firing…er…’coming to an agreement with’… Head Coach/swimming pool enthusiast Ed Orgeron late in the season, LSU narrowly avoided finishing with a losing record for the first time in the 21st century by defeating Louisiana-Monroe and then upsetting Texas A&M. Their reward for that .500 record is an appearance in Houston tonight, facing Kansas State for the first time in over 40 years. Offensive line coach Brad Davis will run the show for tonight’s game on an interim basis before new Head Coach/dialect expert Brian Kelly officially takes over in 2022.  LSU might have been a bit better than their record indicates – they had a very difficult schedule and lost close games to both Auburn and Alabama. Ultimately winning just 2 of 7 games vs. Top 25 opponents just won’t cut it in the fearsome SEC West. Now, quarterback Max Johnson, who played reasonably well this year despite not being expected to be the team’s starter, is gone to Texas A&M through the transfer portal, leaving walk-ons Tavion Faulk or Matt O’Dowd to play tonight. Additionally, star running back Tyrion Davis-Price, who had over 1000 rushing yards this season has opted out of tonight’s game and declared for the NFL Draft. In fact, LSU will only have about 40 scholarship players available for this game. The Tigers had mediocre offensive production at beast while at full strength this year, so this diminished squad may make this a tough game to watch for Bayou fans, especially when considering that Kansas State’s defense allowed just 12 touchdown passes all year long while nabbing nine interceptions.

KANSAS STATE (7-5, 4-5 in the Big 12)
Head Coach Chris Klieman has rallied his Wildcats somewhat from last season’s disappointing collapse, where they lost their last five games after beginning the season with a 4-1 record. This year they won four conference games, including a blowout win at rivals Kansas, even sneaking into the AP Top 25 rankings for one sweet weekend in September. They lost three close games to Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma respectively, but just avoiding a few key injuries for each of those games might have put their 2021 season in a much different light. Defensively they have been sturdy and physical, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry for the season, with standout defensive tackle Felix Anudike leading the nation with six forced fumbles and finishing with 11 quarterback sacks. Their offense has often been the reason they couldn’t win big games, given that K-State allowed just 42 combined points in their final two games vs. Baylor and Texas but didn’t win either of them. All-American running back Deuce Vaughn had over 1700 yards from scrimmage and scored 18 touchdowns this year, but the Wildcats struggle to score points anywhere else, with starting quarterback Skylar Thompson throwing just 9 touchdown passes (and 4 interceptions) in 9 games, with three of those going to Vaughn. KSU will be facing a deeply depleted defensive squad, though, as several of the Tigers’ best defenders will be absent for this game due to injury, opt-outs or academic ineligibility.

THE MATCHUP
Kansas State probably was already the better team before any Head Coaching or roster changes happened. Given that almost all of the roster shake ups, and coaching switches have happened to LSU in the past month, it is difficult to see how they come up with a win here. Their offense will be so shorthanded that it runs the risk of setting a historical precedent for bowl game ineptitude.  Their defense is also severely shorthanded and was only 9th in the SEC this year at full strength. Add all that to the fact that they are a team in transition from one Head Coach to another, playing under someone who has never been a Head Coach and it seems as though LSU just has too high of a mountain to climb tonight.

PREDICTION

Kansas State 28-6

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