August 30, 2007

The game up close: K-State at Auburn

Kansas State struggled away from home last year, going just 1-4 in games played outside of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It's safe to say that none of those losses came in an environment remotely similar to what they'll see Saturday at Auburn. Can the Wildcats overcome last year's road woes to open the 2007 season with a major marquee victory?

The Game Up Close: Kansas State (0-0, 0-0) vs. No. 18/14 Auburn (0-0, 0-0)

Saturday, Sept. 1, 6:45 p.m. kickoff
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
Note: All statistics used in this comparison are from the 2006 season. Starting next week '07 stats will be used.

Auburn rush offense vs. Kansas State rush defense
The numbers:
KSU rush defense: Allowed 148.6 yards per game, No. 78 nationally
AU rush offense: Averaged 148.2 yards per game, No. 47 nationally

The breakdown: One of the biggest questions entering Saturday night's game is the status of Auburn tailback Brad Lester. A 5-foot-11, 194-pound junior, Lester ran for 523 yards and nine touchdowns last season in a reserve role and figured to open the '07 season as the Tigers' top back. Academic questions still cloud his playing status for the season opener, although Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville did call Lester his starting back as recently as yesterday. Schools like Auburn generally stockpile talent at running back, and the Tigers would be fine with using sophomore Ben Tate (392 yards, 7.3 yards per carry last year) or redshirt freshman Mario Fannin if need be. Both Tate (5-foot-11, 211) and Fannin (5-foot-11, 219) are regarded as bigger, more gifted backs, but both lack Lester's experience. It will be up to a rebuilt Tiger offensive line to open holes for that group. K-State really struggled against the run last season and will need to prove able to control the line of scrimmage in its new 3-4 defensive look. Nose tackle Steven Cline will be severely tested in this contest, as will ends Michael Abana and Rob Jackson. The temptation was to favor Auburn here, but the doubts about Lester's status might even this battle up a bit.

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