Be Who You Are | K-State vs. Auburn Preview

Tonight at 6:30 p.m., when No. 20 K-State kicks off against No. 5 Auburn in Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the atmosphere is expected to be electric. Under the stadium's bright lights, Snyder knows his Wildcat faithful will show up in full force, ready to cheer and yell and witness one of the biggest home games in K-State non-conference history.
"Our fans have always been great, our students have always been great," said Snyder, "and they do it in a classy manner as well. (Crowd noise) can have an impact. It has had an impact here even though we're small by numbers, comparatively speaking. I know Auburn will have some concern about it - they've indicated that's exactly the case."
Auburn is used to the big stadiums - the "Swamp" at Florida holds more than 80,000 people while Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium has a capacity of 100,000-plus. However, though K-State's numbers may be smaller, Bill Snyder Family Stadium is dubbed one of the toughest environments in the Big 12 for a reason.
"The one time I was here, I remember it was really, really loud," said ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer about the atmosphere in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. "It's not as big as other stadiums we see, but you wouldn't know that by the crowd. It's a pretty hard-core environment. It's very loud, it's ruckus; it's really kind of the epitome of home-field advantage in a hostile environment." 
Palmer will be joined by play-by-play analysis Dave Pasch, analyst David Pollack, and sideline reporter Samantha Ponder covering tonight's nationally-televised game on ESPN.
"One thing I think we're really excited about is tomorrow night is supposed to be the biggest crowd ever - it's going to be a huge student section," continued Palmer. "This is a game we all circled in the start of the year not only knowing how big of a nonconference game it was, but also anticipating the kind of environment it's going to be."
The last time K-State took on a nonconference opponent at home this highly ranked was 1969 - that's 45 years ago. While the Wildcats defeated No. 11 USC at home in 2002, there hasn't been a non-conference game of this magnitude on K-State's home turf since then. There's magic in thinking about the possibility of this game being one of the biggest games in K-State history.
However, a statement win tonight from the Wildcats isn't going to come without hard work - a lot of hard work.
The Auburn Tigers come to Manhattan, Kansas, 2-0 and have recorded wins over both Arkansas and San Jose State. In both games, the Tigers' offense dominated. A versatile group, Auburn's offense is led by quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who both rushed for 100-plus yards in Auburn's 59-13 win over San Jose State.
Marshall has potential to go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Auburn history and, since transferring to the school in 2013 from Garden City Community College, has become just the third player in the Tiger history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000.
What is the Auburn offense's biggest threat tonight? Snyder says the entire offense could cause the K-State defense problems.
"Take your pick," began Snyder. "They're a physical offensive line, they have speed in the backfield at the running back position and at the quarterback position. They run the ball well, and they're deceptive in the way they run the ball. The wide receivers are big, fast and physical. I don't think I left out a position. In other words, they're very, very talented."
Defensively, Auburn has been led this season by linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, who paced the Tigers with 10 stops against San Jose State. While there is no doubt the Auburn defense will be tough, this year's defense is much different than the team the nation saw in the National Championship game last January. Without the talent of defensive end Dee Ford and defensive lineman Carl Lawson, much has changed.
"I think this defense is going to be interesting to watch," said ESPN's David Pollack. "Last year, they had two good pass rushers, but both of those guys are gone. Their secondary is not overly, overly talented. I think in their defensive tackle spots, they're really good. Their defensive line is good and that's going to give K-State some problems in the run game. 
"But can you take advantage of their secondary? Can you make plays in the passing game?"
K-State quarterback Jake Waters believes his team can. He has confidence in his offense and his teammates, and said he just can't wait to get on the field tonight to show the nation what K-State is made of. 
"We definitely respect them, but we also know they're trying to come in and smack us around and beat us," said Waters. "We have to have that same attitude. We have to have confidence that we can play with anyone in the country if we go out and prepare the way we have been. We respect them, but we're not scared of them."
Tonight's game has been a sellout since early June; it's a game Wildcat fans nation-wide have had circled on their calendars since it was announced earlier this year. The energy surrounding the Little Apple is simply electric. From Aggieville to Poyntz Avenue, everywhere you go "K-State vs. Auburn" is the buzz. 
And come tomorrow evening, the university in the middle of the Flint Hills will be represented primetime on college football's highest platform.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for our university that is on the move under president (Kirk) Schulz' leadership," explained K-State athletics director John Currie. "All you have to do is drive around campus and you'll see $125 million of campus construction. This is the third-straight year of being the largest freshman class in the state of Kansas, and K-State has record enrollment again. Those things are elements about our university that people around the country may not know. They'll learn some of those things come Thursday. This game, it's a wonderful opportunity for the university." 
So now, it's K-State Nation's time to shine. The stage is set. The time is now. 
The Auburn Tigers are in town - and Bill Snyder has no doubt the K-State faithful have his back.
 

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