Thursday night college football is back with a vengeance, with a marquee matchup between two conference contenders gracing our televisions. No. 5 Auburn travels to take on No. 20 Kansas State and head coach/magician Bill Snyder, after bye weeks for both teams.
Auburn started the year with a 45-21 victory over an improved Arkansas squad, and followed that up with a 59-13 win over San Jose State. The Tigers' offense continues to fire on all cylinders, and they remain one of the favorites to make the playoff at the end of the year.
This will be Auburn's stiffest test to date -- the Tigers have never lost against the Wildcats, but Snyder has had an extra week to make a game plan. Kansas State is 2-0 after wins against Stephen F. Austin and Iowa State (the latter much closer than the Wildcats would have liked), and the team will need a significant step up in its play to compete with the Tigers.
How to watch, stream, and listen
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Rankings and records: Auburn is ranked No. 5 in the AP and Coaches polls. Kansas State is ranked No. 20 in both polls. Both teams are 2-0 on the season. The Tigers hold a 3-0 all-time lead in the series.
Vegas: Auburn opened as a 6.5-point favorite. The line has since moved to 9.
Weather forecast: 77 degrees, partly cloudy.
Two things at stake
Auburn has the SEC West's toughest conference schedule, so winning all of its non-conference games is pretty dang important. This appears to be the toughest one, by far.
After a near-loss to Iowa State, Kansas State's reputation as a potential Big 12 noisemaker has fallen a bit. A win here, followed by likely victories over UTEP and Texas Tech, would set up quite the matchup Oct. 18 against Oklahoma.
One big matchup
Auburn rushing offense vs. Kansas State rushing defense. Gus Malzahn's offense relies heavily on the run, and it's working pretty well so far this season. The Tigers are averaging 6.73 yards per run with nine touchdowns on the ground through two games, and it appears the loss of Tre Mason has not yet taken a toll on the Tigers' rushing game. Auburn's running game depends on a trio of seniors: running backs Cameron Artis-Payne (6.88 yards per carry, four touchdowns) and Corey Grant (8.80 yards per carry, one touchdown), as well as quarterback Nick Marshall (6.42 yards per carry, two touchdowns).
The Wildcats are giving up just 3 yards per carry this season, and their comeback victory against Iowa State was in some part due to their ability to stop the run-heavy Cyclones on the ground. Paul Rhoads' squad ran the ball 37 times against Kansas State but gained just 105 yards. The Wildcats' linebacking unit is led by senior Jonathan Truman (15 tackles), but freshman Elijah Lee (2½ sacks, one fumble forced) has shown an early ability to make big plays.