Back-to-back impressive wins behind Collin Klein have Kansas State looking every bit like one of the top teams in the country.
Another big matchup looms next week, though the sixth-ranked Wildcats could get tested in Saturday's road game against an Iowa State team starting to garner national attention after a notable victory.
Kansas State (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) got a week off after a 24-19 win at then-No. 6 Oklahoma on Sept. 22, then started slowly last Saturday before using a dominant second-half effort to beat rival Kansas 56-16. The Wildcats, whose turnover margin of plus-10 ranks third in the FBS, forced five Jayhawks turnovers and outscored them 35-2 over the final two quarters.
"We kept our composure, and that's what is great about this team. We don't do any name-calling or anything like that," defensive back Ty Zimmerman said after recording an interception for the second straight game.
With the defense clicking - Kansas State has yet to allow more than 21 points in a game - Klein continues to lead the way offensively. He had 129 yards passing with two touchdowns and a season-best 116 yards rushing with two more scores last Saturday.
"We were playing together with discipline," Klein said. "We really just enjoy being around each other. It is just a fun, amazing family and when you have that, great things happen."
The senior has been intercepted and sacked just two times apiece while completing 67.0 percent of his passes - he finished last season at 57.3 in his first year as the starter. Klein has thrown for seven TDs and run for seven while his 405 rushing yards rank second on the team to John Hubert (527), who ran for 101 and a career-high four TDs last week.
"Collin Klein is a very big man... he's a very smart football player, he's a very strong football player," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "You've got a guy that's very patient, he finds a way to have success. He presents a great challenge for our football team."
Klein could face his biggest challenge next week when he squares off against Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith and fifth-ranked West Virginia, but first he must take on a Cyclones squad which nearly entered the Top 25 this week.
Iowa State (4-1, 1-1) is coming off a 37-23 win at then-No. 15 TCU last Saturday. Senior Josh Lenz hauled in five receptions for a career-high 147 yards and three touchdowns and also threw a 15-yard TD pass against the Horned Frogs, who were without suspended quarterback Casey Pachall.
"I don't think they are so much upsets anymore," linebacker Jake Knott said. "There's a lot of people now that respect us on a new level. We need to keep winning games like this to do that."
That respect carried into this week's AP poll, with the Cyclones getting the third-most votes (54) of teams to not make the Top 25. A victory Saturday would almost certainly give the program its first ranking since September 2005.
Last Saturday's win gave Iowa State its best start since opening 6-1 in 2002.
"We quickly moved ahead to preparation and what needed to be done because if you don't," Rhoads said, "the (No. 6-ranked) team in the country's gonna run you out of your own stadium."
Iowa State has dropped four straight in this series - none by more than eight points - since a 31-20 win in the Wildcats' last visit to Ames on Nov. 3, 2007. Klein and Hubert ran for a combined 206 yards and two touchdowns during a 30-23 home win Dec. 3, with Klein throwing for 158 yards and another score.
"We're glad to be playing at home," Rhoads said. "... We appreciate the opportunity to play them in Jack Trice Stadium. We know the crowd is gonna be fantastic, we gotta take advantage of that energy and build upon it, but you gotta do it between the lines."
Iowa State had lost 11 straight home games against ranked opponents - by an average of 21.1 points - before winning its last one, 37-31 over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime Nov. 18.
Kansas State is 13-0 against unranked foes since the start of last season.
- Collin Klein