Kansas State is inching closer to a potential BCS national championship game appearance.
An undefeated season and shot at the national title could be in jeopardy, however, if Heisman Trophy frontrunner Collin Klein can't play.
The third-ranked Wildcats hope Klein will be available to start Saturday against TCU, which with its own replacement quarterback already well entrenched, is hoping to build on an impressive victory.
Klein sustained an apparent head injury in the third quarter of last Saturday's 44-30 victory over Oklahoma State. Klein never went to the locker room, but his helmet was taken away and he spent the remainder of the game watching from the sideline.
Billy Snyder said he expects Klein will be able to start this weekend, but the guarded coach declined to discuss anything specific to his star's injury.
"Let's cut to the chase,'' Snyder said when speaking to the media on Tuesday. "Would I expect him to play? I certainly hope that's the case, and I would expect that to take place.''
Kansas State's chance at playing in the BCS title game likely depends on Klein's health.
The Wildcats (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) are second in the BCS standings and Klein is the catalyst to the nation's fifth-highest scoring offense (44.3 points per game). The senior is the nation's leader with a 174.4 passer rating with 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and his 17 rushing touchdowns are tied for third among all FBS players.
Most importantly, Klein has Kansas State undefeated through nine games for the first time since 1999. The Wildcats opened with 10 straight wins the year before.
"Nobody knows what's going to happen," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said. "We're going to have to prepare like we do every week. I think he's going to be able to play, we just don't know."
If Klein is unable to go, though, the challenge of moving the Wildcats one step closer to the national championship game will fall to Daniel Sams, an elusive freshman with more raw athleticism but far less experience.
Sams replaced Klein last week and went 5 of 6 for 45 yards while running seven times for 20 yards
TCU coach Gary Patterson said he wouldn't assume that Klein will play, but he also said that both of the Kansas State quarterbacks present problems with their ability to scramble.
"Sams, the redshirt freshman, as far as I could see, he ran the same plays as Collin does,'' Patterson said. "They both have patience running the football.''
TCU (6-3, 3-3) has been leaning on its own redshirt freshman quarterback after starter Casey Pachall left school following a DUI charge on Oct. 4. Trevone Boykin, starting his fifth straight game since Pachall's departure, helped the Horned Frogs to a 39-38 double-overtime victory last week at then-No. 23 West Virginia.
Boykin completed 12 of 29 passes but did throw for 254 yards and two touchdowns. He has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,302 yards, 12 touchdowns, and seven interceptions since taking over the starting job.
"To step up like that, as a freshman quarterback, he's going to be great," said TCU receiver Josh Boyce, who leads the team with 50 catches for 687 yards and seven touchdowns. "We just need to get a couple more things tweaked and we're going to be good."
"Going to" is the operative term for the young Horned Frogs, who are tied with Texas for playing the most true freshmen (16) in the country, compared to only 11 scholarship seniors seeing the field.
TCU's youthful roster has actually seen more success on the road in Big 12 play (3-1) than at home (0-2).
"We have to just keep growing up and getting better," said Patterson, who will be coaching against his alma mater for the first time.
The Horned Frogs have won five of their last seven games against top 10 teams, including the last three.
This will be TCU's first meeting with Kansas State since a 35-22 win in 1986.