KSO Panel: Swing game of the season
What game on the 2021 schedule for Kansas State could change the landscape of the season?
DREW: OKLAHOMA STATE
It's the first Big 12 game and is against a peer program who could be taking a step back this season after losing Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard a year ago.
It's been well-documented but winning in Stillwater has been a difficult task for Kansas State. They've only won in Stillwater two times since I've been alive. Every game in Stillwater has been a dog fight as well, making it that much more impactful of a swing game.
Skylar Thompson has a chance to be the first quarterback in K-State history to win multiple contests in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State is built the opposite of the Wildcats. Their defense is stronger than their offense. That's honestly the case for many Big 12 teams this season.
The game could also have an impact on morale with it being the first league showdown and coming after a game versus Stanford on a big stage and a tough tilt with Nevada. A loss to the Cowboys could be potentially crushing.
FLANDO: IOWA STATE
Unless Kansas State pulls off the improbable and knocks off Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in the two games prior, defeating Iowa State becomes a must for the Wildcats to have a solid chance at winning the league.
Both K-State and Iowa State will have bye weeks going into the contest and the two weeks prior for the Cyclones are matchups with Baylor and Kansas. Kansas State will be more tested, but Iowa State will likely be the Vegas favorite to win the game.
If the Wildcats do pull off the upset, the rest of the Big 12 slate looks a lot less daunting. If they don't, it will be critical to win every game beyond that, and even then, the chances of winning the league will be slim with at least two losses under their belt.
The first three games of conference play will be the perfect barometer that tells us the caliber of K-State. If they were to take care of business and win at least two of the three, they would be viewed as a real contender for the Big 12 Championship Game and a possible third trip to Arlington.
If they were to lose all three or win just one, their championship hopes are dashed before they begin.
Recording a win against a Pac-12 opponent to start things off could set the tone for the entire 2021 season. After the bad taste of finishing 2020 with five straight losses, it is paramount that Kansas State starts off the season well, especially with another tough non-conference opponent in Nevada and a very difficult start to the Big 12 schedule.
The K-State offense with a healthy Skylar Thompson needs to perform well, but even more important is the defense stepping up after a rough 2020 when the only unit worse in the Big 12 was from just down the road in Lawrence.
It was said above and it is absolutely true that non-conference play becomes more vital this season due to the league start for the Wildcats. Kansas State could very easily fall in their first three bout with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State.
That means an unscathed non-conference could be required to stay afloat, or required to have a magical start to the season, which ever way one wants to view it.
Sure, Stanford could be the pick, too. But I think Nevada is the tougher non-conference bout and they could very well be a top-25 team entering Bill Snyder Family Stadium and already have a Power Five win over Cal.
There may be more eyes on that game than the one two weeks prior in Arlington, just because of the buzz on the Wolf Pack and the potential pro prospects of Nevada signal-caller Carson Strong.
Nevada is a team that experienced a lot of success last season when they finished 7-2 overall. However, their opponent's records were a combined 30-38 on the season. That should be weighed a bit when discussing the Wolf Pack.
They shouldn't be overlooked, though.
If K-State were to drop the game, it could cause massive problems in momentum going forward in the first half of the season, even if they were to hypothetically win against Stanford and Southern Illinois to begin the season.
But a loss to Nevada sends the Wildcats to Stillwater the following week to face Oklahoma State on the road, followed by Oklahoma and Iowa State immediately afterwards.
That could be a devastating stretch of games for Kansas State.