The No. 16 Kansas State Wildcats begin their Big 12 Conference title defense with a non-conference game against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks Saturday.
The Wildcats have their highest preseason ranking in almost 20 years. Both teams are coming off conference titles in 2022.
It is the first time the Wildcats and Redhawks will meet on the gridiron, and K-State’s first game against a current member of the Ohio Valley/Big South Conference since defeating Tennessee Tech in 2009.
Led by quarterback Will Howard and an offensive line returning all five starters and its top reserve, the Wildcats will look to continue where they left off after defeating TCU 31-28 in overtime in the Big 12 Championship game last December.
Howard led the Wildcats to a 4-1 record during his five starts in 2022, which included a pair of wins over top-10 teams in No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 3 TCU in the aforementioned Big 12 title game.
“We’re excited to be back,” head coach Chris Klieman said at Big 12 Media Days in July. “We’re big believers in development. You look at Will Howard and (guard) Cooper Beebe and that personifies what Kansas State is, and that’s a developmental program.”
If Howard continues his development and the O-line can block for running backs DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward, a transfer from Florida State, the loss of Deuce Vaughn to the NFL will be less emphatic.
Southeast Missouri is this year’s Big South/Ohio Valley Conference Association preseason favorite. SEMO accumulated 96 points and six first-place votes in the voting by head coaches. The Redhawks are coming off a 9-3 season which saw them claim a share of the OVC regular-season title and advance to the FCS Playoffs.
Head coach Tom Matukewicz, a Kansas native who grew up less than an hour from the K-State campus, is excited for the opportunity to play against a program he grew up admiring.
“This is the best roster we’ve had,” he said at the Ohio Valley Conference Media Day. “(The players) don’t fight it. They want to be great. There’s pressure that I’ve put on myself.
“I want to make sure I’m not the reason we don’t accomplish the mission this year.”
– Field Level Media