NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Coach Bill Snyder has seen Kansas State throw the ball for 333 yards in one game and run for 315 more in another, so he's hoping for a little more balance from his 18th-ranked Wildcats in their next one.
"Now it gets really serious, and the significant thing is can we put it all together?" Snyder said. "That is what we are striving for, to be able to package all of that game after game after game and then to try to improve upon it. We will find out, I don't know. But the competition steps up."
His Wildcats (2-0) face their biggest challenge yet in a Big 12/Southeastern Conference showdown against Vanderbilt (2-0) on Saturday night. Kansas State beat the last SEC team it faced, Texas A&M, 33-28 in the Texas Bowl last December but hasn't beaten an SEC team on the road since Kentucky in 1982.
"We know the bowl game definitely was not a fluke," Kansas State safety Brogan Barry said. "If people want to say it is, then we'll have to go prove it, but I think there is no need to prove it. I think everyone knows that we played a great team (Texas A&M) but had a better day than them. At the end of the day, I think this team will be a great team as well, and it will be a great challenge for us."
These programs are meeting for only the second time, and Vanderbilt won the first 26-14 back in 1984. The Commodores are off to an impressive start in coach Derek Mason's fourth season, and the Wildcats give Vanderbilt a chance at a second straight upset of a Top 25 opponent after they knocked off in-state rival Tennessee to earn a bowl berth last November.
This is the first of four straight games against ranked opponents, and Mason refuses to look ahead at what a win might mean for his program.
"K-State is in the house … a great program, top 18 football team in the country, and the Commodores will be ready to play," Mason said.
Some things to watch Saturday night:
QB WATCH: Wildcats senior Jesse Ertz and Vanderbilt junior Kyle Shurmur have been very efficient through the first two games. Ertz threw for a career-high 333 yards in an opening win over Central Arkansas, and he ranks fourth nationally in both passing efficiency and yards per completion. He's also averaging 311 yards of total offense per game. Shurmur is right behind Ertz at fifth in passing efficiency at 217.2, and he is completing 76.1 percent of his passes to open the season after setting a school record completing 83.3 percent of his passes in a 42-0 rout of Alabama A&M.
PROTECT THE BALL: The Commodores have not had a turnover yet, and neither has Kansas State. The Wildcats have a streak of six straight games without being intercepted, the program's longest since 2012. Each defense has three interceptions. Defensive back Kendall Adams already has two TDs for the Wildcats off an interception and a fumble recovery in a win over Charlotte, making him only the third Big 12 player to do that in the same game.
ANCHOR DOWN: With Mason calling the defense, the Commodores are off to a strong start on that side of the ball, allowing an average of 3 points per game -- third-best in the nation and tops in the SEC. They also have yet to allow a touchdown inside their own 20, putting them first nationally. They also rank first in third-down conversion defense (7.8 percent).
SPECIAL TEAMS:Scoring from special teams and defense are a specialty of Kansas State's, the nation's best in that category since 1999. The Wildcats already have three such TDs with D.J. Reed returning a punt 62 yards in the opener.
PAGING RALPH WEBB: Vanderbilt's all-time leading rusher has been almost more effective catching the ball this season rather than simply running. This will be the 40th start of Webb's career, and he ranks sixth among the SEC's active rushing leaders with 3,445 yards. The Wildcats are allowing 165.5 yards rushing this season.