MANHATTAN — The last thing Dalton Risner wanted to think about this week was Mississippi State's national ranking.
Not that he doesn't have a healthy respect for the No. 18 Bulldogs, who visit Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 11 a.m. today for what is easily the biggest of Kansas State's three nonconference tests.
It's just that Risner wants the Wildcats to be more self-aware and less concerned about their opponent's pedigree.
"I'm not worried about the number behind Mississippi State, whether they're ranked or whether they're not ranked or how good a defensive line they have," said Risner, the Wildcats' right offensive tackle. "It's not about what Mississippi State does this weekend, it's about what we do.
"I think that might have been one of the issues from the offensive line standpoint and offensive standpoint last week. We might have been a little too worried about what South Dakota was doing and needed to be a little more worried about what we do as Kansas State football."
Perhaps so, but after a narrow 27-24 escape in their season opener against South Dakota, the Wildcats must now contend with a Mississippi State team that not only boasts an imposing defense but also a highly-regarded veteran quarterback who didn't even play in last week's 63-6 rout of Stephen F. Austin.
"They have some guys (on defense) they say are first-round potential, so obviously we're going to have to be on our A game and we're going to have to play well to beat these guys," said K-State junior Alex Delton, who again is expected to split time at quarterback with sophomore Skylar Thompson. "Their defensive line is very big and they're talented, so our offensive line has their work cut out for them, but I trust that they will get the job done."
It definitely starts up front for Mississippi State's defense, which features a preseason All-American in tackle Jeffery Simmons and preseason all-SEC end Montez Sweat.
Try as they might to downplay it, the Wildcats know what's at stake in the matchup, which will be shown nationally on ESPN.
"The fact that we're unranked and we're playing a ranked opponent, that just gives us extra motivation to show the nation, the conference, what we're really capable of doing," Delton said. "We're going into this week with a chip on our shoulder."
But K-State coach Bill Snyder said any discussion this week about the game's magnitude won't come from him.
"I don't have an answer to the question in regards to our players, if they put too much emphasis on where someone is ranked," he said. "They know I don't put emphasis on where someone is ranked because it's the second ballgame of the season and those rankings change dramatically.
"We view tape diligently of every team we play, and you don't have to tell me that Mississippi State is ranked whatever they're ranked to tell me they're a good football team."
Regardless of emphasis, recent history has not been kind to the Wildcats against top 25 opponents at home, resulting in 10 straight losses. That included a 20-14 setback against Auburn in 2014, the last time a ranked nonconference came calling.
In addition to Mississippi State's defense, K-State must contend with an offense that last week piled up 618 yards behind backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson, who passed for 364 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 109 and two more scores.
Thompson will be replaced this week by returning starter Nick Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior who ranks eighth on the school career rushing chart with 2,486 yards. Snyder compared him to former K-State dual-threat standout and current quarterback coach Collin Klein.
"He's a dual-threat guy, so that's two things we're going to have to work on a lot," said K-State defensive tackle Jordan Mittie. "Getting ready for him to tuck it down and take off.
"But he's got a great arm and can make some really good throws, so we've got a lot work on."
Running back doesn't expect the Mississippi State to show the Wildcats much respect in return.
"They're going to try to punch us in the mouth early and try to make a statement early, so that's something that we're going to have to be ready for and expect," he said.
One thing Risner expects is for K-State to be much improved after its lackluster performance against South Dakota.
"I'm ready to redeem ourselves on offense and redeem ourselves as a team and be able to just have an opportunity to make our fans proud and make the community proud and make our coaches proud," he said. "We let down a lot of people and that includes our coaches and includes ourselves.
"We worked too hard to put a game like that on tape."