Can the Wildcats repeat as Big 12 champs?
Exceeding expectations is nothing new for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. The Wildcats were picked sixth in the preseason Big 12 media poll last year but finished with an 11-2 record and the conference championship.
Different year, same story. Kansas State is flying under the radar once again in 2013, but there’s good reason to have concerns about Snyder’s team this year. The Wildcats must replace quarterback Collin Klein and nine new starters will step into prominent roles on defense.
Despite the new faces on both sides of the ball, don’t count out Kansas State from making noise in the Big 12 title race. Although Klein will be missed, Daniel Sams and Jake Waters are a capable duo at quarterback. And although the defense has several new faces, the linebacking corps and secondary should be solid. The schedule does feature two tricky non-conference games, as back-to-back FCS champ North Dakota State visits Kansas State on Aug. 31 and UL Lafayette comes to Manhattan on Sept. 7. In Big 12 action, the Wildcats play at Texas and Oklahoma State in the first two weeks but three out of their last five conference games are at home.
What will Kansas State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Kansas State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|8/30 North Dakota State|
|9/7 UL Lafayette|
|9/21 at Texas|
|10/5 at Oklahoma State|
|10/26 West Virginia|
|11/2 Iowa State|
|11/9 at Texas Tech|
|11/30 at Kansas|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Although Kansas State loses a handful of key players from last season’s team, I think the Wildcats will be a factor in the Big 12 title picture. Whether it’s Daniel Sams or Jake Waters under center, Kansas State’s offense should be fine. Running back John Hubert is dependable, the receiving corps is solid, and the offensive line is one of the best in the nation. The defense must rebuild its front seven, but the Wildcats always seem to find the right answers early in the year. Two key swing games – Oklahoma and TCU – come late in the season in Manhattan, which should give Kansas State plenty of time to find replacements for its departed stars on offense and defense. As long as Bill Snyder roams the sidelines, the Wildcats will be a factor in the Big 12 title race, and this team will be a tough out for the rest of the conference in 2013.
I am the first person to say never bet against Bill Snyder, but from my perspective this is shaping up to be a rebuilding year for the coaching legend. No one has mastered the art of mining the junior-college ranks better than Snyder, and he will need to do the same again this season if he wants to maintain the Wildcats' recent run of success. That may be easier said than done this fall, however, as it's extremely hard to replace a player like Collin Klein, whose value to the program went well beyond his record-setting production as its starting quarterback.
Whoever ends up getting the call as Klein's replacement will have weapons to work with in running back John Hubert and wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. However, the quarterback also will have extremely big shoes to fill and will play behind a defense that returns just two starters. That combination doesn't bode well for a schedule that opens Big 12 play on the road against Texas and Oklahoma State. The WIldcats should find a way to scratch out at least six wins and a fourth straight bowl bid. I just don't see them finishing near the top of the Big 12 standings, although it wouldn't shock me if Snyder proved me wrong yet again.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The defense is completely reworked as just two starters return to the secondary. Bill Snyder always figures out a way to patch together new pieces but replacing all seven members of a front seven on defense is nearly impossible - even for a miracle worker like him. Offensively, the running game should be outstanding as the line returns and there are plenty of athletes who can make plays. However, Collin Klein is gone too. Nearly every Big 12 game will be a "swing" contest for the Cats. With Snyder on the sideline, they are bound to pull an upset (against TCU or Oklahoma, perhaps) but could easily lose on the road against lesser teams (Texas Tech). This will be a fun team to watch all season due to its unpredictability.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s going to be tough for Kansas State to maintain the level of play it’s had for the last two seasons. But we’ve said that before and been horribly wrong. The offense may be OK as the offensive line and the run game set the tone, even if it loses a key cog in Collin Klein. In our scouting reports, one coach told Athlon he thought Daniel Sams was better. We’ll see about that. I’ve picked Texas to finally solve its K-State problem and the same goes for Oklahoma. Instead, the games I struggled with the most were Kansas State’s home games against Baylor and TCU. I picked a split with Kansas State defeating TCU. Baylor, though, may be too much for a Wildcats’ defense that returns only two starters. Lastly, I’m going to put Kansas State on upset alert to start the season. North Dakota State is Athlon’s preseason No. 1 in the FCS and Louisiana-Lafayette may have a major-conference upset in its system for 2013.
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