In 1989, “Sports Illustrated” labeled Kansas State as “Futility U.” Later that year the Bill Snyder era began. In the span of 10 years, Snyder turned a team that hadn’t won a game for three straight seasons into a team that went 11-0 in 1998. He retired from coaching in 2005, but he came back to the program at the beginning of the 2009 season. In 2011, the team returned to national prominence with a 10-3 record. Bill Snyder was named 2011 National Coach of the Year by several publications.
Not many saw the Wildcats wildly-successful season coming, but it couldn’t be a complete shock that a team under the direction of Snyder finished with 10 wins. Kansas State was terrific in the red zone in 2011, which allowed them to win some games that they wouldn’t have otherwise won. How good were the Wildcats in close games last year? Kansas State won eight of their 10 games by seven points or less. They also won four games that they trailed in the fourth quarter. Can they keep the magic going in 2012?
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It would be hard to think of a coach who has done more with less in his career than Snyder. This is a man who simply knows how to win football games. He came back to the program in 2009 after Kansas State went south, and he has once again made the team get back to its winning ways.
What are the main characteristics of a Bill Snyder-coached football team? They win the turnover battle, control the clock by running the football, and make plays in the fourth quarter. That is precisely what the 2011 team did. Past assistants say that Snyder’s success starts with how task-oriented and detailed he is every single day. Nothing gets past Coach Snyder, and players take note of how hard he works. What player wouldn’t want to work hard for a guy like him?
It all starts with quarterback Collin Klein for the Kansas State offense. Before the 2011 season, most Kansas State fans didn’t even know who he was. Going into the 2012 season, Klein is a Heisman Trophy candidate. That alone tells you how successful he was in the 2011 season. Klein racked up 1,141 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground in 2011. He also threw for 1,913 yards and 13 touchdowns. There’s no reason to expect a drop in production this season. Klein should be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the game.
Kansas State hopes for more big plays out of their wide receivers this season, and I think they’ll get them. The Wildcats return their top three receivers from a year ago, and Marquez Clark was a huge pickup for them in the offseason. Clark is a junior-college receiver who caught 98 passes last season. Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton are two sophomores who should be much better in their second year with the team.
The offensive front was very good last year, but the team lost three of their five starters. B.J. Finney is a star at the center spot, but the question marks will be on the outside. One positive is the fact that this group will have Manase Foketi back in the fold. He started in 2010, but he missed the 2011 season with an injury. Running back John Hubert will be counted on to do a little more in the running game this year to take some pressure off Klein. Hubert averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year.
The Wildcats defense gave up 395 yards per game in 2011, but they found a way to keep opponents out of the end zone when it counted. This was a unit that thrived on forcing turnovers and holding teams to field goal chances. Kansas State finished plus-12 in turnover margin in 2011, and that was one of the main reasons the team was able to finish 10-3.
The front seven is the strength of this defense. The anchor of the defensive line is defensive tackle Vai Lutui. Lutui is terrific at clogging up the running lanes in the middle of the field. Meshak Williams had a knack for making plays in the backfield last year. He had just 28 tackles, but 10 of them were for a loss. Linebacker Arthur Brown is the biggest star for this defense. Brown transferred over from Miami and was the 2011 Defensive Newcomer-of-the-Year in the Big 12. Brown piled up 101 tackles last year, and I expect him to have a huge season again in 2012.
The one question mark for this defense comes in the secondary. Snyder tends to recruit well here, but so much inexperience in this unit has to make Wildcats fans nervous. The loss of David Garrett at cornerback will be tough to replace. Nigel Malone should be a good option at corner, but the second starter is still unknown. This unit may be tested by the Big 12 this season.
2012 Kansas State Wildcats Football Schedule Analysis
Kansas State has a brutal schedule ahead of them in 2012. The Wildcats host Miami in a big nonconference game on Sept. 8, but the really tough part of the schedule comes during Big 12 action. Kansas State must travel to Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, and Baylor. That doesn’t sound like much fun at all.
The game against Oklahoma is the team’s first Big 12 game on Sept. 22. Only the home game against Kansas on Oct. 6 looks like a comfortable game for the Wildcats, but that is an intrastate rivalry game and those are always difficult to predict.
2012 Kansas State Wildcats Big 12 and BCS Futures Odds
At 5Dimes, the Wildcats are listed at +15,500 to win the BCS Championship and +5,000 to play in the title game. JustBet lists the Wildcats at +1,000 (fifth favorite) to win the Big 12 title. Klein is listed at +7,500 to win the Heisman Trophy at 5Dimes. The Wildcats season win total is set at 7.5 games (the “under” is priced at -160). Kansas State is pitted against South Florida in a USA Today Final Poll points matchup at 5Dimes, and both teams are listed at -120.
2012 Kansas State Wildcats Football Predictions
The biggest thing holding Kansas State back in 2012 is their tough schedule. Even though I think this year’s team has the ability to be better than last year’s team, I just don’t see them getting to 10 wins again. It is extremely hard to win on the road in the Big 12, and this team just doesn’t have enough talent to overwhelm opponents.
The oddsmakers have clearly seen this rough schedule, because 7.5 wins for a season total is quite low. Since Snyder’s teams constantly outperform expectations, I think the “over” is the best value on the Wildcats futures in 2012. Don’t expect 10 wins again, but do expect this team to be very competitive. I think this team gets to eight regular season wins.
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