Bill Snyder‘s Manhattan Project successfully sidestepped implosions in close games in 2011. Eight of Kansas State‘s ten wins were decided by a touchdown or less so it behooves the Wildcats to remember that in 2012. Be it luck, solid coaching or a commitment to focus and execution late in games, they won’t repeat the performance. If they do, erect a statue of Snyder wherever the Magic: The Gathering national convention occurs because the wizard isn’t of this realm. Kansas State stumbled badly against superior opponents (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Arkansas) but their production compared to the Ron Prince era still leaves me head-shakingly in awe of Snyder. Quarterback Collin Klein topped 1,900 yards passing and 1,100 yards rushing and became the most versatile weapon in the Big 12. If there’s a knock on Klein, it’s that those numbers didn’t show against both elite defenses (Oklahoma and Texas) in conference. He won’t need win games against the Sooners and Longhorns in 2012 on his own but if the Wildcats are to contend for a Big 12 crown, an improvement in those matchups on a 51% completion percentage is imperative.
Seventeen starters return from a team that notched ten wins. Ranked 21st in the preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Big 12 conference media thought less of Snyder’s outfit, pinning them to finish sixth. The truth lies somewhere in between. I don’t think Kansas State gets to double-digit victories, however I certainly see them as better than a mediocre pretender on the strength of 2011 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Arthur Brown‘s defense. That aids Klein, who may not be allowed the same space to operate by opposing defenses and the Wildcats will need more from the entirety of their offense to find some balance. As for the schedule, Miami is an intriguing non-conference opponent in name only now. Trips to Oklahoma and West Virginia seem like suitable losses considering Kansas State’s trouble with up-tempo offenses in 2011 and roadies with TCU and Baylor aren’t gimmes. Hosting Texas on the final day of the regular season could come with a Cotton Bowl berth on the line and until the Longhorns solve the purple magic in Manhattan, no spread is worth taking.
The obvious query in looking ahead with the Wildcats is their head coach’s tenure. Snyder is 72, famous for eating once a day, a workaholic and working in a stadium that bears his name. He’s already retired once and returned and as long as Kansas State isn’t embarrassing itself, the white-haired assassin isn’t going anywhere. At some point though, there needs to be a conversation. Does the athletic department allow Snyder to choose his successor and bring him in on staff in a coordinator role first? Or do they decide to chase an established head coach when Snyder calls it quits again? Negative recruiting doesn’t really hinder the Wildcats because they’ve never attracted 5-star athletes in droves and the head coach has proven he can find serviceable JUCO’s and win with them. Currently ranked 87th in the 2013 cycle by 247 Sports, Kansas State holds five commitments, all three-stars and three of those players are native Texans. The Wildcats won’t push Oklahoma or Texas for recruiting prowess but there’s plenty of talent to be had knowing your coach is capable of implementing it and producing victories. For how long does he remain on the sideline though?
2012 schedule prediction: 8-4