Kansas State and coach Bill Snyder have been in this oh-so-close-yet-still-so-far spot a few times before. Win and it doesn't matter what anyone else does. Pretty simple formula, really. All the Wildcats have to do is add an 11th victory to the 10 they already have this season with a win at home on Saturday against Texas, and the Big 12 championship is theirs along with the conference's automatic BCS bowl bid.
How quickly things can change. Just two weeks ago, Kansas State was sitting in the catbird seat as the No.-ranked team in the BCS standings. With only two games remaining at that time, and not having to play in a conference championship game, all the Wildcats had to do was take care of business, as they had all season, at Baylor and back home against Texas to close out the regular season, and they would have been all but assured of a spot in their first-ever NCAA/BCS National Championship game.
So simple, yet so hard. Kansas State didn't have it going at Baylor, and in a league as tough and competitive top-to-bottom as the Big 12, you can't afford to play your B or C game and expect to come out on top. The game wasn't even close, which actually might have made it easier for the players and the fans than having suffered a close loss in game that went right down to the wire.
It's tough not to dwell on season-changing losses like the Wildcats suffered at Baylor. You want to get on to the next game as quickly as possible and get back on the horse, so to speak. That option wasn't available to coach Bill Snyder's league-leading team because the schedule allowed an extra week before K-State's next game action. That's not all that bad, especially late in the season when bumps, bruises and fatigue start to mount. It's gives a team an extra week to prepare for its opponent and a week off to help improve the overall health of the team.
College coaches and analysts have mixed feelings about whether a bye week helps or hurts you in your next game. Some feel that the two-week layoff between games allows more time for planning and practice, which should create added advantage over your opponent, while others believe that the week off stifles momentum and hinders on-the-field sharpness and play execution.
Historically, Kansas State has done well in games following a bye week. The past 19 times the Wildcats have had an extra week to get ready for an opponent, they have won 14 of the 19, the most recent time being earlier this season when the Cats throttled Kansas 56-16.
Something else the Wildcats will have going for them on Saturday is their recent dominance over Texas. Kansas State leads the series 7-5 and has won the last four games between the two schools and six of the past eight. Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 other than Oklahoma to have a winning record over the Longhorns in the 17 years since the merger of the Big Eight and Southwest conferences.
Saturday also is Senior Night at Kansas State, which will add even more emotion and competitive spirit to what is certain to be a highly charged atmosphere. Kansas State, led by senior do-everything quarterback Collin Klein on offense and senior linebacker Arthur Brown on defense has the edge over Texas in most all of the offensive and defensive statistical categories, except for total offense. The Longhorns are more balanced offensively and have a boat load of offensive weapons both in the backfield and a the receiver position, but surprisingly, the Wildcats have had a much better season on defense than Texas, which usually has been one of the better defensive teams in the country. Not this year, though.
Without its explosiveness on offense, Texas, which is 8-3 on the season (5-3 in the Big 12) could easily have lost games the Longhorns won against Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas Tech. Kansas State should be able to move the ball fairly easily playing at home, but as potent and quick-scoring an offense as Texas has, I don't think the Horns will be able to generate enough points or keep their defense off the field long enough to stop Klein and his workmanlike offense.
Kansas State gets back on the winning track and wins its second Big 12 title. The Arizona desert and the BCS Fiesta Bowl beckon as the next stop for the Big 12 champions. Game prediction: Kansas State 38, Texas 24
Three keys to the game
- Kansas State leads all FBS teams in kickoff returns, punt returns and turnover margin, which speaks volumes about the Wildcat's 10-1 record and top-10 ranking this season. Moreover, the Kansas State defense has forced 28 turnovers this season and has converted those turnovers into 121 points. K-State opponents have scored just 21 points off Wildcat turnovers.
- The Wildcats have been behind at halftime only once this season (at Baylor), and are 10-0 when leading at halftime. When they score 30 or more points, they are 7-0 this year, and when the Wildcats give up 21 or less points they are 8-0.
- Kansas State leads the Big 12 and is fourth nationally in average time of possession (33:55 a game). If the Wildcats are allowed to sustain long, time consuming drives that keep the Texas defense on the field for long stretches, the game could get very lopsided in the second half. K-State has outscored its opponents 246-114 in the second half this season and 144-64 in the final quarter.
Other Big 12 Games This Weekend (Week 14)
(Projected winner in bold face)
Kansas @ West Virginia
Oklahoma @ TCU
Oklahoma State @ Baylor
Iowa State, Texas Tech (regular season completed)
Last week: 2-2
For the season: 56-16 (.778)