2013 Kansas State football's 10 things to know: Pros and cons

USA TODAY Sports

Go ahead. Bet against Kansas State. Bill Snyder dares you. For more on the Wildcats, visit K-State site Bring on the Cats.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Pro: Jonathan Beasley went 22-4 as a starter

At one point in his career, Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop was 22-1 as a starter. He was the perfect Bill Snyder quarterback: powerful, nearly perfect on the option, and capable of throwing the ball about 150 yards sitting down. He would pound away off-tackle, pitch to Eric Hickson, and throw bombs to Darnell McDonald and Aaron Lockett.

The 1998 KSU offense wasn't the deepest squad in the world (only three players caught more than eight passes, and only one running back averaged even five carries per game). But it was the perfect complement to the patented Snyder defense, one that featured assistants like Mike Stoops and Brent Venables and players like linebackers Jeff Kelly, Travis Ochs, and Marc Simoneau and safeties Lamar Chapman and Jarrod Cooper. The Wildcats could kill you with defense and a terrifying special teams unit (Martin Gramatica at kicker, David Allen in the return game), and after your offense went three-and-out for the fourth or fifth time, the offense would begin to completely gash your tiring defense.

KSU averaged 35 points per game and allowed 15 in 1997, then averaged 47 and allowed 15 in 1998. This was an unfair compilation of talent, the pinnacle of the Snyder era. If the current membership of the Big 12 was in place then as it is now (i.e. without Nebraska or Texas A&M), there's a very good chance that the Wildcats would have finished both regular seasons 11-0.

The 1998 KSU squad featured senior starters at quarterback, tailback, fullback, No. 1 receiver, tight end, right tackle, both guard positions, defensive tackle, strongside linebacker, middle linebacker, No. 1 cornerback, kicker, and punter. With an offense devastated by graduation in 1999, there was every reason to believe that 1998 was the pinnacle of Snyder's stunning building process in Manhattan, and that there was little chance that even Snyder would be able to match his recent feats.

And of course, with a new cast of characters (quarterback Jonathan Beasley, running backs Joe Hall and Frank Murphy, etc.), Kansas State went 11-1 in 1999; and again, if Nebraska had been in the Big 10 at the time, the Wildcats would have probably gone undefeated.

2. Con: Kansas State went 4-7 in 2004

In 2003, Kansas State finally landed the conference title that had eluded Snyder in the late-1990s, when the Wildcats timed a hell of a peak with a hell of a Nebraska peak. After going 22-4 in 1999-00 (same number of wins as 1997-98), KSU had shown brief mortality, going 6-6 in 2001. But as former star recruit Ell Roberson finally began to come into his own, so did the Wildcats. They went 11-2 in 2002, endured a strange three-game losing streak (Marshall, at Texas, at Oklahoma State) early in 2003, romped to the Big 12 North title, and destroyed undefeated Oklahoma in the conference title game.

In 2004, KSU had to replace Roberson, leading receiver James Terry, and a host of defensive starters like linebackers Josh Buhl and Bryan Hickman, safety Rashad Washington, and end Andrew Shull. With only four returning starters on defense and defensive co-coordinator Bret Bielema off to Wisconsin, Snyder faced yet another rebuilding task. But hey, he had done it many times before in his miraculous 15 years in Manhattan, and he still had star power in players like running back Darren Sproles. There was no reason to think he wouldn't succeed this time around.

After a 2-1 start, KSU finished the 2004 season 2-6, then went 5-6 in 2005, and Snyder retired (well, "retired").

No matter what your view of Kansas State is moving forward -- the Wildcats have gone 21-5 in the last two seasons and briefly reached No. 1 in the country last year; but they have to replace quarterback Collin Klein, receiver Chris Harper, their top five defensive linemen, three of four linebackers, three of four defensive backs, and both the kicker and punter from the nation's best special teams unit -- you have evidence on your side. Stats say that KSU is going to have to fight to play at a top-40 level this coming season, but the stats thought that in each of the last two years, too. There was little reason to think KSU was capable of doing what it did in 1999-00, in 2002-03, or in 2011-12, but they did it anyway.

Be as skeptical as you want; you've got just cause. But don't act like you're not at least a little intrigued by what the 73-year-old Snyder has in store for the skeptics this time around.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 11-2 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 9
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Missouri State 51-9 W 28.9 - 41.8 L
8-Sep Miami 52-13 W 38.7 - 16.9 W
15-Sep North Texas 35-21 W 43.1 - 33.4 W
22-Sep at Oklahoma 24-19 W 32.9 - 23.8 W
6-Oct Kansas 56-16 W 46.9 - 30.7 W
13-Oct at Iowa State 27-21 W 24.8 - 16.2 W
20-Oct at West Virginia 55-14 W 42.7 - 11.9 W
27-Oct Texas Tech 55-24 W 45.0 - 25.9 W
3-Nov Oklahoma State 44-30 W 39.9 - 27.6 W
10-Nov at TCU 23-10 W 23.2 - 22.5 W
17-Nov at Baylor 24-52 L 20.2 - 29.3 L
1-Dec Texas 42-24 W 29.6 - 25.8 W
3-Jan vs. Oregon 17-35 L 23.6 - 20.8 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 38.8 12 22.2 27
Adj. Points Per Game 33.8 29 25.1 39

3. Con: The offense faded dramatically

Kansas State is going to have to replace almost everybody from a defense that surged to 16th in Def. F/+ in 2012. That puts the onus on the offense to move the ball consistently, but that could be a scary thought considering what happened at the end of last season.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): KSU 35.9, Opponent 29.0 (plus-6.9)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): KSU 39.9, Opponent 22.5 (plus-17.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 24.6, KSU 24.2 (minus-0.4)

After an up-and-down first month of the season, Kansas State caught fire in October. The Wildcats went from winning without favorable stats to dominating the box score; they went to Morgantown and beat West Virginia by 41. They came back home and beat a smoking hot Texas Tech team by 31. They traded blows with Oklahoma State and eventually pulled away, and they headed to Fort Worth on the cusp of a spot in the national title game (and without a Big 12 title game to trip them up this time around as it had 14 years earlier). And to the eyes of many, Collin Klein was looking the part of a Heisman contender.

Even though they pulled off a win at TCU, they began to sputter. KSU averaged just 4.7 yards per play against TCU, then averaged just 4.4 in a 28-point loss at Baylor. They bounced back a bit against Texas (6.2 per play) but were thoroughly outclassed offensively against a speedy, underrated Oregon defense. And now Klein's gone.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 59 36 26 36
RUSHING 32 46 35 48
PASSING 90 20 25 19
Standard Downs 46 47 45
Passing Downs 12 10 14
Redzone 20 19 29
Q1 Rk 50 1st Down Rk 42
Q2 Rk 30 2nd Down Rk 19
Q3 Rk 22 3rd Down Rk 33
Q4 Rk 19

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Collin Klein 197 304 2,641 64.8% 16 9 14 4.4% 8.0
Daniel Sams 6'2, 207 So. *** (5.7) 6 8 55 75.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 6.9
Jake Waters 6'1, 210 Jr. *** (5.7)







4. Pro: KSU should be fine at QB ... really

Whoever wins the starting job, be it Daniel Sams or Jake Waters, is not going to become a Heisman finalist in 2013. But both came to Manhattan with a solid recruiting profile, and both will have the luxury of Dana Dimel running their offense. I already called Mike Bobo the best play-caller in the country last year, but Dimel was in the top five. The Wildcats lined up in every formation known to man in 2012, and they were ruthless in exploiting whatever defensive cracks they found. The bag of tricks began to empty out late in the season, and one probably shouldn't expect a top-20 offensive performance, but KSU will fall only so far with this coaching staff and this set of talent.

The Sams vs. Waters race will evidently continue in August. Sams showed impressive dual-threat ability in averaging 7.3 yards per carry last season and showing, at the very least, competence in the passing game this spring. Incoming JUCO signee Waters, meanwhile, was more impressive as a passer but perhaps not as adept in the run game.

It's nice to have versatility in your options, and I am assuming we'll see competence here, even if the winner of the job isn't The Human Third-and-Three Conversion like Klein was.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Collin Klein QB 193 1,002 5.2 4.4 23 +11.9
John Hubert RB 5'7, 191 Sr. *** (5.5) 189 947 5.0 4.9 15 +4.6
Angelo Pease RB 60 333 5.6 5.2 0 +3.5
Daniel Sams QB 6'2, 207 So. *** (5.7) 32 235 7.3 5.1 3 +7.6
Tyler Lockett WR 5'11, 175 Jr. *** (5.6) 7 55 7.9 6.0 0 +2.0
DeMarcus Robinson RB 5'7, 209 Jr. **** (5.8) 6 25 4.2 2.4 0 -0.7
Braden Wilson FB 6 13 2.2 0.5 1 -1.5

5. Con: Running backs will have to contribute a lot more

John Hubert's numbers were perfectly acceptable in 2012; a per-cary average of 5.0 yards is nothing to scoff at, and Hubert showed decent enough speed to get to the corner against a defense that always had its eye on Klein. But after averaging 6.9 yards per carry and scoring eight touchdowns in the first five games of the season, Hubert averaged just 3.7 with seven touchdowns in the final eight games. He is not a vertical threat, and while he is a decent bailout option in the passing game, he hasn't shown much explosiveness there either. KSU was able to get away with simple competence from the running back position in 2012, but unless Sams or Waters is even better than expected, the Wildcats will need more here. Hubert's ceiling is pretty well-defined, and if former star recruit DeMarcus Robinson wanted to start showing the four-star potential he was alleged to have in high school, I don't think anybody would object.

While we're at it, Klein's and Dimel's collective proficiency also distracted from the fact that, as you'll see below, KSU's line wasn't very good. It wasn't bad, per say, but it was only average, and Klein's short-yardage prowess probably did the power numbers some favors. Six players with starting experience return (76 career starts), including all-conference tackle Cornelius Lucas, so improvement should be expected. But KSU might need a lot of improvement.

John Hubert. Matthew Emmons, USA Today.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Chris Harper WR 94 58 857 61.7% 9.1 31.0% 63.8% 9.0 136.4
Tyler Lockett WR 5'11, 175 Jr. *** (5.6) 64 44 687 68.8% 10.7 21.1% 60.9% 10.7 109.4
Tramaine Thompson WR 5'8, 167 Sr. *** (5.6) 56 37 526 66.1% 9.4 18.5% 44.6% 9.2 83.7
Travis Tannahill TE 30 23 284 76.7% 9.5 9.9% 73.3% 9.2 45.2
John Hubert RB 5'7, 191 Sr. *** (5.5) 24 18 98 75.0% 4.1 7.9% 41.7% 4.1 15.6
Curry Sexton WR 5'11, 183 Jr. ** (5.4) 10 7 75 70.0% 7.5 3.3% 40.0% 6.4 11.9
Torell Miller WR 6'2, 216 Sr. *** (5.5) 8 4 40 50.0% 5.0 2.6% 12.5% 8.3 6.4
Angelo Pease RB 8 5 23 62.5% 2.9 2.6% 75.0% 3.0 3.7
Braden Wilson FB 6 5 34 83.3% 5.7 2.0% 50.0% 6.4 5.4
Zach Trujillo TE 6'5, 256 Jr. ** (5.4) 3 2 72 66.7% 24.0 1.0% 66.7% 23.1 11.5
Kyle Klein WR 6'4, 210 So. *** (5.5)








Zach Nemechek TE 6'3, 243 Jr. NR








6. Pro: Lockett and Thompson are fantastic

In the end, the best man will win the quarterback job. But from a styles standpoint, you could make the case for either player. Hubert and Robinson have not in any way distinguished themselves as standout players, so the presence of a quality dual-threat quarterback (Sams) in the backfield could help the run game tremendously. At the same time, however, you could make the case that two of the three best players on this offense (along with Lucas) are receivers, and that they could benefit tremendously from choosing the better passer (Waters).

Their production dropped along with the rest of the offense late in the season, but for the season as a whole, both Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson were quite good, just as they were in 2011. Locket avoided any serious injury in 2012 and finished with a team-best 10.7 yards per target; a lot of his damage came in torching iffy Miami and West Virginia defenses (12 catches for 253 yards and two scores in those two games), but he still averaged 13.6 yards per catch versus everyone else. Thompson, meanwhile, has been a steady No. 3 guy for a couple of years now. He has averaged nearly 15 yards per catch for his career. Neither player has any sort of size to them -- for that, you have to look to the tight end position or players like Torell Miller or Kyle, "Yes, That Klein" Klein -- but that's not an outright necessity. And you have to love the video game stats they posted in the spring game; Thompson caught six passes for 161 yards, and Lockett caught nine for 231 yards and this ridiculous grab.

Fun.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 103.0 3.12 3.43 41.4% 79.2% 18.0% 99.1 3.2% 6.0%
Rank 60 36 45 36 8 48 63 37 50
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Cornelius Lucas LT 6'9, 328 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 career starts; 2012 1st All-Big 12
B.J. Finney C 6'4, 303 Jr. ** (5.2) 25 career starts
Nick Puetz LG 15 career starts
Keenan Taylor RG 6'4, 290 Sr. *** (5.5) 14 career starts
Cody Whitehair RT 6'4, 309 So. *** (5.5) 12 career starts
Tavon Rooks RT 6'5, 280 Sr. *** (5.7) 10 career starts
Boston Stiverson LG 6'4, 312 So. ** (5.4) 2 career starts
Tomasi Mariner C 6'4, 327 Jr. ** (5.4)
Drew Liddle C 6'3, 288 Jr. NR
William Cooper LT 6'4, 307 Sr. ** (5.3)
Aderius Epps RG 6'1, 311 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Will Ash LG 6'2, 338 RSFr. NR

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 46 25 44 20
RUSHING 21 33 50 25
PASSING 84 25 39 19
Standard Downs 25 26 23
Passing Downs 31 86 19
Redzone 27 36 23
Q1 Rk 33 1st Down Rk 25
Q2 Rk 19 2nd Down Rk 37
Q3 Rk 47 3rd Down Rk 18
Q4 Rk 26

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 105.0 2.76 3.34 40.8% 60.0% 20.4% 124.9 2.7% 7.6%
Rank 41 37 73 84 19 47 28 109 45
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Adam Davis DE 13 47.0 6.6% 12 7.5 0 2 4 0
Meshak Williams DE 13 39.0 5.5% 15.5 10.5 0 4 3 0
Vai Lutui DT 13 22.0 3.1% 5 1 0 0 0 1
Javonta Boyd DT 13 18.5 2.6% 6 2 0 0 1 0
John Sua DT 13 15.5 2.2% 2 1 0 0 1 0
Ryan Mueller DE 6'2, 245 Jr. NR 13 13.0 1.8% 3 2 0 6 0 2
Travis Britz DT 6'4, 293 So. ** (5.4) 11 6.0 0.8% 2 0 0 1 1 0
Alauna Finau DE 6'1, 258 Sr. ** (5.2) 9 5.5 0.8% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Marquel Bryant DE 6'3, 241 So. ** (5.4) 5 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Chaquil Reed DT 6'3, 309 Sr. *** (5.5) 4 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Laton Dowling DE 6'3, 254 Jr. *** (5.6)
Xavier Gates DT 6'3, 316 So. NR
Demonte Hood DT 6'0, 303 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Devon Nash DE 6'5, 260 Jr. *** (5.6)
Valentino Coleman DT 6'2, 285 Jr. NR

DeAndre Roberts DT 6'5, 280 Jr. NR

Tanner Wood DE 6'5, 247 Fr. **** (5.8)
Jordan Willis DE 6'5, 260 Fr. *** (5.6)



Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Arthur Brown MLB 13 82.5 11.6% 7 1 2 4 0 1
Jarell Childs WLB 13 55.5 7.8% 4.5 2.5 0 2 0 2
Jonathan Truman WLB 5'11, 219 Jr. NR 13 23.0 3.2% 2 0 0 0 0 2
Justin Tuggle SLB 13 16.0 2.2% 4.5 3 0 1 1 0
Tre Walker MLB 6'3, 225 Sr. *** (5.6) 8 14.0 2.0% 3 0 0 0 0 0
Jared Loomis LB 12 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Moore MLB 6'1, 207 So. *** (5.6) 10 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Roman Fields LB 6 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Slaughter SLB 5'10, 227 Sr. *** (5.6)



Will Davis WLB 6'0, 223 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Nick Ramirez LB 6'1, 228 Fr. **** (5.8)






7. Con: Wow, is that a lot to lose

The linebackers listed above combined for 205.0 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and nine passes defensed. KSU returns 20 percent of those tackles, 24 percent of those tackles for loss, no sacks, and no passes defensed. Oh yeah, and the defensive line loses 85 percent of its tackles and 88 percent of its tackles for loss.

To be sure, there is potential in players like end Ryan Mueller, who made multiple stops behind the line and batted down more passes than anybody in the front seven despite minimal playing time, and linebackers Jonathan Truman and Tre Walker. But those are three players. KSU will be starting six or seven.

Newcomers will play a heavy role, and while that is nothing new for Snyder, who has mined the JUCO ranks as well as anybody in recent decades (and dealt with said JUCOs' quick departures), it is hard to be too optimistic. KSU blitzed well and raised hell in short-yardage situations; the Wildcats also had a perfect defensive quarterback in Arthur Brown. It's difficult to lose your leader and a majority of your depth and not regress, even if you are coached by Bill Snyder.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jarard Milo SS 13 70.0 9.8% 0 0 0 5 0 0
Randall Evans CB 6'0, 190 Jr. NR 13 62.5 8.8% 3 1 1 6 2 1
Allen Chapman CB 13 50.5 7.1% 2 0 5 5 0 0
Nigel Malone CB 13 47.5 6.7% 0 0 5 9 1 0
Ty Zimmerman FS 6'1, 204 Sr. ** (5.4) 11 44.5 6.2% 3 0 5 2 0 2
Dante Barnett SS 6'1, 186 So. ** (5.4) 13 21.5 3.0% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Morgan Burns CB 5'11, 195 So. *** (5.6) 12 10.0 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Weston Hiebert DB 6'0, 193 Jr. NR 12 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Thomas Ferguson SS 6 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Carl Miles, Jr. CB 5'11, 190 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Jonathan Coleman DB 6'1, 205 So. NR 5 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joseph Bonugli DB 6'0, 188 Jr. *** (5.6) 10 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kip Daily CB 5'11, 180 Sr. *** (5.6) 6 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nate Jackson CB 5'11, 185 Jr. *** (5.5)

Dakorey Johnson S 6'3, 200 Jr. *** (5.5)
Travis Green DB 6'1, 210 So. *** (5.5)

8. Pro: The secondary should hold up

Granted, the secondary could be put in tough positions if the pass rush (and run defense) up front regress. But in terms of general quality and experience, I don't mind the look of this secondary. It feels like Ty Zimmerman, a solid play-maker, has been playing for KSU since Snyder's first term, and Randall Evans emerged as a solid component as well. And KSU got a lot of defensive backs some experience, which is certainly a plus when you're facing the loss of so many seniors.

Between some interesting sophomores and new JUCO transfers, I assume competence out of the back end, the ability to continue preventing big plays and making at least a few plays of its own on the ball. It's the front end that gets most of my concern.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ryan Doerr 41 41.0 5 19 15 82.9%
Mark Krause 5'11, 218 Jr. 4 38.5 0 2 2 100.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Anthony Cantele 96 61.2 34 35.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Anthony Cantele 64-64 15-17 88.2% 4-6 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tyler Lockett KR 5'11, 175 Jr. 21 32.8 2
Tramaine Thompson KR 5'8, 167 Sr. 10 33.4 0
Tramaine Thompson PR 5'8, 167 Sr. 16 19.8 1
Tyler Lockett PR 5'11, 175 Jr. 3 14.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 1
Net Punting 39
Net Kickoffs 81
Touchback Pct 64
Field Goal Pct 18
Kick Returns Avg 1
Punt Returns Avg 3

9. Con: Special teams can only regress

You can't improve on No. 1, and with a solid punter (Ryan Doerr) and decent kicker (Anthony Cantele) gone, one could certainly see the special teams unit slipping. Special teams has long been a KSU strength (the Wildcats have only once ranked outside the Special Teams F/+ top 20 in the last six years, and in that season (2011) still ranked 28th. So this unit won't fall much, especially considering how terrifying Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are in the return game. But still, if the offense and defense are both staring regression in the face, you want as much quality as possible from special teams.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug North Dakota State NR
7-Sep UL-Lafayette 78
14-Sep Massachusetts 124
21-Sep at Texas 11
5-Oct at Oklahoma State 6
12-Oct Baylor 36
26-Oct West Virginia 41
2-Nov Iowa State 76
9-Nov at Texas Tech 42
16-Nov TCU 16
23-Nov Oklahoma 7
30-Nov at Kansas 104
Five-Year F/+ Rk 42
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 61
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +20 / +11.4
TO Luck/Game +3.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 8 (6, 2)
Yds/Pt Margin** -6.6

10. Pro: Bill Snyder's still around

Kansas State has benefited from probably unsustainable turnovers luck over the last two years, and the heart and soul of both the offense (Klein) and defense (Brown and an underrated set of defensive ends) are now gone. This screams "Sell, sell, sell," but it is a testament to Bill Snyder's record that I am still considering the Wildcats as a potential Top 30 program.

There is a Cajun-shaped landmine in the non-conference slate, and a season-ending trip to Kansas probably won't be as easy as KSU fans prefer. But while the Wildcats aren't going to win the Big 12 again this season (...I think), they should be able to scrounge around for six to eight wins, depending on close-game execution and how quickly the new defensive front can gel. Lockett and Thompson are potentially terrific, the quarterbacks should be competent, and the defense should remain disciplined and steady, even if it has far less star power.

The numbers might be less optimistic than the fans, but since when has that mattered in Manhattan?

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