While I wasn't so bullish on the 2014 season for Kansas State earlier this summer and spring, I just can't seem to figure out what I think of them. The Wildcats are a bunch of blue-collar, hard-nosed, beard-wearin fightin Snyders. Just how Bill Snyder likes it, probably.
Jake Waters. It's hard not to mention a quarterback, even on a team that will primarily run the ball. It seems Waters is hitting his stride...in his 2nd year out of JUCO...imagine that. Waters displaced Daniel Sams from the QB rotation, which led to Sams eventually declaring his intentions to transfer. While Waters isn't Collin Klein, he does have some size to him and will be efficient running the ball himself. He had some early season turnover concerns, but seems to have corrected that. In the final seven games of last season, where the Wildcats were 6-1 in that stretch, Waters threw for 14 TDs and four interceptions. He had four picks in the first two games alone.
Tyler Lockett. When the ball does go in the air for the Wildcat offense, chances are it's going to Lockett. He was an All Big 12 player last season and could possibly end up an All-American this year. Lockett is to the Wildcats what Amaro was to the Red Raiders, in terms of production and security blanket-ness. Good news for the rest of the conference: Lockett will be a senior this upcoming season.
Ryan Mueller. Mueller is your prototypical 4-3 defensive end. He is massive, has killer moves off the line, and is quick. He accounted for 11.5 sacks and 62 tackles. He and Travis Britz will anchor a solid Wildcat defensive line. Mueller will be a handful in his final season.
What do we need to know about the Wildcat offense?
Ball control. Snyder seems content running the ball every down, keeping the clock moving. As long as their 7-8-9 minute drives are ending in points, the Wildcat offense is doing its job. They don't have a true number one RB yet. John Hubert is gone and it doesn't seem that Snyder has Hubert's replacement set yet. And with Sams transferring, the Wildcats lost 350 carries and 1,855 rushing yards between the two of them. Next running back on the list? Robert Rose, a 5-foot-4 176-pound back from Miami. Not quite the style RB we've seen Snyder employ in the past. In fact, Rose and DeMarcus Robinson were the only RBs remaining to have carried the ball last season, accounting for 29 carries and 124 yards. THIS is where my concerns lie with the Wildcat offense. The offensive line has some great returning talent to start things off up front. But they're going to need to find their running backs and hope they can carry the load. Waters and Lockett can't do everything.
What do we need to know about the Wildcat defense?
Solid. I don't know of a better word for a Bill Snyder defense. They're not going to wow you with playmakers, although Mueller is going to be pretty salty. They just have a lot of "guys." No more Arthur Browns or Ty Zimmermans. Now, if the past is even at all telling, these "guys" will continue to make plays. Their ball-control offense makes their job easier, no doubt about it, but don't sleep on this unit.
How the Wildcats affect Texas Tech.
By the time Texas Tech heads up to Manhattan, we should know what to expect from both of these teams. We will know is Texas Tech can handle the ground attack. We will know if Kansas State has found it's stride (as it has tended to be a late-blooming team). If Tech wins in Manhattan, confetti everywhere, because it means that Tech should be considerably better defending the run and that the Tech offense is consistent and efficient. If Tech loses, we may start looking ahead trying to figure out where the finals wins are coming from. No, losing here isn't the end of the season, but if Kansas State is able to rout Tech and only throw the ball 8 times again, Tech is in trouble.
Where will Kansas State finish?
That is a good question, isn't it? Is Kansas State unlike many of the Big 12 teams and have answers everywhere? No, not really? Are the Wildcats talented enough to win the conference? Maybe. Could they struggle to become bowl eligible? Maybe. General consensus seems to settle on Kansas State finishing 4th in the conference this year.