Fire and water. Heads and tails. Longhorns and Aggies. And this Saturday, Kingsbury and Snyder.
Kansas State’s head coach Bill Snyder will turn 77 years old tomorrow and has been coaching since 1962. He was the head coach at Kansas State in 1989 through 2005 and returned to Manhattan in 2008 for his current tenure. His teams are known for their discipline. They’re fundamentally sound, don’t commit penalties, and find a way to produce beyond what their talent would indicate. They’re old school, run the ball, chew up clock, and emphasize special teams. They find creative ways to stay in football games without being overpowering or flashy.
Contrast Bill Snyder with Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury is 37 years old – young enough to be Snyder’s grandson. In 2000 and 2001 (a Red Raider defeat and victory, respectively), Kingsbury quarterbacked Texas Tech against a Kansas State team coached by Snyder.
Kliff Kingsbury is known for his youth, inexperience, good looks, and nice suits. Snyder dresses like your grandfather, because he pretty much is your grandfather. Kingsbury’s teams are known for their gaudy offensive firepower, flashy and new uniforms, lack of defense and discipline, and a new school spread offense with an up tempo pace.
Kingsbury’s relatively recent emergence in coaching is not too far removed from his playing career. Snyder’s outdated philosophy left more of a footprint in the 1990’s than it does now, during the waning years of his career. The slight overlap in era of the two coaches make them about as paradoxical a pair as any in modern day college football, especially for a pair that plays in the same conference and faces off annually.
One is beginning, the other is finishing what he started. One is insistent that the world of college football has changed, and considers himself an innovator. The other insists certain principles should never have to change and that the proven culture of coaching is enough to overcome any new style of play that comes along.
There are near certainties we will see on Saturday night in Manhattan.
Whether it’s Shimonek or Mahomes at the helm, Snyder is going to try to keep them off the field by running the ball effectively and eating the clock. Kingsbury will respond by trying to strike back as quickly as possible, again, regardless of who his quarterback is. And afterwards, Kingsbury won’t apologize for how long his defense is on the field, no matter what. Kansas State will be penalized less than Texas Tech. Their defense will hold the Red Raiders to their worst offensive output of the season. The Wildcats will run the ball as well as Texas Tech throws it.
There’s a Darwinian element to Saturday’s game; survival of the fittest. Are Bill Snyder’s Kansas State Wildcats so well adapted to the environment of college football that they can weather any storm, no matter how new, innovative, and different it may be? Or did they fail to adapt while new “species” like Kliff Kingsbury found a better way to survive?
Something has got to give in the matchup of opposites. Due to the polarity of the matchup, the victor should feel vindicated with their style of play.