Think back just six weeks ago. Kansas State was getting set to play their season opening football game with plenty of questions yet to answer. The media had tabbed the Wildcats to finish eighth in the preseason Big 12 poll. Kansas State was coming off a 2010 campaign in which their defense gave up over 230 yards rushing per game. Could Collin Klein hack it as the full-time starting quarterback? Who was going to play running back or how would a relatively young offensive line hold up?
Kansas State then did little to ease anyone's doubt in the opener needing to rally for 10th fourth quarter points including a touchdown with just 1:46 remaining to beat FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky, 10-7.
Fast forward to the second week in October and Kansas State is now sitting at a perfect 5-0 after a 24-17 win over visiting Missouri. That followed a come from behind, 36-35, win over Robert Griffin and Baylor which followed a 28-24 road win over Miami in which Kansas State had a huge goal line stand in the game's final minute preserving the win.
Kansas State now sits just one win short of getting their sixth win which would send them bowling for the second straight year. Following the season opener, getting to six wins seemed like anything but certainty. Now the question isn't whether or not Kansas State will go to a bowl, but rather how far can this team go?
The schedule certainly won't be doing them any favors the second half of the season. They have road games at Texas Tech and Kansas straight ahead, both of which are winnable and could put KSU at an unthinkable, 7-0. But then Kansas State enters a brutal four week stretch where they will see the league's top teams, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas before finishing with Iowa State.
Where will the Wildcats finish up? That's a great question but one thing is for sure, nobody will be taking them lightly. It shouldn't be any great surprise that Bill Snyder has come up with a formula to win football games with ball control, score-just-enough to win offense, and a much improved defense. The defense that gave up over 230 yards rushing just a season ago is now holding opponents to just 92.5 yards on the ground. The offense ranks last in the Big 12 averaging just 335 yards per game. And it by far ranks last in passing offense at 127 yards per game. Yet they are still winning games because they don't turn the ball over very often and don't hurt themselves with penalties.
Saturday's win over Missouri was a perfect example. The Wildcats totaled just 286 yards for the game and threw for just 112. John Hubert continued is rise from obscurity with another 126 yards on the ground and Klein did what he does best; manage the offense even if it sputters at times. Missouri outgained Kansas State with 326 yards. It doesn't matter because Kansas State won the only stat that truly counts and that is on the scoreboard.
Kansas State still has a rough road ahead in the second half. But there's little doubt they've been the surprise team through the first half of the Big 12 season. And barring a complete second half meltdown, it'll be hard to consider this season anything but a success which, yes, may be an overstatement at this point considering there are still seven games remaining. But the fact is, Kansas State is playing with house money right now and that is always a good thing.