Heading into the dead of summer, we will be taking a look at each team's schedule in the Big 12 and start talking about some early predictions. Today's fourth installment: Kansas State.
What should we expect from Kansas State in 2012? The prognosticators so far have predictions ranging anywhere from another 10 win season to something closer to a .500 record.
The general consensus on the Wildcats in 2011 was that they fielded a team with average talent and overachieved winning nearly every close game.
Whether they over achieved or not, winning games over Miami, Baylor, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Texas is nothing to sneeze at.
So how does K-State's upcoming schedule affect their chances for the 2012 season? Let's just say the Wildcats had better be good in close games once again because things certainly aren't going to get any easier for Bill Snyder's squad in another new look Big 12.
The Nonconference Schedule
Two of K-State's three nonconference opponents are Snyder specials; FCS member Missouri State and an improving North Texas squad coached by former Iowa State head coach, Dan McCarney.
Even though KSU nearly dropped last year's opener to Eastern Kentucky, let's go on the assumption such a letdown isn't in the cards and the Wildcats win both of those games without breaking too much of a sweat.
The game that will start to give us a glimpse into this year's club comes in week number two when Miami (FL) visits Manhattan.
Kansas State used a goal line stand in the closing seconds last season to escape Miami with a win that set the tone for the rest of the year that included a 7-0 start. The Hurricanes weren't world-beaters in 2011 going on to finish with a 6-6 record but they were solid never losing a game by more than eight points all season.
Miami returns only 10 starters in 2012 after dealing with some early defections to the NFL, but if KSU wants to match last year's success, then beating the Hurricanes for a second straight season is a must win even if it doesn't have an effect on the Big 12 race.
Be Optimistic if: Kansas State starts the season 3-0.
Raise an Eyebrow if: The Wildcats have anything less than 3 wins after heading into the conference opener with Oklahoma. The biggest test obviously comes against Miami. If KSU is as good as they think they'll be, they shouldn't have much problem here. If not, it could be a cause for some concern.
The Conference Slate:
The Big 12 schedule actually sets up about as well as can be expected for K-State with one exception being they play five games on the road versus just four at Bill Snyder Stadium. They also have to play Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU on the road which won't be a walk in the park.
The good news is that, for the most part, K-State avoids having to play tough back-to-back games in consecutive weeks. Their trip to Norman is followed up by a home game with Kansas. The trip to Morgantown is sandwiched around games with Iowa State and Texas Tech.
Yes, this is the Big 12 and there isn't necessarily an easy game on the schedule (well, depending on your view of KU), but KSU's biggest games are placed in ideal spots given the competition.
The toughest stretch of games comes over the final month of the season when they host Oklahoma State, travel to TCU and Baylor followed by the season ending game with Texas in Manhattan.
For arguments sake, let's assume K-State loses on the road to Oklahoma and West Virginia and starts conference play 3-2.
They would then be sitting with the same number of losses they had last year (not counting the bowl game) with four arguably "toss-up" games remaining on the schedule.
Nobody is sure what to expect from Oklahoma State but the Golden Nugget released KSU as a 1 point favorite in its early season lines. Winning on the road against TCU and Baylor won't be easy.
Yes, K-State has beaten Texas four straight times, but that doesn't make winning five straight any easier. Kansas State does have an off-week before Texas giving them two weeks to prepare for the Longhorns, something Mack Brown probably isn't all that thrilled about.
What Does it All Mean?
The Wildcats are a team capable of repeating last year's success and anyone who says otherwise must not know much about their head coach. Counting Bill Snyder out of any game is a sure way for any team to find themselves scratching their head wondering what just happened while KSU celebrates another win.
The fact of the matter is, Kansas State is going to have to be just as good in close games as they were last season. Looking at their nine game conference schedule, at least six of them figure to have point spreads of seven points or less and most of those six will be closer than that.
So will KSU match last season's success? The competition on the schedule says it's not likely but nobody thought they'd finish with 10 wins and a second place finish in the Big 12 a season ago.
Anywhere between seven and nine wins seems more likely, but then again, beating the odds is something Kansas State has become pretty good at so a repeat of last season shouldn't shock anyone.