2012 Kansas State Preview - The Formula

Posted Jun 5, 2012

2012 CollegeFootballNews.com Preview - Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State Wildcats

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bill Snyder
21st year: 159-83-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Kansas State Players  
1. QB Collin Klein, Sr.
2. LB Arthur Brown, Sr.
3. CB Nigel Malone, Sr
4. S Ty Zimmerman, Jr.
5. DE Meshak Williams, Sr.
6. LB Tre Walker, Jr.
7. RB John Hubert, Jr.
8. C B.J. Finney, Soph.
9. CB Allen Chapman, Sr.
10. OG Nick Puetz, Sr.
2012 Schedule

Sep. 1 Missouri State
Sep. 8 Miami
Sep. 15 North Texas
Sep. 22 at Oklahoma
Oct. 6 Kansas
Oct. 13 at Iowa State
Oct. 20 at West Virginia
Oct. 27 Texas Tech
Nov. 3 Oklahoma State
Nov. 10 at TCU
Nov. 17 at Baylor
Dec. 1 Texas

There's a razor-thin line between success or failure with the way Kansas State operated last season, but no matter how it happened and no matter what comes next, Bill Snyder's second act will go down as an amazing, smashing success.

Almost nothing could top the building job he did to take the program from the depths to become a player, but last year was truly masterful. However, it's going to take another brilliant coaching performance to come close to repeating the production.

The talent isn't there compared to most Big 12 schools, and it probably never will be. Only four Wildcats were taken in the last four NFL drafts, and one of them – running back Bryce Brown, taken in the seventh round last season by Philadelphia – sort of doesn't count. However, Snyder's system is so rock-solid that the marginally talented, limited team was able to hang toe-to-toe with all the high-powered powerhouses in the Big 12 last season.

Slow and steady often was enough to win the race.

Everyone knew what Kansas State wanted to do, but could anyone do anything about it? The offense had to control the clock and the tempo of the game to keep the brilliant Big 12 offenses off the field as much as possible. The Wildcats did it winning the time of possession battle by a whopping eight minutes per game.

There was no margin for error when it came to mistakes and turning the ball over. The KSU offense gave it away just 15 times, while the defense, despite only being on the field around 26 minutes a game, came up with 27 takeaways.

Along with turnovers, there couldn't be mistakes in any way. Kansas State won the battle of penalties, sinning just 61 times while the opponents got flagged 85 times.

Winning the special teams battle was a must, and KSU was among the best in the nation in kickoff returns, long-range kicking and forcing fair catches. More often than not, the Wildcats won the third phase.

However, there was little from the passing game and far too often the nation's 101st-ranked offense was Collin Klein running, Collin Klein running right and Collin Klein running left, not necessarily in that order. When Klein wasn't running, he was getting killed behind a leaky O line. Meanwhile, the defense got bombed on by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, allowing 160 points in three straight games, and the run defense was spotty.

But in the end, none of it mattered. Kansas State went 10-3 and should've gone to a BCS game. It was a brilliant year no matter how it happened. Unfortunately, again, there's no margin for error.

Kansas State started out its season rallying to get by Eastern Kentucky 10-7, and it needed a goal line stop to get by Miami and a late pick of RGIII to stop Baylor. Nine of the 13 games were decided by a touchdown or less, going 8-1 in those games, and if the time of possession isn't right; and if the running game slows down; and if the penalties and turnovers start to happen; and if the special teams sputter; and if everything doesn't work absolutely perfectly, 10-3 could very easily turn into a 2010-like 7-6.

Fortunately for KSU, Klein is a brilliant quarterback who should be one of the most productive all-around playmakers in college football. The O line needs revamping, but can block for John Hubert and a quick stable of backs. The receivers are experienced and can fly, and the power will be there to take the heat off the passing attack.

The secondary has parts that are better than the sum, and the linebacking corps should be terrific with Arthur Brown and Tre Walker certain to combine for well over 150 tackles. The line might have concerns, but the pass rush should be stronger thanks to Meshak Williams and Adam Davis, while there will be a good enough rotation at tackle to get by.

Even if everything goes right and even if the formula works well Kansas State is hardly assured of being in the Big 12 title chase. But in a league known for passing games, the power, toughness and discipline should once again carry the team to a great year while adding yet another feather in the cap of a legendary head coach.

What to watch for on offense: A passing game? It's not like Kansas State ignored the pass – Collin Klein certainly had his moments – but the preferred mode of transportation was the ground attack. Klein and Hubert will once again barrel away behind a strong offensive line, but there was more of an emphasis on the passing attack this offseason with Klein bombing away in the spring game. With the healthy return of Tyler Lockett and six of the top pass catchers returning, the O could be more balanced.

What to watch for on defense: The play of the back seven. The defense was hardly a rock last season, but the potential is there for this to be the best D in a long, long time if all the experience and athleticism turns into production. Arthur Brown is one of the nation's best linebackers, and he's surrounded by a good group of veterans who can all move. Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman are tough, physical corners who'll take a few lumps if the pass rush isn't any better, but they'll make more than their share of big plays. Ty Zimmerman is a terrific safety and there's depth and experience across the board. The back seven will clean up plenty of messes, but it would be nice if the line could do a little bit more.

The team will be far better if … the offense never, ever turns the ball over. Out of all the parts of the formula that have to work, turnover margin might turn out to be the most important. The Wildcats gave it away 15 times with five of the turnovers coming in the opener against Eastern Kentucky in a near miss. They failed to lose a fumble over the next six games and won all six. And then came the three game defensive nightmare against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M with the offense not helping the cause with six giveaways including three in the shootout win over the Aggies.

The schedule: It's asking way too much to be on the right side of every tight battle again, and this year, the schedule could by too tough to expect another ten-win season. The goal will be to hold serve at home. If the Wildcats can own Manhattan, including wins over Oklahoma State and Texas, the potential is there to surprise once again.

Missouri State and North Texas won't be a problem in the first three weeks, but it'll all come down to the Miami game. A win over the Canes for the second year in a row will mean a 3-0 start before going to Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the off-week comes before the relatively easy Kansas game. And then comes the run with four road games in six weeks, with two away games wrapped around two home games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The second off week comes before the finale at home against Texas.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Collin Klein. No one expected him to become a superstar after filling in as a spot starter in 2010, but all of a sudden he became dominant. He struggled a bit in the opener against Eastern Kentucky before rushing for at least one score in each of the last 12 games. He willed the team to a win over Texas A&M and he did everything possible to almost pull off the upset over Oklahoma State running for 144 yards and three scores and throwing for 231 yards and a score. Focused on by Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl he was held in check, and now he has to be used to be a marked man even more than he was throughout last year.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Arthur Brown. While Wildcat fans were hopeful for a big year from running back Bryce Brown, it was his brother who turned into one of the team's biggest stars. A bit undersized at 6-1 and 228 pounds, he might not be huge but he packs a punch. Steady, he worked his way up to 101 stops and 9.5 tackles for loss. Now he's going to be on the All-America and Butkus Award short lists and should be in the hunt for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Vai Lutui. Tackles John Sua, Darryl Blackmon and Javonta Boyd are also going to be vital, too. The defensive back seven will be athletic and productive and the ends should be terrific. The tackles, though, have to be able to hold up against the better running teams. There might not be any major test for a while, and it's not like Wisconsin or Oregon is on the schedule, but the D can go from good to great if it gets the job done in the interior.

The season will be a success if … the Wildcats flirt with other ten-win season. It might be asking for too much to get so many close wins once again, but road games at Oklahoma and West Virginia might be the only ones that could be a bit out the team's reach. It would take home wins over Miami, Oklahoma State and Texas, along with road wins at TCU and Baylor, but 9-3 is possible. 7-5 might be more realistic, but the 2012 team is better than the 2011 version.

Key game: Sept. 22 at Oklahoma. After shocking the college football world with a 35-7 win in the 2003 Big 12 championship, Kansas State has lost five straight to the Sooners and the last win in Norman was in 1997. If the Wildcats can get by Miami, there's a good chance they can go 6-0 going into the trip to West Virginia if they can pull off the win over OU.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Time of possession: Kansas State 33:55 – Opponents 26:04
- Average passing yards per game: Opponents 263.3 – Kansas State 151.5
- Sacks: Opponents 43 for 246 yards – Kansas State 23 for 141 yards
- 2012 Kansas State Preview | 2012 Kansas State Offense
- 2012 Kansas State Defense | 2012 Kansas State Depth Chart