Last week, we asked you which of Kansas State's games loomed the largest next fall, and apparently, it's all about turning heads.
Kansas State won the Big 12 last season, but with just eight starters returning and Heisman finalist Collin Klein gone, expectations are mostly modest. Some folks have the Wildcats riding high in their preseason top 25s, but K-State is more often picked to finish outside the top half of the Big 12.
Want to change that in one Saturday? Look no further than K-State's September 21 Big 12 debut against Texas. Forty-one percent of voters tabbed K-State's trip to Austin as the Wildcats biggest game of 2013. I'd agree with that, though some validation might be necessary. More on that in a bit.
K-State's game against the Big 12's other national power, Oklahoma, earned just 25 percent of the vote. K-State's trip to Oklahoma State earned 18 percent of the vote, while games against in-state rival Kansas (nine percent) and Big 12 contender TCU (seven percent) lagged well behind the rest.
Just like Oklahoma State's Big 12 title defense in 2012, this year is all about proving Kansas State's not going anywhere. The drain of talent K-State faces is much more difficult than Oklahoma State's but just like OSU, K-State gets to try and prove its worth early in the season against a Texas team capable of Big 12 contention.
On paper, Texas is one of the Big 12's best teams. On paper, K-State might be one of the Big 12's worst. The Wildcats' 7-2 record against Texas in Big 12 play will be on the line, but an early win would do a whole lot more than give ammo to the Big 12 fans who love to watch Texas lose. The big-money Longhorns didn't do much to earn many more friends around the Big 12 in the past few years of realignment, but nothing silences detractors like collecting trophies. (Author's note: Texas didn't do anything different than what everybody else did during realignment: It looked out for its own interests. It just so happened to have a lot more weight to throw around. That makes people mad. Texas is willing to deal with it.) The Longhorns are trying to prove they're back to doing more of that this year, and an experienced, talented team has a great chance to do so.
Kansas State can prove itself early on against that team with a win, but as with any early-season game, the Wildcats would have a lot of work to do to validate its status as a team that can sustain annual status as one of the Big 12's best programs. Collin Klein carried K-State back to prominence. The Wildcats still have to prove they can do it with someone else.
Beating Texas is the first step to making that happen. As far as one game goes, though, nothing would change opinions faster.
That makes it the most important game for the Wildcats of 2013, even if more important games may loom behind it.