MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Three games remain on the schedule, and until the win column reads 12, the comparisons will be inevitable.
Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett says the Wildcats have to "act like we've been here" before.
But the only man who has? Coach Bill Snyder.
Kansas State has been on what linebacker Arthur Brown called a "magic carpet ride" before, but it was all the way back in 1998. That dream season turned into a nightmare when Texas A&M's Sirr Parker broke loose for a winning touchdown in double overtime that sent the Wildcats tumbling from the national championship game to the Alamo Bowl, which it lost.
"I know college football has changed dramatically," Snyder said. "I could hardly find Fox or CNN. Everything is football all day long, and if we were having a world war, I wonder, it’d probably still be all football."
Since then, the Wildcats have never been this close to getting their paws on the crystal trophy. Alabama? It's been a whole 10 months since it won a national title. Even undefeated Oregon reached the BCS National Championship Game in 2010.
The Wildcats? They're the new guys and have to deal with mounting pressure unlike anything they've ever experienced.
"It can be [distracting]," Snyder said. "I’m proud of our guys, because I think the young guys have been able to hold up under that, because it increases, and then all the noise becomes a bit more enhanced."
The Wildcats might have to maneuver without Heisman Trophy front-runner Collin Klein, who missed much of the second half Saturday with an undisclosed injury. But most around the program were optimistic that Klein would return this week against TCU.
The noise is hardly deafening yet, and Kansas State's path to an undefeated season is clear, although Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame will also have a say in the national championship picture.
No blockbuster games or epic showdowns await. Just three games against teams Kansas State should clearly outperform. Play well, and the record will speak for itself. Slip up, and K-State will join the 2011 Oklahoma State team as a group that came oh-so-close but wasn't good enough.
"We’re focused on us because you don’t want to get caught up in all of that stuff," Lockett said, admitting he'll peer at the BCS standings on Sundays. "They throw out different scenarios. As long as we just focus on us and take one game at a time like we’ve been doing from day one, we’ll be OK."
The results have been favorable. K-State survived tight games with Iowa State and Oklahoma, but the Wildcats haven't needed any late-game heroics or survived any real scares that required fancy footwork to escape.
"I want to believe the guys have handled it well," Snyder said. "I think they probably have had a few occasions where that hasn’t been the case, but very, very limited to my knowledge. I don’t know truly what goes on in the mind of a young person, or an old person for that matter, but they seem to handle themselves in a way that I would be proud of."
First is a trip to TCU this week, followed by a trip to Baylor and a bye week before Kansas State hosts Texas on the season's final weekend. The pressure will build, but the task ahead is to continue to do what it's done in the midst of noise that will become louder and louder and the pressure heavier and heavier.
"We were not paying attention to it when we first started, and we’re not paying attention to it now, because the thing is, things are going our way now, but we’ve got to be able to continue to do what got us here," Lockett said. "We don’t want to settle, because we haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t proved anything. I think we still have things to prove. We’ve got three games left, and who knows what’s going to happen these next three games?"