We are a month away from the beginning of fall camps, and two months from the start of the season. With the 2014 season arriving in the not-too-distant future, it’s time for us to break down every Big 12 team’s complete schedule.
We continue this series off with the Kansas State Wildcats:
Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)
Aug. 30: Stephen F. Austin (3-9 in FCS)
Sept. 18: Auburn (12-2)
Sept. 27: UTEP (2-10)
Big 12 home games
Oct. 4: Texas Tech
Oct. 25: Texas
Nov. 1: Oklahoma State
Nov. 29: Kansas
Big 12 road games
Sept. 6: at Iowa State
Oct. 18: at Oklahoma
Nov. 8: at TCU
Nov. 20: at West Virginia
Dec. 6: at Baylor
Gut-check time: Auburn’s Thursday night visit is a terrific early test for Bill Snyder’s Wildcats. If K-State plans to make a run at a national title like it did in 2012, a win against last year’s BCS title game participant would be a great start. Potential Big 12 offensive player of the year Tyler Lockett will need to have a big game and other playmakers will have to emerge on offense if the Wildcats hope to grab the home upset.
Trap game: UTEP’s visit to Manhattan, Kansas, is sandwiched between Auburn’s and Texas Tech’s visits. Auburn is the Wildcats' highlight non-conference matchup and Tech is K-State’s conference home opener. And both offenses are creative, potent attacks that can be difficult to prepare for. It all works to make UTEP's late September visit a tougher task than it appears at face value, despite the Miners' horrible 2-10 record in 2013.
Snoozer: The season opener against Stephen F. Austin isn't likely to garner headlines. North Dakota State, another FCS squad, visited Manhattan and left with a win in 2013. But Stephen F. Austin isn’t near the level of NDSU, having gone 3-9 a year ago. Much of the intrigue comes from seeing some new faces in the Wildcats' backfield as they try to replace running back John Hubert.
Telltale stretch: K-State only plays three games in October but those three contests could define its season. The Red Raiders visit Bill Snyder Family Stadium in early October, then the Wildcats travel to Oklahoma in what could be their toughest game of the season. The following week, the Wildcats host Charlie Strong’s Texas squad. If the Wildcats make it through this stretch unbeaten they should be in terrific shape in the pursuit of a second Big 12 title in three seasons. Even if they go 2-1 in the three games, it would still be a solid outcome for Snyder's squad and would likely keep them in title contention.
Final analysis: Snyder’s team will have to hit the ground running after the season opener against Stephen F. Austin with an early conference game against Iowa State, and then Auburn’s visit. KSU has one of the conference’s toughest final stretches with road games in three of its final four games, including trips to TCU and Baylor. K-State has tough tests in the beginning, middle and end of this schedule, meaning the Wildcats will have to be consistent and resilient to improve on their 8-5 mark from a year ago.