It’s true, K-State hasn’t won the conference championship since 2012. But the Wildcats hung tough until last season’s final week, and considering the cast of former walk-ons on Bill Snyder’s team, that’s no small feat. As for this year? Let’s just say the Wildcats will need another big dose of Snyder magic.
How the Wildcats beat you: K-State followed Snyder’s winning blueprint last season, ranking seventh in turnovers and 14th in penalties in the FBS. “I believe that turnovers and penalties are a major factor in any ballgame,” Snyder says. “The winning percentage for us is much higher when we’re the better team in those statistics.” By avoiding penalties, the Wildcats also avoid third-and-long situations. And short third downs mean prime opportunities for the QB draws, powers, counters and zone reads that Snyder loves to use. A rushing QB is “extremely important to us and always has been,” he says. It’s not yet clear who this year’s starter will be, but you can bet he’ll rack up yards on the ground again.
How you beat the Wildcats: Snyder’s success with a mobile QB speaks for itself: In 2011 and ’12, Collin Klein led all Big 12 quarterbacks in rushing. In 2013, so did Daniel Sams. But last year Jake Waters suffered a midseason shoulder injury that severely limited his ability to carry the ball. (He still managed 22 scores and 3,501 passing yards.) Without the threat of a running quarterback, K-State’s rushing attack became almost nonexistent. “That hurt us,” Snyder says. With Waters gone, defenses will be wise to find ways to keep K-State’s QB from moving—and force the Wildcats to find another scheme to pick up those yards.
How the Wildcats beat you: K-State makes opponents earn every point. Thanks to a bend-but-don’t-break style and LBs like Elijah Lee, the Wildcats surrendered only 43 plays of 20 yards or more last season, the fewest of any Big 12 defense. By taking away the chunk plays, K-State forces offenses to grind their way down the field, waiting for them to stumble. “By laying off people and keeping them underneath you,” Snyder says, “you make them march down the field and put them in a position that if they make a mistake, they stop themselves.” Veteran safety Dante Barnett and cornerbacks Morgan Burns and Danzel McDaniel are sure tacklers, making it that much more difficult to hit the big play on this defense.
How you beat the Wildcats: Overall, K-State fielded one of the best run defenses in the Big 12 last year, but 29 percent of quarterback runs resulted in either first downs or TDs against the Wildcats; only Iowa State and Texas Tech, which ranked 120th and 121st nationally in run defense, fared worse. Though the Wildcats tackle well, they don’t have elite team speed defensively, which is one reason TCU’s Trevone Boykin and UCLA’s Brett Hundley had such big games against them last season outside the pocket. Look for mobile QBs to test them again this year.