Why Kansas State could fall in the next three years

It's an objective call. But by almost any measure, Bill Snyder has to be considered one of the greatest college football coaches in the history of the game. After all, he turned Kansas State from a perennial Big Eight doormat into a program that produces winning teams year after year; a transformation so dramatic, it's been dubbed the "Manhattan Miracle."

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Snyder, who turns 76 in October, won't be coaching them forever.

This week, ESPN released its College Football Future Power Rankings, which focus on how programs should fare over the next three years. Off that, the Big 12 team that could endure the biggest fall in the coming years is K-State. Why? Because of the looming regime change hanging over the program.

It's possible the 75-year-old Snyder is still coach of the Wildcats three years from now. But it's more likely he calls it quits on his illustrious career sometime before then.

K-State has gotten a glimpse of life without Snyder before, and the results weren't pretty. When Snyder retired following the 2005 season, Ron Prince took over and went 7-6, 5-7 and 5-7. Snyder returned and restored K-State to its post-Manhattan Miracle self. But he won't be available to save the Wildcats the next time around. All of which leads to this most pressing of questions in Manhattan: Can K-State win with someone other than Snyder as its coach?

The Wildcats are better off now than they were a decade ago. They boast a renovated stadium and, this fall, behind the leadership of athletic director John Currie, will add the state-of-the-art Vanier Football Complex to the equation.

Yet while the facilities now measure up, many of the challenges Snyder has overcome will still reside with the next coach; most notably, a small in-state recruiting base. To compensate, Snyder, almost magically, has won without signing noteworthy recruiting classes, instead overachieving on rosters loaded with junior college transfers and current and former walk-ons. The next coach will have a difficult time winning at the same rate with that same formula.

As for whom the next coach will be, that's a major question onto itself. Though Snyder has produced several successful coaches from under his tree -- such as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops -- there's no obvious successor out there at the moment. Snyder's son Sean, currently the team's associate head coach and special teams coordinator, figures to be one possibility. But there also will be pressure on K-State to hire someone from the outside with head-coaching experience.

Either way, a regime change is coming. And for a program that has enjoyed having one of the best college coaches ever to roam a sideline, that is one frightening proposition.