Nobody had a more prominent seat on the 2018 Kansas State football bandwagon at the start of the year than yours truly, which is saying a lot for a KU alum.
Now I'm looking around and there's plenty of space to spare.
I sneered at the Big 12 media preseason poll that placed the Wildcats sixth in the 10-team conference. In fact, I think I called it "laughable"
No, I said. The Wildcats would be a Top 3 team.
There were many reasons:
1) I expected the Wildcats’ offense to put up close to 40 points a game. With a stable of sleek running backs, an offensive line that arguably was thought to be the Big 12’s best returning unit and two quarterbacks who came up big at the end of the year, I expected this offense to be a powder keg.
2) The Wildcats always have great special teams. If you look back at recent years, they always make more big plays on special teams than their opponents, from punt returns to kickoff returns to clutch field goals.
3) Bill Moses Snyder. The oldest and most savvy coach in the country as nobody has done more with less. Snyder is thought to always have the edge going into any game.
But, sadly, KSU’s grand plan has gone haywire. The 'Cats barely scraped past South Dakota in the season opener. They were thoroughly dominated by Mississippi State at home. Normalcy appeared to return in Game 3 against U-T San Antonio.
But since Big 12 play opened, the Wildcats have been left at the gate.
A road loss to start things against West Virginia wasn’t totally unexpected. What was unexpected was the lopsidedness of the score (35-6).
With their backs against the wall, KSU returned home to play Texas, which until its win over Oklahoma last week had been rather pedestrian. Snyder went with Alex Delton as his starter and he was abysmal. Skylar Thompson nearly rescued the game, but the result was a 19-14 loss.
Surely the ‘Cats could come back against a Baylor team that is rebuilding. Despite Alex Barnes’ coming-out party for 2018, the Wildcats lost 37-34 on a last-second field goal. It was a game of missed opportunities.
Now look at the schedule. Totally unpredictable Oklahoma State comes to town and the Cowboys just lost at home to Iowa State. This is the type of game Snyder would normally win.
After a week off, it’s back-to-back road games at OU and TCU, most likely losses. After an easy win over Kansas at home, the Wildcats get Texas Tech and Iowa State to close it out, the Tech game at home and Iowa State on the road. By the time KSU plays Tech, it will be chilly in Manhattan and the Red Raiders aren’t a cold-weather team. That could be a win.
But at Iowa State, in late November, the Cyclones will be tough to beat.
So when looking at it, Kansas State needs six wins to get to a bowl. And unless things change drastically, it’s a slippery slope to climb.
Snyder is going to need all his coaching acumen to pull this rabbit out of the hat, just as he did last year. Right now his team is probably looking at 5-7, with those last two games being pivotal. Maybe the players-only meeting the team had on Tuesday will be the spark it needs.
This isn’t how it was supposed to go when Snyder signed his extension to stay through 2022. He was supposed to close out his career in a blaze, not in embers.