Wildcats should be a Big 12 favorite next year

By Steve Sell
December 29, 2016

For much of the season, Kansas State’s football team has been little more than a blip on the national radar.

The Wildcats really had no signature wins to speak of during an 8-4 regular season as those successes came against teams with records of .500 or less.

However, Wednesday’s 33-28 Texas Bowl victory over Texas A & M should have opened a lot of eyes nationally since the Aggies are members of the almighty and sacred SEC. And with 14 starters coming back for The Purple next year, the rest of the country is going to have to sit up and take notice whether they like it or not given their history of slighting the Wildcats.

Don’t gasp if Kansas State is mentioned in the same breath as Oklahoma when it comes to tabbing the 2017 Big 12 favorite.

With quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington announcing this week they’d be returning next year, Oklahoma State should be in the hunt along with the Wildcats and Sooners. 

And who’s to say that Oklahoma is going to approach this year’s status? The Sooners could have a lot of top skill players to replace, which is what carried them to the Big 12 title. Their defense is what kept them from being a truly elite team as opposing offenses were able to gash them at times.

 You can cross off Baylor as its program is headed to the ashes because of off-the-field calamity. Texas and TCU are rebuilding and West Virginia probably overachieved this year. Texas Tech is finding out you can’t win with only offense, while Iowa State and Kansas are nowhere close to contending.

Kansas State is going to be an offensive juggernaut. The offensive line, which developed into one of the Big 12’s best, loses just one regular. Except for Charles Jones at running back — where KSU has an embarrassment of riches — and receiver Deante Burton, the skill players are back. Jesse Ertz will be among the best quarterbacks in the country as he showed against Texas A & M he’s more than just a runner. 

The defense will be missing five starters, the most notable being Jordan Willis. But Elijah Lee and Reggie Walker could very well be All-Americans. The Wildcats were somewhat suspect against the pass, but they had only one senior in the secondary and it’s a unit that should get much better.

The Wildcats need to find a reliable kicker, but the rest of the special teams will be outstanding as usual.

The schedule looks to be favorable, as the clash with Oklahoma takes place at The Bill. The toughest road game would appear to be at Oklahoma State and a potential trap game will be at Texas Tech since the Wildcats play the Red Raiders right before what should be a big showdown at home against West Virginia.

I’m sure the pollsters, who always seem to ignore the Wildcats, will pick them fourth or fifth in the Big 12. But if I had vote, I know they would be No. 1 or 2.