The Big 12 football championship is now only a mirage for the Kansas State Wildcats.
Given how the Wildcats finished last year and what they had returning, I really thought this was the year they could win the Big 12 championship as they had tremendous experience while the other teams were hit hard by graduation or early entries into the NFL.
Of the expected top contenders, they had Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU at The Bill, while playing only Oklahoma State on the road.
But something just hasn’t clicked. Ever since the 14-7 loss to Vanderbilt in Week 3, something has seemed out of kilter and Bill Snyder, arguably college football’s best coach, hasn’t been able to fix it as he has so many times in the past.
They are 1-3 in the Big 12, just 3-4 overall. They are going to have to finish strong just to earn one of the minor bowl games, a far cry from what was expected at the start of the season.
The Wildcats, even without starting quarterback Jesse Ertz, finally looked liked the expected Wildcats in the first half on Saturday against mighty Oklahoma. They were shredding the Sooner defense for chunks of yards and the upset alert was sent out all over the country.
It was 21-10 at the half and the Wildcats were on pace for 600 yards.
But for the most part, they went vanilla in the second half. It was Alex Delton left and Alex Delton right, though he did put up impressive stats. The passing game was kept under wraps and where oh where was Alex Barnes, who after three carries had 96 yards? I continue to be perplexed by his lack of carries as he had only 6, yet broke the 100-yard barrier with 108. On the year he has carried just 69 times in seven games even though he's averaging 6 yards a carry.
The Wildcats eventually fell behind and showed grit by getting the game tied. But OU quarterback Baker Mayfield realized not only were his Heisman hopes being flushed, but the Sooners were going to see their Big 12 title hopes dashed.
The Wildcats gave up a score in the closing seconds to lose 42-35, but I have a feeling had Kansas State played like this all year it would be 6-1, 5-2 at the minimum. It would never have lost to Vanderbilt or Texas and given TCU a much better game.
There’s five games left. You can go ahead and mark down a win on Saturday at Kansas, which will look like Little Apple East. KU fans stay away from Memorial Stadium as if it had the plague, so expect a sea of purple to invade Lawrence as there’s nothing better for Wildcat fans than to bathe in an embarrassing victory. Kansas right now is the worst team in college football and it’s not even close.
The Wildcats will have a dangerous game in Texas Tech the following week, then host West Virginia. The final two games are at Oklahoma State and then home against surprising Iowa State, which is still entertaining Big 12 championship hopes, a scenario nobody saw coming as the Cyclones are now ranked No. 25 in the country.
Unless the Wildcats run the table, which is asking a lot, this will go down as one of the more disappointing seasons in Snyder’s Hall of Fame career. They'll still earn a bowl game, but not the one they were hoping for.