Answering your sports questions

By Steve Sell
July 31, 2014

For some reason — maybe it's because I've been doing this for nearly 40 years — people think I’m the sports “answer man.”

Guess it’s time for me to start answering some questions that people keep asking me repeatedly.

Q. — What do you think McPherson High’s football record is going to be this fall?

A. — This is quite arguably the Bullpups’ toughest schedule since the days they used to play in AVCTL Division I. The first two games are against Salina South and Andale, which will be state championship contenders in Class 5A and Class 4A Division II, respectively. Add to that a torturous district that includes defending 4A champion Buhler and Hays, not to mention always competitive Abilene, and you have a slate with very few breathers. Augusta replaces Mulvane in AVCTL Division III, which may be a blessing. Getting back to the initial question, I think 5-4 is probably the safest bet. Hopefully I’m underestimating the Bullpups, who have a lot of holes to fill off last year’s playoff team.

Q. — What are you expecting at the annual KCAC Football Media Day on Wednesday in Wichita?

A. — The usual. Truths, half-truths and out-and-out lies. Some of the coaches are bombastic in touting their teams, while others like to fly under the radar. This is an event I always look forward to as the KCAC does it right at the Courtyard Marriott in Wichita. I can remember back in the early 1980s when we used to cram into the basement of an old diner and it was dark and dingy. Now we have web streaming and TV cameras everywhere. I look for Friends to be named the preseason favorite, with Sterling No. 2 and Tabor No. 3.

Q. — What about McPherson College?

A. — I really don’t know. New coach Steve Fox has been a man of mystery when I’ve asked him this summer about his newcomers. Mac is 9-11 in the last two years, though injuries decimated the team last year. From what I saw this spring, defense will be the key while the offense needs to make some upgrades. A lack of depth at running back is my big concern, but maybe Fox has added a prospect or two.

Q. — And Bethany?

A. — This is maybe the most in-the-dark team in the KCAC heading into season. Manny Matsakis basically had to play the hand dealt to him last year since he was hired late, but now that he’s had his first actual recruiting class, I have a feeling the Swedes are a sleeper. His reputation is that of fixing programs in a hurry and he seemingly knows everybody in the country. I’ll be shocked — SHOCKED! — if the Swedes aren’t at least .500. I know he has some tricks up his sleeve. After all, he learned his craft under the legendary Bill Snyder, serving two separate stints on his coaching staff.

Q. — Will the Kansas City Royals make the playoffs, either as a division champion or a wild-card entry?

A. — You can forget about being the division champion. You can bet the farm on Detroit, which has too strong of a lineup and has shored up its weakest area, the bullpen. As far as the wild-card, I don't see it. This team has too many games where it scores three runs or less and I just don't believe you can be a playoff team when you have to rely on a spate of doubles and singles. After today’s game with Minnesota, the Royals play baseball's best team — the Oakland A's — seven times between Friday and Aug. 14. Add in three games with San Francisco and that may be the final wrecking ball to the season.

Q. — Can the Kansas City Chiefs duplicate last year's 11-5 record?

A. — No way Jose. The Chiefs were hit as hard by free agency as any team in the NFL and the players taking their place aren't near the quality. When you add in that the Chiefs must play all the teams in the NFC West (defending Super Bowl champ Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis), it looks like the playoffs are a long shot. My guess is 7-9, perhaps 8-8 at the best.

Q. — Staying on the Chiefs theme, what's going to happen with quarterback Alex Smith, who is up for free agency?

A. — My guess is they'll eventually get something done because good quarterbacks are hard to find. Smith is not in the elite class (Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Brees), but he's quite capable and ideal for the Chiefs' style of play, which relies on the short passing game since they have few downfield threats. The Chiefs also are trying to figure out how to work in linebacker Justin Houston into their salary structure. They are going to rue the day they gave underachieving receiver Dwayne Bowe so much money, as it has hamstrung them in trying to sign other players.

Q. — Can the Kansas State Wildcats sneak in as the Big 12 champion?

A. — I never put anything past KSU coach Bill Snyder. If he can find a running back, he'll have a prolific offense. I really believe quarterback Jake Waters will be among the best 10 in the country. Snyder always finds some hidden gems defensively. The biggest drawback is the two toughest Big 12 games on the schedule — Oklahoma and Baylor — are on the road. So the answer is no, but I think they'll finish second.

Keep those questions coming. I’ll try to go through the mailbag when I can.