Wildcats in national title hunt

By Steve Sell
November 05, 2014

The preseason Big 12 football hype centered on Oklahoma and Baylor.

Kansas State? The Wildcats were thought to be the third-best team in the conference — maybe. A nice, little team that should make a decent mid-tier bowl.

Of course, as we barrel our way through the schedule that just passed the halfway point, who’s standing alone at the top but Bill Snyder’s always-underappreciated Wildcats — the Rodney Dangerfields of college football.

Oklahoma is basically an afterthought. Baylor could be after this week as it has to travel to Norman to play the wounded Sooners. 

Kansas State has climbed to No. 7 in the college football playoff rankings, the so-called barometer to determine the best four teams for the first-ever playoffs to decide a true national champion.

The Wildcats, oddly, are one spot behind TCU, a team they play this Saturday in Fort Worth. The winner stays alive, the loser can leave town in terms of the national title. The Wildcats could depart Texas with a comfortable two-game Big 12 lead.

Kansas State also can creep ever closer to a playoff berth, which probably sends chills down TV executives’ spines because it’s so underwhelming in terms of national appeal. You know the big-wigs want the ratings-grabbing Alabamas, Florida States and Oregons of the world.

But the Wildcats could become the Kansas City Royals in shoulder pads. If America will just give them a chance, this team can grow on you.

They run some really cool stuff. Jake Waters has perfected the “pop pass,” where he takes the ball, acts as though he’s going to run up the middle, then stops and delivers, more often than not for a touchdown or big gainer.

The ground game isn’t crushing, but it gets the job done. The 1-2 receiving duo of Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton doesn’t look like much in terms of physical stature, but they’re torturing opposing defenses.

The defense is typical Bill Snyder — he has a collection of players who weren’t highly recruited and has molded them into a winning unit. While not dominating, they get the job done. But with TCU this week and Baylor still to come, the acid tests await.

The Wildcats have stuffed Oklahoma (on the road)  and have disposed of also-rans Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

The team that could be overlooked on the schedule is West Virginia. Smartly, the Wildcats have an open date after this week’s game with TCU. If the Wildcats win, Snyder won’t allow the team to become complacent during the time off preparing for the road game against the Mountaineers. After West Virginia, the Wildcats will most likely embarrass in-state rival Kansas to set up a tremendous finale at Baylor.

If Kansas State can run this remaining gauntlet, I don’t see how the powers-to-be can overlook them for the Final Four, given some of the top teams still have to play each other in the weeks to come.