Surprise, surprise, the Kansas State football team was picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason media poll announced on Thursday.
It’s a veritable rite of summer, as this time every year the Wildcats are picked to occupy a spot in the lower half of the standings but instead finish among the leaders to earn a prestigious bowl game.
Apparently the media is basing its prediction on the fact Bill Snyder is having to break in a new quarterback and must replace his two top receivers. Jake Waters completed a successful two-year career as the firestarter to an explosive offense, while Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton made up perhaps the nation's top 1-2 receiving duo.
The rare times when Waters wasn't on the field last year, Wildcat fans held their collective breaths. Unlike the 2013 season when Daniel Sams was Waters' caddy, nobody really stepped up because opportunities were limited. Waters was durable and courageous, as he took some big shots but kept on ticking.
Lockett was one of the country's most dynamic players and his loss is two-fold since he was so dangerous in the return game. Sexton, who arrived in Manhattan from Abilene without fanfare, worked hard to make himself a top-flight pass catcher and was clutch in moving the sticks. He didn't have great speed, but ran precise patterns and seldom dropped a ball.
This isn't the first time, however, that Snyder has had to replace a bevy of stars. He has shown no panic in the offseason and I'm sure he'll come up with capable replacements. I think replacing Waters will be his No. 1 priority as he always likes his quarterbacks to be dual threats and not one-dimensional.
TCU, which has been mentioned in the national championship talk, received 32 of the 42 first-place votes, with Baylor garnering the other 10.
After a couple of years of scuffling after joining the Big 12, TCU is now on solid footing. Gary Patterson, who probably should have been hired when Snyder retired at Kansas State the first time, has established a program that now contends year-in and year-out. His early teams were predicated on defense, but now he's joined the spread-offense world and has the Big 12's best quarterback in Trevone Boykin.
Baylor, a pasty when it first arrived in the Big 12, is now the team nobody wants to play. Ever since Art Briles took over, he's been able to recruit the most skilled athletes for quarterback and wide receiver. The Bears' dizzying offensive pace keeps opposing defenses panting and when he loses a player he just plugs in another. It's become trendy now to play for Baylor, which has made tremendous strides in all its athletics. It’s the Oregon of the Big 12.
It’s hard to believe that Oklahoma did not receive a single first-place vote as I liken the Sooners to Tiger Woods — living off its reputation. In the past, tradition alone has garnered the Sooners some No. 1 votes, but the aura of “Big Game Bob” Stoops has worn off. The Sooners simply don’t have as many talented players as they used to as up-and-coming Baylor has pirated away many of the skill players in Texas who used to sign with OU.
Oklahoma State and Texas rounded out the upper division. There was one magazine that picked the Cowboys to make the field of four to determine the national champion and you have to wonder what they were smoking. The Cowboys don't appear to be any better than fourth and even at that, it might be too high. Texas is Texas and it will be interesting to see what develops in Charlie Strong’s second year as coach.
West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas make up the second half. For Iowa State and Kansas, the gap from the top eight is widening.
It could be an historically bad year for Kansas, which is more than 20 players under the scholarship limit as past coaches Turner Gill and Charlie Weis sent the program into ruins and it could take years to recover.
Gill was terribly overmatched at this level while Weis' ego led to some short-sided thinking as he tried the quick fix through the juco route, much like what Snyder has pulled off at Kansas State. Weis, however, brought in a bunch of rotten apples who flamed out, many of them before they ever stepped on the field. New coach David Beaty is enthusiastic, but he's been dealt 2-7 off-suit to start his KU tenure. I don’t think he can bluff more than one victory out of this hand and that may be optimistic.