It’s day 60 of our countdown to kickoff against North Dakota State, and today 60 stands for the place Phil Steele predicts K-State will finish nationally in points per game differential. Steele ranks six Big 12 teams ahead of the Wildcats in his predictions, and the grade raises eyebrows for several reasons.
Phil Steele’s annual College Football Preview has worked to become a premier source of predictions for the upcoming season, and it’s a source fans and oddsmakers alike turn to throughout the preseason. And a month ago The Jug was high on Steele’s predictions, highlighting how many All-American performers he expected out of K-State. Yet a #60 ranking is not reason for jubilation.
It’s obvious where K-State is expected to dominate this year – offense. And K-State is expected to average 33 points per game which is a number I’d probably take (last year the team finished 11th nationally with 38.8 ppg). However, the team is expected to give up 30.6 ppg (22.2 ppg allowed, 28th nationally in 2012), making the overall differential only 2.4 points per game. Demonstrating how marginal the computer simulations expect K-State to be, the team is predicted to outgain opponents by only 7.8 yards per game, ranking 72nd nationally.
Part of the reason for the low ranking is how high Steele apparently is on the Big 12 overall, with only three teams possessing a negative point differential (West Virginia, Iowa State, and Kansas) and only two with a negative yardage differential (ISU and KU). However, he expects four teams to have a double digit point differential advantage with Oklahoma State leading the way at 19.1 (5th nationally), followed by Texas (16.8 ppg, 8th), Oklahoma (14.1, 14th), and TCU (12.9, 19th). With match ups against these foes, K-State is expected to have a hard time keeping up.
Only going +2.4 in 2013 would be a huge drop off from last season, when the Wildcats were +16.7. And while another Big 12 Championship and BCS Bowl may prove difficult to achieve, there’s little reason to believe the team will struggle that much. Big wins in the nonconference slate, coupled with blowouts of at least KU, Iowa State, and West Virginia, should soften the blow of any additional losses the team takes this year. The offensive line is back. John Hubert, Tramaine Thompson, and Tyler Lockett are back. There’s a capable quarterback in the wings, regardless of who you think that signal caller will be. And the defense is going to be better than most people expect. So remember the number 60 as one national ranking that doesn’t stand by the end of the year – I look for the Wildcats to go plus-10 on average this year and top 25 nationally in scoring differential.