It’s Thursday. NCAA football will be getting underway tonight with a few watchable games – the best being North Carolina v. South Carolina – and on Friday the Wildcats will be kicking off their season against North Dakota State. The number one stands for a lot of things, but the most important is conference rank. Here’s how K-State can repeat and finish number one in the Big 12 for the second straight year.
- Start Strong: No team begins Big 12 play with a nastier schedule than K-State, with games at #15 Texas, at #13 Oklahoma State, and against dark horse Baylor. Those are the two highest rated teams in the league, followed by the only program able to take down the Wildcats last year (and my fear is Baylor is actually going to be better in 2013). Maintain the winning streak against Texas and defeat the Bears at home, and even a loss to Okie State won’t put the Wildcats out of the race. No one will finish conference play undefeated this year, and going 2-1 against the Big 12’s best teams will set the Wildcats up for success.
- Finish Strong: The end of the season goes like this: hosting #20 TCU, hosting #16 Oklahoma, at KU. Assuming no crazy let-down in Lawrence, winning those two home bouts could lock up the trophy. The middle third of conference play is very doable, and the Wildcats are lucky to catch two physical teams in TCU and OU at home when injuries may start to become a problem.
- Forget Travis Tannahill: Tight end Travis Tannahill impressed me every Saturday last season, making the right blocks and going over the middle to rake in every pass thrown his way, regardless of how hard a linebacker hit him. Andre McDonald is bigger than Tannahill and a good pass catcher. Zach Trujillo is faster. Between the two, if they can make fans forget about Tannahill, that means we’re owning the middle of the field.
- Show Me Two Quarterbacks: Daniel Sams will never be a better passer than Jake Waters, but he has some serious talents that can’t be wasted. Waters was named the starting quarterback on Monday, but Bill Snyder has stated we’ll see Sams on Friday in some capacity. Sams is coordinated, fast, and capable of making reads. I’m not arguing for the misguided diamond formation Michigan rolled out with David Gardener and Denard Robinson, but there’s some serious potential to put both on the field at the same time and confuse defenses to a devastating degree. Additionally, switching up the two should force defenses to switch up personnel packages and prepare for two different attacks throughout the week.
- Plug-And-Play: After returning several defensive starters last year, the script is flipped with only one player that consistently started last year (Ty Zimmerman). Brand new defensive line, two new linebackers, and three new secondary players. Some of the new starters proved themselves with extensive playing time before (Tre Walker before the injury, Ryan Mueller, Blake Slaughter, among others). The question is whether so many players can be plugged into starting roles and succeed. This defense will not be as good as the 2012 version, but the offense could be better. The Wildcats must find the players (I still don’t know how the secondary will look by season’s end) to successfully plug the holes created by graduation.
- Clock Control: Waters has the arm to throw, but the run game must be dominant this year. John Hubert is an incredible talent at running back. K-State has the best offensive line in the Big 12. It must control the line of scrimmage and wear down defenses while keeping the high-powered offenses of the league off the field. That’s Snyderball, and that’s how championships are won.
We’ll be experimenting with a couple things this year. I’m looking at creating a page linking tweets so that I can cover games live, 140 characters at a time (hopefully I can figure out how to squeeze in more insightful coverage than “pow! that was a hit!”). We’ll also be running a live interactive thread to discuss games as they happen. Jug of Snyder has experienced some amazing growth since I brought it back to life a little less than a year ago, and with your help we can keep growing. Who’s ready for another 3MAW?!