As we get closer to kicking off the 2019 college football season, teams from around the country, but more specifically in the Big 12, are dreaming as to how they can either meet expectations (Texas, Oklahoma), exceed them (Baylor, Iowa State) or absolutely shock the world (Kansas State, Texas Tech). But July is the time for every program and every fan to dream of hoisting that conference championship on the first Saturday in early December.
So let’s look at the Big 12 conference and expand on how every team can have that magical season. Let’s get to the Kansas State Wildcats.
How can Kansas State win the Big 12?
I was at the Kansas State spring game and I can tell you the man crush is real between quarterback Skylar Thompson and his new head coach Chris Klieman. I wrote about that a few weeks ago and you can read it here. Now that Thompson is “the man” in Manhattan and he appears to have a much better relationship with the current coaching staff than the previous regime, what is Thompson’s ceiling? He has a unique dual-threat ability that may not have been best utilized by Snyder and his staff, while Klieman built up guys like Carson Wentz. I’m not saying Thompson is Wentz, but he certainly gets the most out of his players and knows how to best use someone like Thompson. For the Wildcats to pull off the longshot of shocking the Big 12, Thompson needs to be one of the top two quarterbacks in the conference. He will have to be a playmaker with his arm and his legs.
Also, James Gilbert, the running back transfer from Ball State, will need to far exceed expectations and become a three-down back. It would be helpful if he also has the hands to become a threat in the passing game out of the backfield. He showed a bit more of that last season with 15 receptions, but this would give Thompson and the offense more options, which is needs considering the lack of depth at wide receiver.
Defensively, K-State has to get to the quarterback. They were last in the Big 12 with 18 sacks in 12 games last season. Can Reggie Walker build on his 7.5-sack season in 2018 and become the top pass rusher in the Big 12? If so, that opens things up for Wyatt Hubert, Trey Dishon and others.
Let’s get to the schedule: the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State is very intriguing. The Pokes could be a darkhorse this fall and K-State needs to get off to a strong start to pull off the unthinkable. Then, it’s Baylor and TCU, also a pair of teams hoping to surprise folks in the conference and country this year. K-State needs to be a 3-0 heading into the Oklahoma game on October 26th, which is in Manhattan. That’s followed by Kansas and then Texas in Austin. Split the OU and Texas game and they’re in good shape. The season wraps up with West Virginia at home, at Texas Tech and Iowa State at home. Dropping one of those games might still give K-State a shot, but running the table seems like a safer bet, and with the tougher two of three at home… why not?!
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