For whatever reason, of all the Big 12 teams besides TCU, I always have my hopes high for Kansas State in particular.
Kansas State is like the Goldilocks of the Big 12 — not “elite” necessarily, but not straight-up “bad” either, typically hanging around the middle tier of the Big 12. To me, if there’s a team that I’d like to see rise above the middle tier and have a surprisingly spectacular season (finishing No. 2 to TCU, of course), it would be Kansas State.
I thought last season would be the year. Instead, last season ended up being a bit brutal. The team ultimately finished 6-7 on the year, but not before losing six straight games mid-season.
So how will the Wildcats bode this year? And more importantly, how will they play against the Frogs? Kansas State certainly has all the pieces — they just need to be put together.
Kansas State is the one Big 12 team that’s not tossing passes one after the other and getting the ball to the end zone in, like, three plays (okay, that’s an exaggeration but...). Rather, the Wildcats have been better known for their run game. In fact, one of their most prolific rushers is their quarterback, Joe Hubener. Hubener worked the Frogs’ defense last season, scoring four touchdowns on his own feet. He’d rush for a total of 13 touchdowns in 2015.
But then again, this is the Big 12. And the teams that are on top are the ones passing the ball and getting to the end zone in, like, three plays. The Wildcats’ run game can only get them so far, so unless their passing game improves, the Frogs may have their work cut out for them in terms of what to prepare for.
Kansas State’s defense will be interesting to watch, mainly due to defensive end Jordan Willis, who wreaked major havoc last season. Willis was among the top defensive players in the Big 12 in 2015, ranking No. 2 in sacks, No. 4 in tackles for loss and No. 1 in a four-way tie in forced fumbles.
Other than Willis, the Wildcats have some decent players on defense like defensive tackle Will Geary, linebacker Elijah Lee and safety Dante Barnett. The key for Kansas State, though, is consistency.
The Wildcats shouldn’t have too many worries for special teams. They’ve built somewhat of a kick return dynasty in recent years with Tyler Lockett and Morgan Burns. Dominique Heath looks like the next man for the job, so expect him to be explosive this season. Kicks and punts should be standard as well.
Kansas State has potential to be great -- maybe even enough potential to put up a fight against TCU like last year’s tight game that ended with TCU winning 52-45. Though the game was a battle, Trevone Boykin essentially saved the Frogs with a stellar performance that got him back into the Heisman conversation. The Frogs don’t have that luxury this year. But who knows? Maybe Foster Sawyer or Kenny Hill will find a way to be their own spotlight.
Kansas State will be TCU’s final game of the regular season, hosted at home on Dec. 3. You’d think the Frogs would have their quarterback situation and “team maturity” situation sorted out by then.
That’s why it’s tough to say how the Frogs will play at this point. I will say this — get ready to see a battle-tested team that will be a completely different group by the end of the season. And by “different,” let’s hope it’s a good kind of different.