Kansas State’s 55-14 win at West Virginia on Saturday finally opened up a conversation around the Wildcats.
Are they for real?
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen thinks so, and he reiterated it during the Big 12 football coaches teleconference on Monday.
“They’re one of the best teams, maybe the best team in the country,” he said. “Time will tell. They’re just a real mature team. They’re physical, disciplined, play smart and don’t beat themselves. They’re an all-around good football team with no weaknesses.”
But K-State coach Bill Snyder doesn’t think that way. He couldn’t even pick out a place in the season that he thought this might be a pretty good football team.
“I don’t necessarily think along those lines,” he said. “I’m just not one to put any limitations on them. I’m not very good at being able to predict what level of success they may or may not have. I thought they could be a pretty good football team. How good? That remains to be seen.”
Even at 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country, on a national level, there seems to be an opinion that K-State can’t continue to win. The Wildcats seem to be discounted because they are simply a group of guys who weren’t highly sought out recruits that just happen to be playing for a good coach.
Just ahead of the West Virginia game, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said K-State quarterback Collin Klein was unworthy of a Heisman Trophy look because he was a good player on a mediocre team.
With opinions like that, the Wildcats still seem to be going into each game with an underdog mentality.
Snyder said there will be all sorts of things about the team on the Internet, and his players will be seeing things they haven’t seen within the program in almost a decade.
The K-State coach said he can’t keep his players from seeing that stuff, but what he can do is keep the message clear.
“Our intent is just to brand the message that it really is day by day,” he said. “The important thing is just how well we prepare today, and that today is going to be the most important day, and tomorrow will also take on that role when the time comes. It really is day by day, and I’m proud of our youngsters, because for the most part, they take it a day at a time.
“As far as being an underdog, I’m sure they feed off of that, but by the same token, it really isn’t about who’s favored and not favored. The way we believe is it’s about us and how well we prepare and how well we play, and nothing less than that.”
Now the Wildcats will face a team that has made a habit out of knocking off the giants in the past two seasons. Last year, Texas Tech defeated Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and this season, the Red Raiders beat West Virginia one week before the Mountaineers’ matchup with the Wildcats. Both teams were in the top 10, as are the Wildcats.
Snyder said he expects to see a good Texas Tech game that is led by an experienced, senior quarterback in Seth Doege. And he also expects to see a solid defensive unit.
“I think the quarterback is a year older and a year more experienced, and is playing with great confidence, and is doing that extremely well,” he said. “They have very talented young guys at wide receivers, and an offensive line that has three returning starters and is more experienced, and playing extremely well. The obvious is defensively, they’re playing lights out and across the board, all 11 of them are playing extremely well. They’ve played hard and they’re very successful.”
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said their improvements from last season have come from building their depth.
“We have more depth on both sides of the ball and a senior quarterback, a kid who can play,” Tuberville said. “He’s pretty special. For instance last week, we didn’t play very well defensively. TCU took it to us, but he throws seven touchdown passes.”
Klein also scored seven touchdowns for his team last week, and Tuberville knows he’ll be a load to stop.
While much of the attention falls on Klein and the offense, Tuberville said the defense doesn’t get enough credit.
“Coach Snyder, it looks like the first thing he did when he went back in there, well, I know it was the first thing he did, was put his defense back together so they could win ball games,’’ Tuberville said. “They do a great job. They did it against us last year.”
It will be the third straight week the Wildcats face a team that’s in at least one of the top 25 polls, and it will be a second straight game against a team that’s well versed in the air-raid offense.
The Wildcats held West Virginia to season lows in yardage, and now will be tasked with the same challenge again. And for the second-straight week, they will have to do it against a quarterback who is starting to get some Heisman attention.