I have an irrational love for my alma mater, and I do not apologize for it.*
* If you’d like a more thorough explanation as to how this came to be, feel free to buy my book, Eyeblack Odyssey (as an added bonus, I’ll love you forever).
More importantly to anyone who isn’t a fanatical homer of the boys in purple, the Wildcats are a fascinating case in their own right, fresh off a record EIGHT wins by a touchdown or less and returning basically every important cog off of that team in 2012 (with a couple of exceptions, of course).
So it’s a bunch of guys coming back from a team that won close games: You know who also resembled this description? Sure, every other Krik Ferentz Iowa team seemingly has that look (and it usually results in an awesomely disappointing year), but the other candidate is LSU of 2011. As Stewart Mandel reminds us, those Tigers, coming off a bizarre season full of lucky breaks (and yes, bounce-passing a winning lateral on a fake field goal counts as lucky) were often picked to come down to Earth — a popular “bust” pick, if you will.
They won the SEC and made the BCS Championship Game.
I do not (yet) predict such lofty heights for K-State (though this is the perfect place to note the similarities between uber-awesome quarterback Collin Klein and SEC Heisman dominator Tim Tebow and how Tebow had a knack for “willing” his team to victory), but the dichotomy is fascinating. Does a team known for “luck” and close victories learn from those wins and parlay them into something bigger and better the following year? Or does said team get fat and happy and get knocked down several pegs? Maintaining the status quo is seemingly less likely (Or at least, it’s the less compelling story, which may explain the divergence in opinion in the first place. And for the record, most pundits are siding on the disappointment side of the equation … meaning it’s more likely in my mind that they meet or exceed expectations. The “no respect” card is a fun motivator, yes?). So which is it?
Let’s look at the team’s depth, compare it to LSU’s, and see if that tells us anything.
My player scoring system:
All-American = 6 points
All-conference = 5 points
Honorable mention = 3 points
Four or five star = 4 points
Two or three star = 2 points
15 games started = 4 points
10 games started = 3 points
5 games started = 2 points
15 games played in = 1 point
The most a player can earn in the “Talent” category is 15 points, while the most he can get in “Experience” is 5 (meaning talent is three times as important as experience … just spitballing, but seems reasonable enough), thereby creating a “perfect” score of 10 when you average the two together.
(A reminder: my methodology is better explained here.)
Kansas State two-deep
Collin Klein (7.5) / Daniel Sams (1)
John Hubert (3) / Angelo Pease (1)
Braden Wilson (3.5) / Ben Kall (0)
Chris Harper (4.5) / Curry Sexton (1)
Tyler Lockett (7.5) / Tramaine Thompson (3)
Travis Tannahill (3.5) / Andre McDonald (1.5)
Cornelius Lucas (1.5) / William Cooper (1)
Nick Puetz (2.5) / Tomasi Mariner (1)
B.J. Finney (5) / Drew Liddle (0)
Boston Stiverson (1) / Keenan Taylor (1.5)
Cody Whitehair (1) / Tavon Rooks (1)
Adam Davis (3.5) / Ryan Mueller (0)
Vai Lutui (2.5) / Javonta Boyd (1)
John Sua (0) / Hakeem Akinola (1)
Meshak Williams (3.5) / Laton Dowling (1)
Justin Tuggle (1) / Jarell Childs (2.5)
Arthur Brown (8) / Blake Slaughter (1.5)
Tre Walker (3) / Jonathan Truman (0)
Nigel Malone (8) / Randall Evans (0)
Allen Chapman (1) / Kip Daily (1)
Ty Zimmeron (6) / Jarard Milo (1)
Thomas Ferguson (1.5) / Kent Gainous (1)
Overall: 2.28 (3.57 for the starters; 1 for the backups)
* As noted for LSU, I think anyone at a “2″ or less is probably going to be a liability for you on some level (hopefully more on the “makes occasional errors” level than the “completely overwhelmed” one). For K-State, that means Cornelius Lucas, Boston Stiverson, Cody Whitehair, John Sua, Justin Tuggle, Allen Chapman, and Thomas Ferguson are going to be the guys with giant, flashing targets on their chests.
* It really wouldn’t take much to knock this team off a cliff. I say this because the depth is amazingly horrific. Granted, my system should be reworked to make games played in more valuable a commodity (probably too devalued in comparison to starts), but I still count just five backups who aren’t a complete disaster area, and of those, probably two (Tramaine Thompson and Jarell Childs) are fit to start.
* No one should be surprised that LSU is in much better shape in terms of overall depth. Here’s where the comparisons to LSU get fun, however. With the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu, K-State has the same number of high-impact guys (six) that the Tigers do. Those guys (earning a “5″ ranking or better) are Collin Klein, Tyler Lockett, B.J. Finney, Arthur Brown, Nigel Malone, and Ty Zimmerman for K-State; Spencer Ware, Chris Faulk, Alex Hurst, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, and Eric Reid for LSU. Overall, K-State’s starters average nearly a 3.6 … not a far cry from LSU’s 4.0.
* The K-State starting offense, while burdened with the above-mentioned three “weak links” along the offensive line, looks like a more consistent unit across the board (ratings range from 1 to 7.5, with an average score of 3.68) than the starting defense (ratings range from 0 to 8, with an average score of 3.57).
* I don’t do this crap for special teams because that means more work, and let’s be clear here, lol. K-State would do well there, but they get credit for Lockett on offense, so it’s basically a wash (not really, but it is in my head).
* Man crushes on Collin Klein and Arthur Brown are warranted.
* Bill Snyder is indeed a sorceror.
So in conclusion, I firmly believe the starting unit for K-State is up to the task for a championship run, even more so if the offensive tackles get their stuff together quickly. The second unit, decidedly less so. This isn’t so different from another 30 or so programs hovering in and out of the Top 25 in any given season, but there it is regardless. If K-State is fortunate with injuries, it has the talent in place to make a run of it.
I’ll try to get Florida State up next week, then do season predictions for all three teams. Good times.
In the meantime, here’s some K-State football video goodness.