This week, we'll be recording the preseason predictions of the editorial staff here at BOTC. In the effort of being completely transparent (as is the theme of the university right now), we wanted to get these out as soon as fall camp starts before, presumably, players on our team and other teams are lost for the season for one reason or another. That way, we can always go back and say, "Uh yeah, I had no idea the third string gunner was going to get injured. Otherwise, my prediction would have been WAY different."
Today, Panjandrum will throw his hat into the ring.
Projected Overall Record: 6-6
Projected Conference Record: 3-5
Best Chance for an Upset: Colorado
Best Chance to be Upset: Texas A&M
Team MVP: Brandon Banks
Offensive MVP: Brandon Banks
Defensive MVP: Joshua Moore
Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Daniel Thomas
Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Jeffrey Fitzgerald
Predicting a .500 season is probably going to seem like a negative viewpoint given the "good vibrations" that are bubbling up right now with Bill Snyder being back, but anytime a school hires a new head coach, complete with new coordinators, you'll have a tough time that first season.
Now, a lot of people will say, "Yeah, but a goofball like Ron Prince was able to win seven games and go to a bowl his first season. Why not Bill Snyder?" Well, a lot of people would probably have a salient point there, but statistically speaking, going from a losing season to a winning season in college football with a new head coach is pretty rare. Even if the team was only one game away from being bowl eligible from the year before.
Sure, KSU will probably take both games against UMass and Tennessee Tech. And, yeah, KSU will probably win their game down in Louisiana. However, after that, every single team on the schedule will be a challenge. UCLA will be improved, and it's always hard to fly out California and play in the Rose Bowl, so it's not really prudent to predict that game as a win. Especially when Phil Steele has them as one of his most improved teams(#3).
Obviously, the Big 12 Conference schedule is as favorable as it can be for Kansas State. With four home games against unranked teams (in the preseason at least), and a road game substituted for a neutral site game against Iowa State (who also has a new staff), odds can't be much more in K-State's favor. Any time you have a home game against a North team, it's hard to pick against the home team. For that reason, I think K-State has a good chance to beat Colorado. The Buffs should have lost to KSU last year, but Alstatt's late game fumble and Rossman's two blown field goals came back to haunt the cats and prevent bowl eligibility. That said, I don't think there is much difference between those two teams, even though KSU will probably be the underdog in that game, so I think KSU can take that game. Without going into details, I think KSU will beat ISU on a neutral field. ISU was worse than KSU last year, and since both teams have new head coaches, I'll go with the one that's going to be in the Hall of Fame.
I still think Texas A&M has a LOT to prove to everyone in this conference, and a horrible Ron Prince team went down to College Station last year and beat the Aggies, so I can't pick against KSU in that game. A&M can easily become a better team this year, and who knows, they may beat KSU in Manhattan, but I can't pick them to beat the 'Cats at this point. In no way, shape, or form can I pick KSU to beat OU or Texas Tech on the road. I'm writing those off as losses right now. KSU may sneak down to Lubbock and win, but Tech always cause problems for Snyder, even when KSU was rolling, so until they prove they can win down in Lubbock, I'm going with Tech. I just pray OU doesn't beat the ever loving crap out of us.
If you're keeping track of individual game predictions, I've got KSU at 3-1 in the non-conference, and 3-3 in Big 12 games. I certainly don't expect KSU to beat Nebraska in Lincoln (as I think the Huskers will take the North), so the season will hinge on whether or not KSU can beat Kansas and Missouri at home. Considering that they will be the last two home games of the year, it should make things interesting. You can always throw out records and perceived talent disparities when rivalry games are discussed (Kansas), and you can never, never count out a team that's fighting for bowl eligibility on Senior Day (Missouri). I don't know if KSU has enough ammunition to take down these two programs that have been successful over the last two seasons and have recruited well in that time frame, but you never know.
In terms of specific personnel, I have to give the nod to Brandon Banks for team and offensive MVP. The kid is too dynamic, and if he contributes in special teams as well, his presence may make the difference in a few games. Given Snyder's ability to find ways to get his most talented players the ball, I'm very excited to see what he does with Banks this season. That goes double for Daniel Thomas, the four-star JUCO recruit that can play quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Per the media, it looks like he'll primarily be a running back, but he could line up in the Wildcat formation and cause havoc for defenses given how versatile he can be.
On the defensive side of the ball, corner Josh Moore will need to be the leader we know he can be, and given that he's one of the best, if not the best, corner in the North, he'll play a major role in trying to slow down opposing offenses. He was the leading tackler in 2008, and we'll need to see more of that in the upcoming season. There isn't going to be an immense amount of depth in the secondary, so his consistent play will be necessary so the other corners don't have as much pressure on them to perform.
The defensive newcomer, and senior-to-be, Jeffrey Fitzgerald will likely be the newcomer of the year. An NFL prospect coming out of Virginia, he transferred to Prince's program after his sophomore season, and he sat out his junior year (as he didn't have a redshirt). He'll come to KSU as a senior defensive tackle, and he'll most likely be the 3-Tech tackle to play alongside Daniel Calvin at the nose. Hopefully, Freshman All-American, Brandon Harold, will be able to occupy some attention along the line so Fitzgerald can get inside and do some damage.
All-in-all, it's really hard to predict this season. I honestly think the ultimate ceiling is eight wins, and the ultimate low will probably be four. The odds are KSU will end up somewhere in the middle, and if they play their cards right, and the ball bounces their way a few times, they could end up bowling in Snyder's first season. However, all things being equal, I'm not comfortable predicting that "at this particular point in time".