Better late than never, BOTC weighs in on how we think the 2010 season will unfold. Who will be the offensive MVP? Who will anchor the defense? Will Kansas State win a super-duper tough roadie against North Texas in late November??? Click the jump for our fearless predictions and unparalleled analysis based on completely speculative data!
Thoughts: As will be discussed later, it's one of those seasons where the key word is "progress." Just having Bill Snyder installed as coach means we're all dreaming of the glory days, but as fans we can't get in a hurry to get there given the considerably roster problems left over from the Ron Prince error. So even if this team "only" goes 6-6 again, we shouldn't get too bent out of shape about that, because it would represent progress, at least in my mind. Reasonable minds can disagree, but I think 6-6 this season would be more impressive than 6-6 last year, and it would assure a bowl berth this season.
Offensive MVP: The obvious answer is probably Daniel Thomas, but I'm going to go a different route. Quarterback is the biggest question mark position on this offense, and really the only thing holding it back from being a pretty prolific unit. Therefore, I'm going to say that Carson Coffman is the most valuable player for this team. If he can make competent throws to what looks like a big, physical wide receiver corps, if he can be just effective enough as a runner to be a threat on the option and the zone read, and if he can make his decisions and reads without the hesitancy we saw last year, we will have a very good offense. If he does that, he may not put up MVP stats himself, but he will be the reason that we moved from the "protect the ball and shorten the game" offense we were last year to an "effective offense with some big-play capability" this year.
Defensive MVP: Everything starts up front with this unit. We have to be able to get some pass rush with the front four. So I'm choosing Brandon Harold as my defensive MVP. None of the other players on the defensive line appear to have the individual ability to beat blockers one-on-one with any consistency. As a result, we need Harold to be enough of a threat that he can command double-teams and help to free up the others. If he can do that, then the front four can at least be decent, which is all we can really ask from them this year. At least make the quarterback occasionally think that a hit might be coming.
Newcomer of the Year: I'll go with Brodrick Smith. K-State needed a lot of help at the wide receiver position and from all accounts, Smith looks like a guy who will step up. Anything that makes Carson Coffman's job as a QB easier is a good thing, and having big targets who can get open fit that description.
This year meets my expectations if: The Cats make a bowl game. It's that simple. Tangible progress is all you can require of a program every year when it's in a rebuilding mode. With Snyder, we saw a first season that was at least mildly surprising, in that we came within one game of winning the North and going to a bowl despite being roundly pegged for the bottom of the division. Admittedly, 6-6 when two FCS teams were on the schedule isn't all that great, but it was better than going 4-8 with two FCS teams on the schedule. But Ron Prince had a pretty good first year, too, and he followed it up with two 5-7 clunkers in which the team got demonstrably worse in just about every phase of the game. If we can deliver at least a 6-6 record this year, against a somewhat more difficult schedule and in a season where that record will assure us a bowl appearance, that's progress. I know we all want to get back to the days of winning nine or 10 or more games, but we didn't get there immediately the first time Snyder was hired, and we suddenly look like we have some pretty nice pieces in place for the future.
Record: I've been somewhat more optimistic than some others this spring and summer, and I still think we go 7-5 (+/- 1 game) this year. The UCLA game really can set the tone. If we beat the Bruins on September 4, we should be set up for a 4-0 non-conference record. After that, the only games I look at and think "we really don't have a very good chance of winning that one" are the Nebraska, Missouri and Texas games. But two of those games are at home, so you never know what could happen. In any event, we play games against Iowa State, Colorado, KU, Baylor and Oklahoma State that have to be considered, at least, winnable. A 4-0 non-conference means we can go 3-2 in those games and reach my prediction without talking about beating Nebraska, Missouri or Texas. The Cyclones will be a tough matchup in Kansas City, but I don't see any reason to think we haven't made just as much progress as they have in the year since we (barely) beat them there. Oklahoma State lost just about everything and has to come to Manhattan. Baylor, KU and Colorado are all road games against teams that are wildcards this year. I'm loathe to predict too much in road games for K-State until they prove they can win a few of them, but none of those are teams I look at and think "man, there's no way we can beat them." In any event, while I'm not ready to make any firm bowl plans for the holidays, I also wouldn't relegate this team to the Pinstripe Bowl just yet. There could be more available.
Thoughts: Ditto what TB said, but I also think it's important that we firmly establish ourselves as at least the third-best team in the North. Some people are thinking last year was a fluke, but if you can do it twice, it's consistency. I think it would be detrimental to lose to Iowa State and slide to fourth - doubt might begin to seep in about whether Snyder can get us back to bowling regularly. And God help us if we lose to Colorado or Kansas. But cement yourself as third, and even though the divisions are going away, you enter the new Big 12 as Missouri's chief challenger to be the third- or fourth-best team in the conference.
Offensive MVP: Oh, man, this is hard. Daniel Thomas is the no-brainer, but I think that at the end of the year, we'll be able to make an equally compelling case for Brodrick Smith. Braden Wilson will flatten linebackers for Thomas and Tramaine Thompson will bring big-play ability. If you go with a quarterback, it very well could end up being Sammuel Lamur. So I'll cheat and say it's the offensive line. Without them, none of the offense will work, but with them, perhaps even Carson Coffman can be effective for us. They'll prove to be one of the three best units in the Big 12 by December, I predict.
Defensive MVP: Since TB took Harold, I'll go with team co-captains Emmanuel Lamur and Tysyn Hartman. They'll set the tone for the defense, make the calls, clean up the mess and lead by example. Having a pair of safeties like that is priceless, and best of all, they should be back next year, too.
Newcomer of the Year: If he hadn't been hurt, I'd say Adam Davis. But now that he's no longer available to us, I, too, will have to go with Brodrick Smith. He'll give us a deep-play threat with size and good hands that Carson Coffman's already extremely comfortable throwing it to. He'll be James Terry to Daniel Thomas' Darren Sproles, to torture a 2003 analogy.
This year meets my expectations if: Bowl game or bust, baby. After three long years without one, it's time for K-State to get back into the national consciousness, even if it means freezing our asses off in Yankee Stadium this Christmas. Competing for the North would be a nice bonus, but I think we still might be a year away from that - just in time for the division to evaporate, of course.
Record: It's 6-6 +/- 1, I think. There's an outside shot at 8-4 if everything falls together just so, but the offseason losses of Adam Davis, Justin Williams and Darious Thomas are going to hurt the defense more than we thought this spring. That will hold us back from what we could have been with this offense. Couple that with the failure of any of the three quarterbacks to seize the job outright, and I think predicting a team that's only won one road game in each of the last five seasons to suddenly win three or more (we'll lose to either Nebraska or Texas, unfortunately) is somewhat premature.
I think we'll win all but one home game, same as last year. We'll spring a home upset, too. But we'll probably drop at least three away from home. 4-4 in conference play seems about right again. Here's how I see the road map to 8-4, if it happens:
UCLA - W
MSU - W
ISU - L
UCF - W
NU - W
@KU - W
@BU - L
OSU - W
UT - L
@MU - L
@CU - W
@UNT - W
See why UCLA is such a huge swing game?
Thoughts: I think most folks are riding a roller coaster ride of optimism and pessimism that rises and falls depending on the day. On the one hand, you see an offense with a good offensive line that returns more experience than any other Snyder team in, well, forever, and at the same time, you have an extremely talented young fullback, a promising young wide receiver corps, and an All-American caliber tailback. The problem is that you also see a pretty underwhelming quarterback race where the winner is a guy that played his way out of the starter role last year against a sixth-year journeyman senior with two bad arms, a guy that was moved to wide receiver after he couldn't beat out the bad arm guy and the guy who lost his job to the bad arm guy, and another guy that couldn't win a starting job at either JUCO he attended. Yeah, that's enough to get you excited.
Also, name five guys on defense off of the top of your head without looking at a roster. Good luck to you.
Offensive MVP: Braden Wilson. I'm going with the road-grating fullback on this one. He's the equivalent of an additional offensive lineman in the backfield, and he's a crushing run blocker for the best running back in the conference. It's like the nitro in your gas tank. It just takes you to the next level.
Defensive MVP: Prizell Brown. The converted TE picked up some extra weight and looks like a beast. He did an amiable job stepping in last year, and he provides surprising quality at a position that had serious depth concerns during the offseason.
Newcomer of the Year: Chris Harper. I know that he's not the sexy pick since he's absent from the first string on the depth chart, but Harper's versatility will make him a formidable weapon. His ability to play QB (out of the Wildcat, of course), running back, and wide receiver will allow the coaches to, hopefully, utilize him in a lot of different and creative ways. If they aren't getting him the ball at least ten times a game, it's a waste.
This season meets my expectations if: K-State makes a bowl game. That's pretty much it. I don't have grand expectations, really. I just want to see KSU get to at least .500 during the regular season and make a bowl game. It will give a young team a lot of additional reps going into the next season, and it shows positive progress for the first time in several years. I think a bowl game is the one real, tangible goal we can really expect out of this team. Especially with how good the offense "could" be.
Record Prediction: 7-5 +/- 1. I think there are some really good chances for KSU to win a few road games this year (KU, CU, North Texas), and get a few wins at home against decent teams (UCLA, Oklahoma State, UCF). If KSU can win those games, and get the win against Missouri State (duh), that's seven wins and a chance at an eight win season after a bowl game. If that happens, you could consider me a very, very happy fan.