What is your bold prediction for the year?
TB: We'll beat one of Texas, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma. What, that's not bold? Then you're far more optimistic than I about this season.
The Intern: John Currie will announce plans to close the bowl and upgrade Vanier. Also, Bill Snyder will get thrown out of a game because the new official on the field hurries play up and K-State's defense does not have time to substitute, leading to multiple penalties in a row.
AA: Kansas State will beat Tex — no, wait, that's not really bold enough anymore, is it? OK, let's go with this: Kansas State will be 8-1 heading into those two tricky home games vs. TCU and Oklahoma. I haven't even decided yet whether it will be Oklahoma State or Baylor the Cats knock off, but it just seems like this team should be good enough on offense to pull one of those games out, especially if the defense can catch a few breaks or force some turnovers.
Jon: Someone — I'm not sure yet, but someone — on this team will generate national buzz for something positive. Maybe either Tyler Lockett or Tramaine Thompson will bust off multiple TD returns. Maybe a quarterback will be a revelation. Maybe a defensive back will become the opposition's favorite receiver. But someone on this team is going to go HAM this year.
MASHFORD: John Hubert rushes for more than 1,500 yards.
BracketCat: K-State will snap its home losing streak to Oklahoma that dates back to 1997, which is simply ridiculous. This is one of the weakest-looking Oklahoma teams in recent memory, if you ask me.
TB: Quick mulligan here: the biggest news item in college football this coming Sunday will be the new targeting rules. A college official has told me that the fans are going to HATE these new rules.
What unit worries you most on the team?
TB: Can it be anything other than defensive line?
The Intern: It is a toss-up between the D-line and the linebackers, which could make the secondary look really bad.
AA: This has to be the linebackers, but maybe I just say that because I notice them a lot more than the defensive line and in my memory, great linebackers seem to be a constant on great Kansas State teams.
Jon: I'll go against the grain slightly and say that I'm even more worried about the punting unit than the front seven. And that's saying something.
MASHFORD: Special teams. More specifically, the kicking game. K-State lost two really good kickers in Anthony Cantele and Ryan Doerr, and replacing those two guys will be especially crucial in the early going as K-State finds it's way defensively.
BracketCat: Everyone has been lamenting the front seven, and there certainly are plenty of worries there. But has anyone given any thought to our cornerback situation? Randall Evans won't be one of them most of the time — he's slated for the nickel slot. Kip Daily, Carl Miles Jr. and Dorrian Roberts are all seniors, but none of them have taken a high-level snap for us. Totally unproven. And the rest are sophomores or younger. In this league, that is a little frightening to consider if they all turn out to be mediocre or worse. Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone were huge.
TB: Good call on the special teams. Doerr was a weapon and Cantele was reliable.
Charcoal or propane for your grill?
The Intern: Wood first, then natural gas, then propane, then charcoal. It really depends on what you are cooking, but I have a wood grill that cooks as fast as gas and has awesome results. Plus, I can smoke on it to a certain degree.
Jon: It actually doesn't matter. Whatever works best for you, personally. They've all got advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I'm a propane guy, because I use my grill a lot, and the expense (and/or unavailablity here, in the case of natural gas) of the other fuel sources makes it a no-brainer. Still use wood and charcoal for the smoker, though, because anything else defeats the purpose.
TB: Charcoal. If I'm going to grill, then I'm going to take my time. So yeah, it doesn't happen very often.
AA: To be honest, I've never really grilled a whole lot myself because so much of my 26 years I've been fortunate enough to either live with a Dad or a roommate much more capable when it comes to grilling than I am. Since all of them used charcoal, that clearly has to be my vote.
MASHFORD: Charcoal. It's more difficult to get right, but when you do, it's the best.
The Intern: Let's eat.
Who succeeds Bill Snyder?
Jon: I remain in favor of Craig Bohl from North Dakota State. There are a lot of people who will dismiss that idea because he's "just" an FCS coach, but let's lay some things out on the table here.
North Dakota State is the two-time defending national champion. A decade ago, North Dakota State was in Division II. I cannot possibly stress too strongly the importance of those two sentences when placed in conjunction.
Had NDSU simply won a single championship then faded away, that would be one thing. Had NDSU been a member of Division I for 30 years and won the title twice in a row, that wouldn't be a big deal.
But Craig Bohl took his program out of Division II, into Division I, and in less than a decade has turned it into the undisputed top program in FCS — which means he can build a program (which you might not think is necessary, but any time you have a coaching change you have to rebuild the program to an extent), and he can sustain it, and he can win, not just compete.
Also, Bohl's mere presence would result in K-State consistently recruiting top-notch linemen on both sides of the ball, as he's got strong ties with all those high school coaches from Nebraska and the Dakotas whose rosters are packed with beefy farm boys.
Frankly, I find Furnace's "Hell no, he's a Nebraska guy" argument against Bohl to be far more compelling than "but he's just an FCS coach". At least his objection is one we can all irrationally get behind.
TB: Mike Leach.
In the Other Acceptable Candidates category, Bohl would be fine by me. Mark Hudspeth from Louisiana-Lafayette would be a good pick, too. He's 18-8 in two seasons in Louisiana, with two bowl wins. Before that, he was 66-21 in seven seasons at North Alabama and won a couple Gulf South Conference championships.
Knowing us, it will probably be Dana Dimel. Or Sean Snyder.
The Intern: If Eric Wolford continues to build the program at Youngstown State, I'd like to see him have the opportunity. Otherwise I agree with Jon and TB.
AA: I prefer not to think about this. Next question.
MASHFORD: Geez, I have no clue. Did anyone see Currie hiring Bruce Weber last year? I didn't. I will say I'd have my eye on the previously mentioned Eric Wolford, and also Brad Lambert at Charlotte. Both of those guys have ties to K-State, but that might not necessarily be a deciding factor when it comes time for this move.
I think all options are on the table with Currie running the athletics department, and perhaps more important, I think Currie — assuming he's still at K-State at the time that this decision needs to be made — will pony up the dough to get "his guy."
I'll tell you this: one of the first places I'd look would be the top assistant on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama. The trick there is making sure guys from programs like that can recruit to a school that hasn't won three of the last four national titles.
Jon: So, we're all basically in agreement, right? MOVING ON.
What makes this a successful season for the Cats?
Jon: I am always of the opinion that a "successful season" is one in which the team exceeds (or, if that's literally not possibly because we've been picked to win it all, meets) the consensus expectations, adjusted for media biases.
Before bias, that means it's a successful season if we finish fifth in the conference. After bias, it means a top-three finish and no worse than the Alamo Bowl.
TB: This is the year to sustain the momentum from the last two seasons. The offense could be just as good as last year, but the defense will likely be substantially worse. This is the year to get the new players on defense some experience and build toward next season. If we can accomplish that and achieve something like an 8-4 record, then we could set up big things in 2014.
The Intern: A winning record and a bowl game. I think it is going to be one of those years.
AA: I'd say as far as surface-level things, probably 8 or 9 wins with a top-four finish in the Big 12, and hey, maybe even a bowl win. I'm not as keen on importance of that last thing as some, and yes, I would have said that before this recent losing streak.
Going a little more in-depth, it would be great to see a clear leader emerge at quarterback and wide receiver. I fully expect John Hubert to be a stud at running back, so that's not even worth mentioning.
Defensively, I just don't want to see K-State lose any games when the offense scores more than 30 points. Hopefully, that's not too much to ask, but it might be.
MASHFORD: One thing I want to see out of this season is a bowl win. It's been a LONG time since the Wildcats have won a bowl game (2002 Holiday Bowl against Arizona State). K-State will make a bowl game this year, and no matter what game that happens to be, I want a win.
BracketCat: I second that motion. I was a sophomore for that Holiday Bowl. We need to win one of those damn things. If we do, I think we can get to nine wins. 8-4 should be the baseline for this season, in my opinion.
Jon: I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'd be happy with a fifth-place finish at 7-5, but I still have to say that given the expectations that's a fair calculation for "success" this year. Of course, this being K-State, we're not going to accept that very graciously, so let's call the consensus 8-4.
The Cats finish the season with what record?
TB: Regular season: 8-4. Four losses among the games against Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma. Maybe we finally win a bowl game for 9-4? Would be fun, you guys.
AA: 10-3 with a bowl win. 5-3 in the Big 12.
Jon: This will sound contradictory given the above, but I'll predict 9-3, 6-3 in conference for a likely 3rd- or 4th-place finish.
The Intern: If we have a winning record, I will be happy. And if the team plays well enough for 8-4 or above, then I'll really be happy.
MASHFORD: My baseline for this season is 8-4, but I am actually going to go with 9-3 and a Cotton Bowl berth. I think the losses come against Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor. I think the Wildcats are a year away from another run at the conference title. Although, this year in the Big 12, a 6-3 conference record might have the Cats in the thick of the race again.
BracketCat: Three losses to start Big 12 play? That sounds like a recipe for a losing season to me. I can see us dropping the first two, but I think we find a way to beat Baylor if we do. The team would be breathing fire after that bye week unless it just completely sucks across the board. That said, I have hard time seeing us losing to Texas, ever.
Oklahoma State is the closest thing to a sure loss. We probably will drop at least one home game, but Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU all have their exploitable flaws, and the West Stadium Center should make our home-field advantage as powerful as it's ever been. If we win in Austin and run the table at home, look out. Big things.
I'll say 8-4, but I also think 9-3 is more likely than 7-5. Call me an eternal optimist, but this offense will be sick.
Worried about basketball or not?
The Intern: Very much worried about basketball this year. If the late recruit wasn't 6' 7", the Cats could be known as the minions. And winning the conference and reaching the NCAA Tournament require a balanced team that has good fundamentals. If the Cats have a small team, they will have to block out and play solid in the basic skills department.
Jon: Eh. For all that everyone wants to climb all over Bruce Weber's jock, they seem to forget that even with the returning talent he had at hand everyone expected the Cats to finish in the middle of the pack last year. How do we evaluate a coach whose team exceeded expectations?
I'm not thrilled with this year's recruiting, but I'll be damned if I'm not continually remembering that various sources have noted Weber's downfall in Illinois was letting people tell him who he needed to recruit.
As such, I am in the "okay, let's see what he can do when he's left alone" camp. Maybe we'll be surprised. I'm not counting on it, but I'm not ruling it out.
TB: This year won't be very much fun. Weber is a good tactical coach — we know that much already. Whether he can get the players to compete will always be the big question.
This year's recruiting class wasn't great, but there's some reason for optimism down the road. The next two recruiting classes will make or break his time in Manhattan.
AA: Absolutely. But then again, I'm always worried about basketball. It's more of a priority for me than football, which I know puts me in the minority. Anyway, this year I think I'm probably more worried than usual.
Those of you who have read what I've written here in the past probably won't be surprised to learn I'm still skeptical Bruce Weber can actually bring in talented players that also fit into his system and become a good team. He seems like a great guy with some positive ideas, but the track record still scares me.
More importantly, though, I've seen way too many times how the lack of a quality point guard can totally ruin everything, even on a team that would otherwise be excellent. Angel Rodriguez's departure obviously leaves a big void and a ton of questions. A newcomer should be able to step up, but if we have to endure an entire season, or even half of one, really, with Will Spradling at the point, it's really going to be a test for my patience.
MASHFORD: I'm not expecting another conference title or anything, but I'm also not predicting that the bottom falls out either. I think Weber is too good of a coach — especially in games — for K-State to fall too far. The big concern is the lack of height on this team. The staff really struck out in recruiting a big this year.
The good thing is that K-State plays in a conference in which it is in the top three of schools that care about basketball. Outside of KU, K-State and Oklahoma State, I'm not sure the other schools in the conference care about basketball, and have generally just conceded the title to KU every year.
For K-State, that probably means a top-5 finish in conference in year and a 2014-15 season that — if Weber can find a couple quality big guys — could be a special one.
BracketCat: Mr. Ashford pretty much stole what I was going to say. If you're going to pick a year to be not-so-good, pick a year when the whole league other than KU, Okie Lite and maybe Baylor stinks, too. There are a lot of winnable games on the schedule, and recent glimpses at Marcus Foster and Jevon Thomas have me excited.
(The same goes for the football team, too. The league is very balanced, but that's another way of saying there is no truly elite team. They all flaws we can exploit if we execute properly and outcoach people like we always do.)
The Intern: I will cheer for the Cats win or lose and I'm still not sure what to expect in 2013-2014 from the Cats.
TB: I think Pan had a coronary when he read this question, in case you were wondering why there are no responses from him.