Every once in awhile, I get my hackles up about the perception of the Kansas State program. It's always in response to one narrative that drives me crazy: the idea that Bill Snyder wins football games with scrubs.
That hit me again yesterday as I was in my car, listening to an Oklahoma sports talk radio loudmouth bloviate about... well, honestly, I'm not sure what he was bloviating about, because out of one side of his mouth he was arguing that Mike Gundy can't possibly be a better coach than Bob Stoops because Gundy is 2-9 against Stoops. Then he turns around and subtly backhands Stoops, mentioning that it's a lot easier to win with the players Stoops has compared to what Gundy has to work with.
My immediate thought was to wonder whether this guy thinks Stoops is a better coach than Bill Snyder, but I already know the answer to that question because he's answered it before. According to this guy, K-State hasn't had an actual football player in over a decade except for Tyler Lockett.
Look, people. Bill Snyder is a great coach. He's a great man. He resurrected the sport in Manhattan, and this site would have about four and a half regular readers if not for him. Assuming it existed at all, because SB Nation doesn't have FCS blogs.
But Bill Snyder does not win football games with talentless refuse. The issue with K-State's recruiting rankings compared to their win totals is not that Snyder is such a great coach that he can win conference titles with nobodies. It's that the recruiting rankings misjudge the talent K-State brings in.
Snyder and his staff are experts at locating players off the beaten path. Many K-State commits don't even have rankings at the major services before they commit. A part of what goes into those rankings is the number of offers a player gets (and where they're from), and as a result a lot of players who commit early to K-State are simply presumed to be 2-stars... because, after all, if they were serious talents they'd have more offers. It's a stupid, vicious circle.
Worse, the narrative is that Snyder out-coaches other guys on gameday, and that's obviously the argument people will make when you point at K-State's wins in Norman in two of the last three seasons. Well, if Snyder's such a great coach that he can take his two-stars and beat Oklahoma, why doesn't he do it more often? There's an answer to that: he's actually not that much of a genius. He is a great coach; do not misunderstand me. But Bill Snyder gets outcoached, too. All you have to do to figure that one out is look at opening day 2013, and then you can start questioning the entire quarterback issue the first half of that season.
Meanwhile, a great deal of the success K-State has had in recent years has been because they had really talented guys. You can't coach being a steamroller; Collin Klein was built that way. You can't coach Being Tyler Lockett. Arthur Brown, Meshak Williams, the bulls on the offensive line, Travis Britz... hell, even the guys like Ryan Mueller, who are supposedly a testament to the Program. Mueller didn't really get where he was because of coaching. He got there because he just wouldn't quit moving.
So next time someone starts yammering about Purple Wizardry and Coachin' Em Up, get offended. Because every time someone says that, what they're really saying is K-State's players kinda suck.
Ohio Athletic Conference Preview
|2014 Standings and Info|
|2||University of Mount Union Purple Raiders||Alliance OH||9-0||14-1|
|8||John Carroll University Blue Streaks||University Heights OH||8-1||11-2|
|rv||Heidelberg University Student Princes||Tiffin OH||7-2||8-2|
|Ohio Northern University Polar Bears||Ada OH||6-3||7-3|
|Otterbein University Cardinals||Westerville OH||5-4||5-5|
|Baldwin Wallace University Yellow Jackets||Berea OH||4-5||5-5|
|Muskingum University Fighting Muskies||New Concord OH||3-6||3-7|
|Capital University Crusaders||Bexley OH||2-7||3-7|
|Marietta College Pioneers||Marietta OH||1-8||2-8|
|Wilmington College Fighting Quakers||Wilmington OH||0-9||0-10|
On October 22, 2005, Ohio Northern beat Mount Union 21-14 in Ada. It was the Purple Raiders' first conference loss and first regular season loss in over a decade, a run stretching back all the way to a home loss to Baldwin Wallace on October 15, 1994. The loss to Northern snapped a 99-game OAC winning streak and a 110-game regular season winning streak.
They haven't lost a regular season game since; they're now on a 93-game conference tear (that's a 192-1 run) and a 102-game (212-1) regular season streak. In fact, they haven't lost to anyone other than Wisconsin-Whitewater since. And the dominance is especially impressive for two reasons: Mount Union's lone non-conference regular-season game every year is almost always against a quality opponent, and despite the Purple Raiders' stranglehold on the league the OAC is not Mount Union and the nine dwarves. The conference almost always claims an at-large bid to the playoffs, and occasionally even a pair. Last year, John Carroll got into the field and won two post-season games before losing... to Mount Union. And that's not the first time UMU has deposited a conference-mate in the quarterfinals.
To put this in terms more easily understanable: Imagine if, in the mid-1990s, Nebraska and K-State and Colorado had been forced to deal with the Kansas City Chiefs playing in the Big 8. That's what it's like for the other teams in the OAC, and that's how ridiculous Mount Union's dominance of the league really is.
The OAC has been around since 1902, and at one point or another pretty much every school in the state has been a member. Yes, even Ohio State. Yesterday was OAC Media Days; you get exactly zero internet bucks for guessing which team the conference coaches picked to win it. Since Vince Kehres couldn't vote for his own team, John Carroll received the 10th first-place vote; they also received 2 of the 27 media nods. Both polls were identical with one exception: the coaches tabbed Heidelberg as the third-place team by a three-point margin; the media picked Ohio Northern ahead of the Princes with only one point separating the pair.
Mount Union does lose some talent. Second-team All-American K Ed Ruhnke graduated, as well as OAC first-team LB Cody Pgorelic. Oh, and QB Kevin Burke, too. All Burke's done is win the Gagiardi Trophy (the D-III Heisman equivalent) twice, the Bob Packard Award (OAC offensive back of the year), and three All-OAC first-team nods.
So who's coming back? First-team All-Americans DT Tom Lally and S Alex Kocheff. Third-team All-Americans WR Roman Namdar, OL Michael Frank, and CB Tre Jones. Honorable mention All-American LB Hank Spencer. Returning RB B.J. Mitchell was also first-team All-OAC, and he seems sort of like he's slacking amidst all this other company. Three second-team honorees also return, and four players who've actually taken snaps at quarterback return to try and fill Burke's shows. So don't expect the Purple Raiders to grind the clutch this season. That 100th straight conference win is awaiting, October 31 against Otterbein.
John Carroll spent much of the last decade struggling -- relatively speaking, for them. Only once did they fail to finish .500 or better, but their usual status as a potential threat to Mount Union had fallen by the wayside. The Blue Streaks lost twice last season, both times in Alliance, by a total of 15 points.
A pair of second-team All-Americans -- OL Anthony Latina and LB Kevin Cope -- return, but honorable mention QB Mark Meyers and KR Aramis Greenwood have graduated. Myers, obviously, was only a second-team selection at QB in the OAC; Greenwood was a first-team selection at WR. OAC first-team QL Jack Corrigan, RB Tommy Michals, DL Frank Pines, and DB Brody Zangaro also graduated; TE Brendan Carozzoni, DL David Porter, DB Mike Hollins, and special-team honoree Andy Bryan return along with second-team wideout Marshall Howell. The Blue Streaks will probably not unseat Mount Union, but another at-large bid isn't out of reach at all.
Heidelberg beat everyone they beat by at least 17 points. It was the two games they lost that mark the gap between the top and middle of the conference; the Princes lost by a combined 58 points to Mount Union and John Carroll. It's been a good story in Tiffin, however. Heidelberg has won 33 games in the last four years; they won 17 the four years before that, and only 3 in the seven previous seasons. Pretty decent job of program-building by Mike Hallett, who not coincidentally took over the program eight seasons ago.
The Princes lose a pair of second-team All-Americans as WR Donteea Dye and OL Austin Hunter graduate, as did third-team RB Cartel Brooks. All were OAC first-teamers, along with the also-graduated DL Ben Pointer and returning C Alex Damschroder. Two other Princes return from the second team, DL Ryan Malloy and LB Clay Staab. They'll still over around the bottom of the top 25 (they were 26th in the final poll last season), but the top of the OAC mountain is probably still out of reach.
Ohio Northern dipped a bit after a 2010 playoff bid, but they're rebounding. After a 7-3 year which saw not a single Polar Bear named to the OAC first-team, Northern returns second-teamers WR Devon Price, OL Rody Seballos, RB Justin Magazine, DB Darnell Bloom, and P Kyle Bergman. That returning talent is what has some observers picking Northern to slip past Heidelberg into third place.
Otterbein has been up and down and all over the place the last decade, peaking at 9-2 in 2008 and bottoming out at 3-7 in 2011. Second-team C Grant Noppenberger, RB Reid Hutchinson, and LB Austin Jones return, while no All-OAC talent was lost. The Cardinals would wreck most other leagues this fall; they're going to have a challenge staying in the OAC's upper division.
Baldwin Wallace used to be Mount Union's bete noire, but the Yellow Jackets have become a pretty steady resident of the middle of the conference standings the last several years. Still, they've been picked to finish ahead of Otterbein, despite losing first-team DL Luke Riemenschneider and second-team LB Dan O'Brien while not returning any All-OAC talent. We're going to argue the coaches and media have this backward.
Muskingum hasn't finished .500 since 2003, and hasn't had a winning season since 1995. But the Muskies beat the three teams below them, and return OAC first-team LB Chaney Fulton and P Sam Green along with second-team OL Sam Lucas and Dorian Maynard. They're not finishing in the bottom third, and they might even improve.
Capital returns second-team RB Brent Walton, but they're a long, long way from their mid-00s peak which saw a five year stretch where the Crusaders went 44-13 and earned two playoff bids. Capital might even slide into ninth place this fall.
Marietta briefly flirted with mediocrity a decade ago, but since 2007 the Pioneers have posted a 16-64 record, 11-60 in conference. Second-team DL Joe Ortega returns, but that's not going to help much.
Wilmington is so hopeless that they received 30 points on 27 ballots in the media poll, less than 40% of Marietta's total. Not a single player was named All-OAC, not even second-team. The Quakers have floundered to a 2-58 record over the last six seasons, including a current 23-game losing streak, and their last winning season was a 7-3 run in 2000, the first year of their current tenure in the OAC.
Game of the year: The smartass answer is Mount Union vs. someone in the Stagg Bowl. But that's not a guaranteed date on the schedule, and one of these days the Purple Raiders are going to get bushwhacked by someone in the playoffs. Presumably. The final game of the regular season, however, sees the Raiders visiting John Carroll. The likelihood of both teams being 9-0 and the conference title on the line is pretty high.
Northwest Conference Preview
|2014 Standings and Info|
|3||Linfield College Wildcats||McMinnville OR||6-1||11-2|
|Pacific University Boxers||Forest Grove OR||6-1||6-3|
|rv||Pacific Lutheran University Lutes||Tacoma WA||5-2||7-2|
|Whitworth University Pirates||Spokane WA||4-3||6-4|
|Willamette University Bearcats||Salem OR||3-4||5-4|
|University of Puget Sound Loggers||Tacoma WA||1-6||1-8|
|Lewis and Clark College Pioneers||Portland OR||0-7||0-9|
Although Linfield remained in their customary position atop the standings, things got a little topsy-turvy in the Northwest last year. Pacific, in only their fifth year back on the gridiron after halting football back in 1990, found themselves playing for the conference title on the season's final weekend, while Willamette slid down the standings. Linfield was once again unable to repeat their 2005 magic, falling 20-14 in the national semifinals at Whitewater. It's the second time Linfield has lost to Whitewater in the semis, the first in 2009.
Linfield has won four national championships -- the NCAA Division III title in 2004, and three NAIA titles in the 1980s. The Wildcats have not had a losing record since 1955, the longest such streak in the history college football. It's an amazing feat; three teams are tied for second on that list with only 42-year streaks: Harvard (1881-1923), Notre Dame (1889-1932), and Central, Iowa (1961-2002). (Florida State has the longest current streak in FBS, going back to 1977.)
The Tigers had a 38-game conference (and 41-game regular-season) winning streak snapped last year when they lost 31-28 to Willamette on November 1. That loss cost the Wildcats dearly, as it sent them on the road through much of the playoffs, where the grind finally caught up to them at Whitewater.
Joe Smith, entering his 10th year, won the d3football.com Coach of the Year award, while returning DE Alex Hoff was a first-team All-American and NWC Defensive Player of the Year. NWC first-team OL Eric Pitassi, P Kevin McClean, and DB Kyle Belcher return, as does QB Sam Riddle, who received honorable mention. Losses are heavy, though. Third-team All-American center Jeremy Patrick has graduated, as have three honorable mention selections: OL Steven Schultz, DL Jeremy Girod, and DB Jordan Giza. All were first-team NWC selections, as were departing WR Charlie Poppen, LBs Mike Nardoni and Westly Meng, and second-teamers OL Owen Fritz and DL Trey Farber. Linfield has always reloaded, though; that's how you win six straight conference titles and a dozen this century.
Pacific (OR) returned to football with an unsurprising 0-10 season in 2010. They've improved each year, although their overall record slipped by half a game last year; they doubled their conference win total from 2013, though, so they'll call it a win. The dream came crashing down on the final weekend of the season when the Boxers absorbed a 59-0 beatdown at Linfield. The senior class responsible for this steady improvement was well-represented on the All-NWC teams, with three members on both the first and second teams. Those six players are all gone now, obviously. Returning are first-teamers DL Jeff Bajema and LB Jack Perez and second-teamer RB Kamana Pimental. The top of the Northwest is tough, and several wins last year were close. With the losses, Pacific can expect to regress.
Pacific Lutheran had their customary season; a loss to Linfield, and a loss to someone else -- although usually that someone else is a team from California in the non-conference slate. The Lutes lose first-team QB Dalton Ritchey, RB Niko Madison, WR Kyle Warner, OL Tevon Stephens-Brown, and DB Greg Hibbard along with five second-team selections; not one of their honorees returns in 2015. That could spell trouble.
Whitworth won the conference in 2006 and 2007 when Linfield was in a lull, but they've fallen back to painfully average since, though their first season under new head coach Rod Sandberg was an improvement. Although first-team WR Drew Clausen has graduated, three others return: WR Connor Williams, OL Kyle Cosby, and DL Danny Weistad. The Pirates aren't going to challenge Linfield, but they may be able to overtake everyone else.
Willamette seems to run in four-year cycles, and if that's the case 2015 could be the bottom of the current one. (That's good news for 2016, if true, as the cycles always start with a big season and then lurch downhill.) Gone are first-team All-American LB Jack Nelson and second-team RB (and NWC Offensive Player of the Year) Dylan Jones as well as the team's other first-team All-NWC pick OL Ryan Springer. A pair of second-teamers also graduated, but the Bearcats do have WR Ryan Foote, LB Jimmy Roberts, and the league's unofficial top freshman DL Benjamin Jahn returning.
Puget Sound took a giant leap forward last year, winning four games after only winning three in the previous five seasons. Their progress was not at all reflected on the conference first-team, but WR Kevin Miller, OL Reid Hartmann, and K/P Sawyer Petre return from the second team. The bad news: three seniors on the defensive side of the ball were also on the second team, but then defense wasn't the Loggers' forte in 2014.
George Fox reinstated football last season, and things went about as you'd expect. Charles Riga made the NWC second team as a freshman. Although the Bruins avoided the cellar in year one, they may be headed there in 2015.
Lewis & Clark was horrible in the mid-00s, beginning with a 1-8 2004 campaign and the 2005 season which saw the Pioneers cancel their conference schedule. A pair of 0-9 years welcomed L&C back to the conference, but by 2011 things were looking up. The Pioneers went 7-2 that year. They've rolled off the cliff since, culminating in another winless slate last year. The cupboard is bare in terms of returning all-conference talent, but the Pioneers dropped a bomb in December: they hired Jay Locey as head coach. Locey was Joe Smith's predecessor at Linfield, the head coach of their 2004 national championship squad, and the AFCA D-III Coach of the Year that season. Locey returns to the D-III sidelines after spending several years at Oregon State, where he was assistant head coach to Mike Riley for a time as well as Chief of Staff (aka Director of Football Operations). It may not happen this year, but watch out: Lewis & Clark is going to be on the rise.
Game of the year: We tabbed it as the SCIAC game of the year as well: Chapman's visit to Linfield on September 12 as the two west coast conference champions collide.
More mailbag stuff, and previews of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference and the North Coast Athletic Conference.