Hey y’all, based on the weather, I fear the end is near. I can feel my thin southern blood freezing in my veins despite my attempts to maintain my core temperature. As one of my last acts on this cold, frozen earth, I thought I might give you a run down and some quick thoughts on the football schedule because I doubt I’ll survive the next few days.
Also, yes, as an English major, I might be the slightest bit melodramatic.
2021 Football Schedule
September 4 - vs Stanford (in Arlington)
Outside of the Game
I’ll start with a game that has my fellow Bring on the Cats writers blood boiling. I wish I had strong thoughts on this, because of my aforementioned frozen blood, but I can’t muster the same righteous indignation (although I get where they are coming from).
The timing of this neutral site game sucks. The local businesses in Manhattan have taken it on the chin for over a year, and an influx of (hopefully...dear God please) post pandemic football cash is much needed. If this game was moved to Arlington two or three years ago, I’m not sure it registers the same level of acrimony. At the same time, it wasn’t moved two or three years ago, it was moved in 2021 and I hate it for the community (which I am a member of).
At the same time, I get it from a purely football prospective. The athletic department has also taken a major hit, and the guarantee of quick cash was an offer too good to pass up. Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t about recruiting, building a national profile, or any other such nonsense. This is purely a cash grab, and anyone saying differently is lying to you. Cash, despite being the root of all evil, is still vital to a functioning athletic department.
My alma mater, Clemson, did the same thing (granted they announced it before this global pandemic) to start the season. They cancelled a layup home game for sacks full of cash to play Georgia in Charlotte to open the season. That leaves my Tigers with six home games next year (one less than K-State). Clemson (the town) is almost a mirror image of Manhattan (except set in the foot hills of the Blueridge Mountains instead of in the Flint Hills) and business are hurting as well. It sucks, but I get the move because Clemson needs an influx of cash to keep the athletic department fires stoked.
It is what it is at this point. Fans and business’s have a right to be pissed, and the athletic department has a right to shrug, say sorry, and point at pallets of cash. My only advise for people (such as myself) concerned about local business is to come out in full force the next week and go all out. I’m talking full on gluttony. Show up early, with a fat wallet and leave late with some good memories and no clear plan on how to pay the mortgage (y’all are industrious Midwesterners, I’m sure you’ll figure it out, even if you have to dig up one of your “just in case” Folgers cans full of cash you buried under the tree in the back yard).
On to the game
Stanford won four out of their six games last season. That’s a big improvement from winning four of the twelve games they won the previous season. Quarterback Davis Mills was a big part of that turn around, but he’s heading to the NFL. The Cardinal will be breaking in a new quarterback, and to make matters worth, All-American tackle Walker Little is also heading to the NFL (but he opted out of the 2020 season, so they can win without him).
This will be an interesting battle of two teams built on similar foundations. David Shaw wants to run the ball behind a mammoth offensive line and use that to set up the play action pass. Coach Klieman wants to do the exact same thing.
I’m not making predictions in this post, but I think this will be a highly competitive game that hinges on the Wildcats ability to hold up in the trenches on defense.
September 11th vs Southern Illinois
This should be the first home game back with fans, and I expect The Bill (can I call it that?) to be bursting at the seams. If you’re interested in scouting the Salukis, they start play on February 20th against North Dakota.
Like I said, I’m not making predictions, and FCS Southern Illinois is usually a solid program, but I like the Wildcats chances with a veteran offense led by Skylar Thompson and Deuce Vaughn.
My main concern is seeing all of you mostly beautiful (some of you are more handsome and rugged) people in Manhattan. I will be practicing the Wabash Cannonball in my living room in preparation for what I hope is a return to somewhat normalcy. I’ve got a new portable, propane powered pizza oven capable of pumping out pies and wings in under a minute and I’m dying to try it out under live fire at a tailgate.
I’ve got big plans folks.
September 18th vs Nevada
Circle this game, because Nevada, in my opinion, could be a tougher game than Stanford. Jay Norvell won’t be in Reno long after going 7-2 in 2020 behind stellar Sophomore quarterback Carson Strong. I think Norvell has this season marked down as his “time to get paid” year and Strong will be looking to impress the NFL. Last season Strong completed 70% of his passes, threw for 2858 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only four interceptions.
On top of Strong’s...ahem...strong arm, Toa Taua is a sawed of stump of a running back at 5’9, 210 pounds and is not a fun dude to try and tackle. He averaged almost six yards a carry last season, and once he starts rolling, he’s a hard man to stop. This will be a true test for the K-State defense and they’re going to need Skylar and company to bring their “A” game, because I don’t think you can beat Nevada without scoring 30+ points and their defense wasn’t too shabby last year either, giving up 23.3 points a game against admittedly poor competition.
Southern Illinois is all about celebrating the return of football to Manhattan. Nevada is about celebrating the return of edge of your seat, gut wrenching, teeth grinding football back to Manhattan.
The preseason slate is tough but manageable. 3-0 against two quality opponents would get 2021 off to a rousing start, but a 2-1 start wouldn’t be the end of the world. 1-2, on the other hand, would be bad...real bad, but let’s not consider that possibility.
Stay warm and stay alive...the sun will find us again.