Second-half outlook: Kansas State

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
12:44
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas State Wildcats

Record: 4-3

Remaining schedule: Colorado, at Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, at Nebraska

The Wildcats have been the surprise of the Big 12 North so far, claiming first place after a roller-coaster first three weeks. How can it get any weirder than beating Iowa State on a blocked conversion, losing by 52 to Texas Tech and beating Texas A&M by 48 the following week? The way the Wildcats responded shows the coaching ability of Bill Snyder, who turned this team around after its earlier embarrassments to point them back to the top. This team does the little things right, ranking seventh nationally in kickoff returns, 17th in turnover margin and 26th in rushing defense. If Brandon Banks can continue his recent kick-returning tear and take some of those big plays over to the offense, the Wildcats could have an offensive weapon who could carry them to a surprise or two. Quarterbacks Grant Gregory and Carson Coffman need to play steadily in the remaining weeks, not making the mistakes that hurt them in the earlier losses. And if the defense can continue its recent run after producing six sacks against Texas A&M, the Wildcats could sneak their way into a bowl. That trip will be more difficult because the Wildcats have to win seven games to qualify this season as they can count only one of their earlier victories over Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech for bowl purposes.

Best-case scenario: Snyder gets his underrated team playing, leading them to upset victories over Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, claiming a bowl berth and setting up a chance for the championship game in their final contest if Nebraska obliges with a loss or two down the stretch. It would be the most deserving coach of the year honors of Snyder's career.

Worst-case scenario: The season turns again as the Wildcats start believing their press clippings and lose to Colorado this week. A tough, physical game follows in Oklahoma followed by three more losses to finish out the season.

My prediction: No bowl, but only because of KSU's schedule. Snyder still has some magic with this team. The Wildcats will notch victories over Colorado and Missouri to finish 6-6. In a normal year, that would get them to a bowl game. But the two FCS opponents keep them away, teaching Snyder a lesson about consuming too many early-season scheduling cream puffs.

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