We're taking a look back at what we thought the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team were in August, and how it shook out now that January has arrived.
Best case: 10-2, with losses to Nebraska and Texas.
Worst case: 5-7, with wins over Missouri State, North Texas, UCF, Iowa State and Colorado.
Reality: Kansas State finished 7-6 and third in the Big 12 North, right where I picked them in the preseason. The Wildcats did about what I expected, without any truly impressive wins, but without any embarrassing losses. K-State's worst loss was against Colorado, but the Buffaloes were a renewed team under interim coach Brian Cabral and no Big 12 road game is a sure thing. Ask the Buffs. They gave Kansas their only conference win of the season, certainly in part because the game was in Lawrence.
Analysis: The Wildcats really were who we thought they were in 2010: Daniel Thomas and Co. The win over UCF early in the season was K-State's only close victory with Thomas under 100 yards, and he added 91 yards in a 59-7 win over Kansas. Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado all shut him down and held him under 70 yards. All three beat the Wildcats.
I never understood why people in the preseason were picking K-State to finish fifth or lower in the Big 12 North. Regardless of the status quo among Big 12 offenses, if you're as disciplined as K-State (the Big 12's least-penalized team, one of just 20 nationally to average fewer than five per game) and can run the ball as well as the Wildcats did this year, there's no way they were going to take a step back from 6-6 in 2010. Carson Coffman had to be better, and he was. The same goes for Thomas, who led the Big 12 in rushing for a second consecutive year, but had 320 more yards in 2010 than in 2009 and his yards per carry rose from 5.12 to 5.32.
K-State did it ugly, but they did it. Replacing Thomas will be difficult, but ultimately, new running back transfer Bryce Brown, a Wichita, Kan., native, will have a big say about where the Wildcats fall in their best and worst-case scenarios for 2011.