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Big 12's surprise teams clash in Manhattan

Kansas State and Texas Tech's seasons haven't gone at all like most thought they would back in August.

The Wildcats and Red Raiders couldn't be happier about it.

K-State, the Big 12's second-place finishers a year ago, were picked to finish sixth this year, behind two teams in TCU and West Virginia that had never even played a down in the league.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, was slummin' it in the basement, picked to finish above only Kansas, who won two games in 2011.

On Saturday, if the Red Raiders knock off No. 3 Kansas State, the Big 12 will have a whole new look. Both teams will be tied for first in the league.

"We're playing better on both sides of the ball. Last year we were onesided," coach Tommy Tuberville told reporters this week. "As you all know, we couldn't stop anybody."

That's not the case this year. Texas Tech's defense is one of the Big 12's big surprises, leading the league in total defense and sitting in seventh nationally.

"Everything that he's worked for and everything that he's trying to put into place is finally starting to come together. Whatever he envisioned for this program when he took his job, I think is finally being put into place," quarterback Seth Doege said.

With a win, Doege might find himself on the short list for the Heisman Trophy, too.

"He's finally gotten the coaches that he wants. He finally has a group of seniors that can take over. I think that's a huge thing for this program," Doege said. "And I think it's starting to show."

For Kansas State, the new challenge is winning games it has convinced the rest of the nation it can--and should--win. The Wildcats have won road games against West Virginia and Oklahoma this season, and were a 14-point underdog against the Sooners.

"Coach Snyder does a great job of emphasizing to us to continue to focus on everything it takes get to where we are and where we would like to be," linebacker Arthur Brown said, "so really it’s just keeping the focus on preparation leading up to each game."

The rest of the way, K-State will be favored and likely the better team.

"All young people read and watch and get on the cyberspace stuff. It doesn’t do any good to take that away from them and it’s not my intent to do that. I think our intent is just to brand the message that it really is day by day and however they’re thought of externally is not a major factor for us," coach Bill Snyder said. "The important thing for us is how we prepare today. Today is going to be the most important day and tomorrow will also take on that role when the time comes."

Snyder's been here before, but this could be his chance to capture the national title that eluded him in 1998. That run ended in an improbable upset in the Big 12 title game against Texas A&M. It'll take another to knock off the Wildcats, but avoiding it isn't complex.

"It’s about us and how we prepare and how we play," Snyder said. "Nothing more or less than that."