NCF Nation: Michael Bishop
On to your mail!
Eric in Manhattan, Kan. writes: Come on David...K-State won't be upset by Iowa State. We know this is our trap game, as it's always been a nail biter game the last 3 years at least. Also we know those games haven't been played in Ames. No coach, player, or fan knows not to look past ISU. Because it's always a great game and full of tension. Both teams are getting better every year, but K-State at a faster pace. The team trifecta of Snyder, Klein, and Brown won't let the rest get too far ahead and keep us focused.
David Ubben: For me, this has nothing to do with Kansas State overlooking Iowa State. It's more about matchups. Iowa State's got a great defense, but its strengths are tackling and pursuit at linebacker, and that's what you've got to do to slow down Kansas State. Stop Collin Klein from getting easy yards and swarm to the ball. Iowa State does that well, and loves to play slower, lower-scoring games. It wins in those positions. When Iowa State holds opponents to under 24 points, Paul Rhoads is 19-1.
Iowa State's a good team, too, and playing well enough to beat K-State. It's not about focus or a lack thereof. It's a matter of Iowa State being a good team in good position to knock off the Wildcats. I picked K-State, but it's going to be close.
Steven in Iowa writes: You said you don't think ISU is a top 25 team. Do they have a top 25 D?
DU: I most definitely do. The secondary is way underrated, and I loved what Jacques Washington has done to this point. Jake Knott and A.J. Klein? There's not much to even say about those two. As good as any linebacker in the Big 12, though I might lean Arthur Brown.
The defensive line doesn't have a lot of freaks, but Jake McDonough and Roosevelt Maggitt have been fantastic. For my money, Iowa State may well end up the best defense in the Big 12. You can make a case for the Cyclones right now, and there's not a defense in the league that's been demonstrably better.
Michael Bay in Ames, Iowa writes: Coming soon...TransFarmers: Rhodesbots in disguise.Optimus Klein, IronSnyde, and the rest of the Autocats once again take on Sentinal Klein, WashingTron, and the Deceptaclones....Will the win go to the Autocats since they are on the side of the light? Or can the Deceptaclones rewrite classic story formats everywhere? We will find out Saturday in the battle on CYbertron.
DU: Oh man, this was the best e-mail I got all week. Love my readers only slightly more than the Transformers trilogy. Best trilogy since Spy Kids.
Jay in Kansas City, Mo. writes: Does K-State's style of play and program make it the natural born enemy of teams like WVU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech and is it one of the reason why K-state went deep last year and is undefeated this year?
DU: To some degree, but I really love it. Kansas State is basically the antithesis of all things Big 12. Bill Snyder has watched the points explosion around the rest of the league and shrugged. His offense doesn't look a whole lot different than it did all the way back in 1998 with Michael Bishop. Can anybody else in the Big 12 say that?
It's one thing to not change. It's another to not change and still win. Snyder's done that.
In the process, you'll always hear Big 12 coaches talk about how difficult it is to prepare for Kansas State's offense. It's complex, it's full of misdirection and it's unlike anything you'll see in the rest of the league. Teams see the spread pretty often in practice.
When Baylor goes over and plays Oklahoma State or West Virginia goes and plays Texas Tech, preparation's not all that difficult. Teams see it in practice every day. But Kansas State? That's a whole different challenge for defenses that are most often built to stop the spread.
No doubt that's a big part of Kansas State's recent success, too. It does things differently and do it well, and always provide a tough matchup.
Eric in Arkansas writes: David,I am starting to hear the engine starting about how the B12 champ will be at a disadvantage due to no conference title game. I dont remember hearing any of this when the B10 or P12 didnt have a title game. I feel that the round robin schedule more than makes up for not having a title game. What say you?
DU: I don't hear that or buy that at all. Look at it this way: If you're playing in the Big 12, you're going to play nine league games, period. So will the SEC and the Big Ten. However, you're guaranteed to play a good team in that ninth game, maybe somebody you've already played. In the Big 12, it's just another conference game.
In the Pac-12, you have to play 10 conference games to reach the national title game, nine league games and a league title game. That's obviously more difficult.
History has shown us the Big 12 title game doesn't really ever propel teams into the national title game. Far more often (four times in Big 12 history, actually), it's cost a team a shot at the national title. The league is strong enough where schedule isn't an issue, and now, coaches don't have to worry about a major hurdle in the last week of the season, perhaps one they've already cleared.
There's no question: The Big 12's schedule, compared to the rest of the leagues, makes it easier to reach the national title game.
Alex in Plano, Texas writes: Is Nick Florence the most underrated QB in the nation? He currently leads the nation in total offense and yet gets no mention anywhere. Thanks!
DU: Yeah, I'd buy it. The biggest reason is probably a) he still plays for Baylor, who despite RG3's best efforts a year ago, isn't a national brand and b) Baylor's not in the top 25.
It'll take a long while to change a), but b) is a little ridiculous, considering the Bears' only loss is by seven points on the road against a top-five team. I had Baylor at No. 22 on my last top 25 poll.
Florence has been outstanding to this point. His decision-making keeps getting better, and he clearly has a mastery of Baylor's offense. He doesn't have the big arm or the sprinter's legs of RG3, but he can play quarterback at a high level, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a great shot in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The game-clad figure in purple and white jumps out from the billboards along the Kansas prairie, standing apart from the notices for truck stops, ice cream parlors and outlet malls.
The image of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder can be found at several locations along Interstate 70, pointing across expanses of the Sunflower State as he seemingly implores motorists to get out of their cars to hurry into game action.
|John Rieger/US Presswire|
|Bill Snyder knows he has his work cut out for him at Kansas State.|
While Snyder says he's uncomfortable with becoming such a front-and-center symbol of the school's intended resurgence, it's understandable why he has become spotlighted so much since his return.
"I'm not a big fan of that," Snyder said. "This is about a program and not Bill Snyder. But maybe I'm in a position where I can help smooth the waters. I'd like to think I could do it without my face being all over billboards. It's not appropriate, because it's never been about Bill Snyder. I'm just a part of it."
On the school's Web site, Snyder's return has been given a prominent constant presence. An advertisement for season tickets harkens that "the Hall of Fame can wait" and "the tradition continues" with Snyder's return to bring the Wildcat program back from its recent doldrums.
As fans and players exit Interstate 70 and head to Manhattan, they turn onto the Bill Snyder Highway. And when they arrive in Manhattan the focal point of the campus is where the Wildcats play their games -- the Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
But even with that exalted status after his legendary career, Snyder was restless during retirement. Those concerns led him to return to coaching after a three-year sabbatical, eager to resume coaching with another challenging rebuilding job facing him.
It won't be easy. When asked about where the Wildcat program is and where he wants it to eventually be, Snyder has a succinct answer.
"I can't see there from here." Snyder said. "It's a long ways from where I would like it to be."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It remains one of the most memorable football games in the Big 12's short history.
Back in 1998, the facility in St. Louis still was known as the The Trans World Airlines Dome. And the conference's championship game there was as good as any I have ever seen.
Kansas State was playing for a shot at the national championship game. And that became a tangible goal when Miami upset UCLA midway through the game, opening that opportunity for the Wildcats.
With players like Michael Bishop, Mark Simoneau, Darren Howard, David Allen and Travis Ochs, that KSU team was loaded. But somebody forgot to tell the underdog Texas A&M Aggies and particularly backup quarterback Branndon Stewart.
The Aggies stormed back to claim victory in overtime when Sirr Parker scored on a game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass from Stewart. I still think I can hear A&M play-by-play announcer Dave South's call ringing in my ears from that play.
But what a difference nearly 10 years makes. The matchup Saturday at Kyle Field between the Aggies and Wildcats might be between the two worst teams in the Big 12. Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News does a nice job of tracking down some former A&M players for their recollections of the title game.
There are a couple of reasons why both schools have fallen on hard times. The departure of legendary KSU coach Bill Snyder has been the major explanation of why the Wildcats haven't been able to consistently continue success in recent seasons. KSU won a Big 12 title with Snyder in 2003, but have been to only one bowl game under Ron Prince. And it might be a stretch for them to make another bowl trip this season.
And A&M's slide can be best explained by the emergence of national-caliber programs at both Texas and Oklahoma in the years since then. And in retrospect, the firing of R.C. Slocum might have been a tad hasty. Slocum remains the only A&M coach to lead his team to a Big 12 football championship -- or a title game for that matter.
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