Kansas State tries to stay focused
By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
That mentality has carried over to today’s brand of college football. If your team isn’t involved in the national title race, then the season is a lost cause. Or at least it feels that way.
In some respects, the glory of competing for or winning a conference championship is either ignored, de-valued or unsatisfying.
That’s what Kansas State coach Bill Snyder doesn’t understand. His team is ranked No. 2 in the BCS poll behind Alabama. But hey, don’t worry that the Wildcats are trying to win the Big 12 first. While the Wildcats are in control of the conference race, Snyder doesn’t even want his team to think about that let alone Jan. 7 in Miami.
“It’s my belief that if that is what we are thinking about, we are getting ahead of ourselves,’’ Snyder said. “If there is anything else on my mind or the coaches’ and players’ minds, we are setting ourselves up.’’
The Wildcats have mirrored Snyder in that they have been gracious in victory and pretty singularly focused. You don’t score 55 points in consecutive weeks against West Virginia and Texas Tech because you thought you were ready to go to South Beach.
Obviously, you have to win a conference championship in order to contend for a BCS bowl game. There have been exceptions in the past. Plus, the Wildcats still have some challenges in front of them. Following Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma State, they play on the road at TCU and at Baylor before finishing at home against Texas on Dec. 1
“A conference title is very important to us,’’ sophomore wide receiver Curry Sexton said. “But obviously, in the Big 12 Conference, there is no easy game. We cannot overlook anyone.’’
National media stories have covered the Cats from how Snyder has a unique connection with the city of Manhattan – and he does – to the life and times of quarterback Collin Klein. That comes with winning.
But before any of that means something, beating the Cowboys Saturday night comes first.
There is a parallel between Kansas State and Oklahoma State. In 2011, The Cowboys were marching toward their first outright conference championship in school history and had to fight off a very determined Kansas State squad, 52-45, in Stillwater. It helped propel them to their first BCS bowl appearance.
Now, the Wildcats have a big task against the Cowboys who are dangerous and quietly playing very well on defense.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy wanted his team to understand the value of reaching one goal before pursuing another. That’s what Snyder is doing.
“We talked about understanding how big a conference championship is, although there’s not the buildup for it,’’ Gundy said. “Until you win a conference championship, you can’t win the whole thing. I know it’s been done the other way before but winning a conference championship means a lot.’’
BIG 12 WEEKEND
A look at the upcoming weekend action involving the Big 12 along with their TV listings. All times are Central. All rankings are BCS.
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA. (ABC)
What to Watch: We’ll see how the Sooners bounce back from the disappointing outing last week against Notre Dame. While BCS hopes are nearly gone, they are still in the middle of the conference championship race. If they win out, they can finish the regular season with 10 wins. Running back Damien Williams has rushed for only 73 yards in the last 10 games. The Cyclones are one win away from bowl eligibility. They last won in this series in 1990, 33-31.
2:00 p.m. Saturday, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV. (FX)
What to Watch: This is the first meeting between the Big 12’s newest schools. The Horned Frogs are dealing with several injuries, including quarterback Trevone Boykin (knee), running back Matthew Tucker (high ankle sprain) and defensive end Stansly Maponga (foot). Maponga hasn’t played the last two games and could be that he might be out for the season. Following the bye, the Mountaineers are trying to recover from a 55-14 home thrashing to Kansas State. While QB Geno Smith struggled (143 yards, 2 INTs), the running game averaged 3.1 yards per carry.
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Floyd Casey Stadium Waco (FSN)
What to Watch: Freshman quarterback Michael Cummings remains the starter. But the Jayhawks will try to pound the football with James Sims, who is the first Kansas running back to rush for 100 yards in four consecutive games since 1991. The Bears are still last in the country in total defense at 553.7 yards per game. Baylor is also last in the Big 12 in turnover ratio at minus 5.
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock (ABC)
What to Watch: The Longhorns have won 37 of their last 44 Big 12 road games and are 2-0 on the road in the conference this year. True freshman running back Johnathan Gray, who had his first 100-yard game last week, starts this week. There’s some irony because Gray’s father James was an all-SWC running back for Texas Tech in the late 1980s. The Red Raiders are trying to rebound from last week’s disappointment at Kansas State. Tech has the conference’s third-best rushing defense at 121.2 yards per game.
7:00 p.m. Saturday, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS. (ABC)
What to Watch: The Cowboys control their fate in the conference race. If they beat the Wildcats and win out, they would have a firm shot at a BCS bid. But there’s a long way to go. The good news is that freshman QB Wes Lunt came through the win over TCU without any issues since he is dealing with a knee injury. The Wildcats are off to their third 8-0 start in school history. They are 41-of-46 in the red zone this season.
BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS
Each week, RattleandHumSports unveils its weekly power rankings. Agree or disagree, these make for great water cooler talk.
1. Kansas State – The Wildcats lead the conference in scoring at 44.4 points per game.
2. Oklahoma – Bob Stoops response to fans who want Landry Jones removed? “They’re not very smart.’’
3. Texas Tech – Red Raiders minus 4 in the turnover ratio.
4. West Virginia – Mountaineers only 8-3 at home under Dana Holgorsen.
5. Oklahoma State – Defense has allowed only four TDs in the last three games.
6. Texas – Quarterbacks have been sacked only seven times.
7. Iowa State – Cyclones have beaten Oklahoma five times in 76 tries.
8. TCU – Freshman B.J. Catalon is the leading rusher with only 382 yards.
9. Baylor – Bears have played only one home game in the last six weeks.
10. Kansas – Jayhawks control the clock averaging 32:35 in time of possession.
NEWS & TRENDS
Where are the turnovers?
While Texas Tech’s defense has experienced a remarkable turnaround under Art Kaufman (300.0 ypg), the one drawback – and it’s a bit nitpicking here – is that this unit isn’t generating turnovers.
So far, the Red Raider defense has collected only three fumbles and seven interceptions. Tech is minus four in the turnover ratio, eighth in the Big 12.
“We have to make sure we go out there and tug on the ball,” Tech safety D.J. Johnson told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “We’re aggressive making tackles and aggressive going towards the ball, but we’re not aggressive when we’re at the ball.”
In fact, losing the turnover battle proved costly in the Red Raiders two Big 12 losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State. They turned it over six times and got only one back.
That’s going to be important against Texas because the Longhorns are second in the conference in turnover ratio at plus 6. Yet Texas coach Mack Brown has been impressed by the Red Raiders on defense.
“They’ve probably got the best turnaround on defense I’ve ever seen,” Brown said. “They’re doing things I haven’t seen Texas Tech do in many, many years.”
Lone Star Pride Uniforms
The uniforms are red with blue shoulders with the Texas flag outlined in a star. Those same stars are on the socks and the shoes.
OSU’s Moore in limbo
This season has been forgettable for Oklahoma State wide receiver. First, he was suspended for the season opener against Savannah State for a violation of team rules. Moore has endured three different incidents with police in a six-month period.
But he hasn’t played since the 20-14 win at Kansas on Oct. 13 because of ankle injury. So it’s unknown if Moore will even return this season.
“I don’t know,” coach Mike Gundy told the media this week. “I thought they were actually going to do surgery, and now they’ve backed up on that and said that he didn’t need it. I don’t know.
“He’s got one of those injuries that they put in a boot and take him out every five days and they test whatever it is they test, and then they either move him to the next stage or put him back in a boot. He was in a cast for a while. Tough deal.”
If Moore is done for the season, he could seek a medical redshirt.
More defensive issues
Usually, that headline would apply to Baylor or Texas. But West Virginia has suffered mightily this season.
Surrendering 114 points to Texas Tech and Kansas State, being ranked last in the NCAA in pass defense at 360.0 ypg and ninth in the Big 12 in total defense at 493.7 has this coaching staff very worried.
“Defensively, we have to get better at everything we do,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “…We have tried to cover some areas up. Within our defensive scheme, there are different coverages and blitzes. If it doesn’t work, we can go to another one. It is a multiple defense. We mix things up, but it ultimately comes down to execution.”
What’s even more troubling is that the Mountaineers are having trouble getting opponents off the field. The defense is ninth in opponent third-down conversions (51.7) and fourth-down conversions (57.1).
However, it might be a bit premature to speculate whether first-year defensive coordinator Joe DeForest’s job is in jeopardy.
BY THE NUMBER
Baylor WR Terrance Williams’ receiving yards, which leads all FBS schools