Kansas State Wildcats 16 Jesse Ertz runs into the endzone for score against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter of NCAA college football game, Saturday, October 22, 2016 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 21 Kansas State

Posted July 9th, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 21 Kansas State (Related coverage: Is Sean Snyder back in play as next coach?)

Best-case scenario: Bill Snyder’s offense, which leans heavily on the gritty running ability of its quarterback, thrives under Jesse Ertz. But a difference-making season would need sophomore tailback Alex Barnes to continue to excel and Byron Pringle to emerge as a star at receiver and returner.

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Worst-case scenario: A repeat of 2015? That’s when K-State was so injury-riddled at quarterback they had to turn to a receiver, who was fourth string. Ertz suffered a season-ending knee injury after the first series of the 2015 season opener and he missed all of spring drills this year because of shoulder surgery.

The key game: Oct. 7, at Texas. The Wildcats will be in the midst of a Texas schedule swing; this road game is sandwiched between home contests against Baylor and TCU. Both the Longhorns and Kansas State are considered darkhorses for a Big 12 title. The Wildcats could catch UT looking ahead to Oklahoma.

INSIDE THE WILDCATS

Coach: Bill Snyder (26th season, 202-105-1 in two stints at Kansas State)

2016: 9-4, 6-3 in the Big 12 (beat Texas A&M 33-28 in the Texas Bowl)

Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense

Goodbye: DE Jordan Willis (Bengals, 3rd round), DB Elijah Lee (Vikings, 7th), LB/S Dante Barnett (Broncos, undrafted free agent), WR Deante Burton (Falcons, UFA), OL Terrale Johnson, WR Corey Sutton (transferred, Appalachian State)

Spring cleaning: Snyder was diagnosed with throat cancer and started undergoing treatment in January. He was back on the sidelines for spring practice. Snyder shook up his staff. He hired former star Collin Klein, a 2012 Heisman finalist, to coach quarterbacks and Jon Fabris, one of Snyder’s top assistants in 1997-98, to return to coach defensive ends.

MANHATTAN, KS – NOVEMBER 05: Head coach Bill Snyder of the Kansas State Wildcats walks off the field after warm-ups prior to the game against the Baylor Bears at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium on November 5, 2015 in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Jesse Ertz, 152-264-1,755, 9/4

Rushing: QB Jesse Ertz, 183-1,012-12 (1st)

Receiving: Dominique Heath, 45-438-3 (1st); Byron Pringle, 39-631-4 (2nd)

Tackles: DB D.J. Reed, 75 (T-2nd)

Sacks: DE Reggie Walker, 6.5 (2nd)

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE (5)

Offense: FB Winston Dimel (1st team), OL Dalton Risner (1st), RET Byron Pringle (1st)

Defense: DB D.J. Reed (1st team, defensive newcomer of the year), DE Reggie Walker (defensive freshman of the year)

Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas (7) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas State wide receiver Byron Pringle (9) but is called for pass interference in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Oklahoma won 38-17. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

KANSAS STATE: FYI

Getting defensive: Kansas State would really like its defense to be at least as effective as it was a year ago. The Wildcats limited 11 of their 13 opponents to fewer points than they’d been averaging per game. The total average difference was 14.3 points.

Familiar faces: K-State’s 14 returning starters have a combined 179 starts. That’s the most for a Snyder-coached team since 1998. Consider that in 1998, the Wildcats won their first 11 games and rose to No. 2 in the country.

Consistent QB: Ertz has never been described as flashy. But he’s solid. He threw for 1,755 yards and rushed for 1,012 last season. Only three other quarterbacks achieved 1,000 yards in both rushing and throwing — Heisman winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville, South Florida’s Quinton Flowers and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald.

Kansas State's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2Central Arkansas
Sept. 9Charlotte
Sept. 16at Vanderbilt
Sept. 30Baylor*W, 42-21
Oct. 7at Texas*W, 24-21
Oct. 14TCU*W, 30-6
Oct. 21Oklahoma*L, 38-17
Oct. 28at Kansas*W, 34-19)
Nov. 4at Texas Tech*W, 44-38
Nov. 11West Virginia*L, 17-16
Nov. 18at Oklahoma State*L, 43-37
Nov. 25Iowa State*W, 31-26
* Big 12 game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL43-22 (29-16)2-3 in bowls
201211-2 (8-1)22nd/12thL Fiesta
20138-5 (5-4)NR/NRW Buff. Wild Wings
20149-4 (7-2)20th/11thL Alamo
20156-7 (3-6)NR/NRL Liberty
20169-4 (6-3)NR/NRW Texas

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

2016 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 45th (32.2)

Points allowed: 25th (22.3)

Passing: 116th (157.0)

Rushing: 22nd (231.8)

Total off.: 83rd (388.8)

Total def.: 51st (387.7)

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Coming Tuesday. Want a hint? This school has produced two Heisman Trophy winners, both quarterbacks.

BY CONFERENCE

2: Big 12 (21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)

1: Mountain West (25-Boise State); Pac-12 (24-Oregon); SEC (23-Tennessee)

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