Projected record: 9-3, 6-3 Big 12 (third)
2013 record: 8-5, 5-4 Big 12 (fifth)
Key starters lost: WR Tramaine Thompson, LT Cornelius Lucas, SS Ty Zimmerman, RT Tavon Rooks, RB John Hubert, LB Blake Slaughter.
Key starters returning: QB Jake Waters, DE Ryan Mueller, WR Tyler Lockett, C B.J. Finney, LT Cody Whitehair, DB Randall Evans, LB Jonathan Truman.
Leading the charge: Kansas State quarterbacks traditionally show major improvement after they have been on the field for an entire season, and Bill Snyder traditionally gets major results out of his teams when they are led by a returning starter. Senior quarterback Jake Waters has the talent and experience to continue that trend, especially with star receiver Tyler Lockett to throw to. With Ryan Mueller leading the charge on defense, the Wildcats have some major star power.
Potential roadblocks: Even pass-first teams need a running game to keep defenses honest. Who will step up and provide help in K-State’s backfield? There is no proven option after the departure of John Hubert. Charles Jones, DeMarcus Robinson, Jarvis Leverett and fullback Glenn Gronkowski may all split snaps. Rushing yards could be hard to come by if the offensive line is slow to replace the loss of two starters. Ty Zimmerman’s leadership will also be difficult to replace on defense.
End result: K-State has the talent to surpass last season’s victory total and play in a quality bowl game. But it will need big contributions from unproven sources to challenge for a Big 12 championship. An early nonconference game against Auburn, plus road trips to Oklahoma and Baylor, make for a difficult schedule. Still, nine or 10 victories will be the expectation.
Stephen F. Austin
at Iowa State
at West Virginia
| Projections by The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff