Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Football predictions and thoughts on the Big 12 preseason poll

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Boy, does that feel good to type after a brief summer hiatus.

Let’s get back to business by diving right into your questions. Thanks, as always, for providing them.

There’s not much to gripe about when it comes to the 2019 Big 12 Preseason Football Poll.

Oklahoma was correctly picked to win the conference. Texas was wisely chosen second. And Kansas smartly locked down last place.

Just about anything could happen between the other seven teams, but, as far as preseason guesses go, this one seems fair. No team look horribly out of place.

The important thing to remember with any preseason poll is that it’s based on what teams have already accomplished and what they look like on paper more than what kind of hidden potential they might have for the upcoming season.

That’s why the four teams with new coaches are at the bottom. No one knew where to rank them beyond that. Texas Tech, West Virginia, K-State and KU are jumbled in the basement. All four teams have roster turnover and new leaders. It’s very hard to separate Texas Tech from West Virginia and K-State right now. You could make a case for each of them to punch above their weight and finish in the top five of the conference standings, just as easily as you could argue each of them will drop below KU and wind up in last.

Maybe K-State deserved to be picked seventh instead of ninth. But that’s the most you can argue for now, is what I’m saying.

Some were surprised to see Iowa State at No. 3, but that’s where the Cyclones deserve to be. Brock Purdy is back at quarterback to lead a team that has been to back-to-back bowls. Matt Campbell has got a good thing going in Ames.

The biggest debate seems to be between TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor. You could rank those three teams in any order from four to six.

For K-State fans, I suppose there is some fear knowing this is the lowest the Wildcats have been picked since the Big 12 became a 10-team league. The Wildcats also haven’t lived up to their spot in the preseason poll the last two seasons.

Of course, the last two times they were picked to finish near the bottom of the league (eighth), they finished second (2011) and fourth (2016). So maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

I never submit a vote for the preseason poll, but this is how I see things going this season.

1. Oklahoma -- Kings until someone knocks off the Sooners.

2. Texas -- Should be a top 10 team this season.

3. Iowa State -- Highest preseason expectations ever for the Cyclones?

4. Baylor -- With a cupcake schedule, don’t be shocked if the Bears flirt with 10 victories.

5. Oklahoma State -- I trust in Mike Gundy.

6. TCU -- Lots of potential here, but QB is a big question mark for the Frogs.

7. West Virginia -- One betting service gave the Mountaineers 12/1 odds to win the conference this week. Not sure why.

8. Kansas State -- Could definitely finish higher, but the roster has holes on paper.

9. Texas Tech -- Can a defensive coach win in Lubbock?

10. Kansas -- Tempted to pick the Jayhawks not last, but ultimately chickened out.

I just went through the entire roster and counted 81 scholarship players. There is probably a small margin for error there, because K-State could have elevated former walk-ons to scholarship status without announcing it to anyone. And my counting isn’t all that great.

But you get the idea. The Wildcats are close to a full assortment of 85 scholarship players and may start the season at that number if new coach Chris Klieman hands out some extra scholarships before the opener.

K-State is not facing a numbers crisis like some transitioning football teams, but that doesn’t mean it is blessed with depth.

The Wildcats have solid backups at certain positions: receiver, defensive line, offensive line.

They also lack proven reserves at other spots: linebacker, corner, quarterback, running back.

Linebacker could be an adventure this season. Without Justin Hughes, the Wildcats are looking at a giant question mark after Da’Quan Patton and Elijah Sullivan. No other linebackers on the roster have playing experience. And everyone at running back is brand new.

Depth won’t necessarily be a negative for K-State next season. If the Wildcats stay relatively healthy, it might not be an issue at all. But it could be reason for concern if the wrong players get hurt.

Dalton Schoen will probably end up carrying the flag as K-State’s top receiver next season.

He might not lead the unit in explosive plays or touchdowns (Wykeen Gill and Malik Knowles will probably top him in those categories), but he has a terrific relationship with quarterback Skylar Thompson and he is a senior leader. Those two things should make him the most consistent target in the passing game. I feel very confident he will lead the team in catches.

Schoen has his limitations, but he caught 32 passes for 520 yards and two touchdowns last season. That’s more than the rest of K-State’s receivers accomplished together.

As for your basketball question ...

Leading scorer: Xavier Sneed. He should make a run at 15-plus points per game as the focal point of this team.

Leading rebounder: Makol Mawien. The Wildcats will rejoice if he can score, too.

Leading passer: David Sloan. The safe pick is probably Cartier Diarra, because he’s in line to take over at point guard. But he’s never been big on assists. Sloan averaged nearly 10 dimes in junior college. I’m going with him.

Wykeen Gill seems poised for a breakout season.

He only has seven catches for 54 yards to his name, but he was a highlight machine during spring practices. Every time I watched the Wildcats go deep, it seemed like he was getting open and making a big-time catch.

It was the same thing two springs ago. He’s ready to contribute.

Offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham likes to keep defenses off balance with the occasional deep ball to speedy receivers. Gill could be his go-to guy next season.

He’s currently a walk-on receiver for the Wildcats, but it’s easy to see him making a name for himself this season.

Anyone who emerges at running back (Jordon Brown, James Gilbert, Clyde Price) will have a shot to do the same.

I also think Wyatt Hubert will have a big season at defensive end, but I’m not sure you can say he’s under the radar.

Someone on our staff will be there to write about Purple & Black while they are playing in Wichita.

Not sure what my work plans are just yet for the final weekend of July, so I can’t say for sure it will be me. But we’ll have them covered.

It would be fun to head down to Wichita and watch Purple & Black play in The Basketball Tournament alongside alumni teams from KU and Wichita State. I’ve sadly never attended a game at Koch Arena. But we will have other reporters at the event, so my services may not be required. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

You’re right, though, the K-State alumni team doesn’t seem to be quite as big a deal this year as it has in the past. When Jordan Henriquez first entered a team in TBT it felt like a huge deal. It kind of seems routine now.

Still a roster that includes D.J. Johnson, Justin Edwards, Martavious Irving, Thomas Gipson, Curtis Kelly and Marcus Foster (the most fascinating name of the bunch) should be entertaining ... If they all show up.

All I can say for sure is that I like their uniforms.

It’s the closest thing basketball has to the Croatian soccer kits. Thumbs up from me!

There’s always a chance.

Mississippi State checked in at No. 30 in the Athlon preseason rankings, while K-State came in at No. 64. Bigger upsets have happened.

Chris Klieman regularly took North Dakota State on the road and won games against Power 5 teams few expected the Bison to beat. Perhaps he will also be a big-game coach in Manhattan, and he will have the Wildcats ready to go in Week 3.

The Bulldogs lost a ton of talent on defense and will need their offense to produce at a higher level under second-year coach Joe Moorhead this season. How much they progress in that area early, particulalry in the passing game, may determine how dangerous they are in this game.

A year ago, they liked to run more than pass, and if that’s still the case that could boost the Wildcats’ chances on the road.

But (you had to know there was a but coming here) the Wildcats will be underdogs.

Mississippi State pounded K-State 31-10 in Manhattan last season in a game that felt more lopsided than the final score.

The Bulldogs won’t be as talented as they were last season, but K-State lost some valuable players, too.

Winning in front of the cowbells is possible, but it definitely won’t be easy.

For sure.

A win at Mississippi State and a 3-0 start would turn some heads. K-State would quickly go from being picked near the bottom of the Big 12 to receiving votes in the top 25.

It would essentially create the opposite national reaction that losing to Vanderbilt did in 2017. K-State entered that game with a national ranking and then fall off everyone’s radar as it tumbled to a 3-4 start.

Winning in Starkville would create some higher expectations for this group.