Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Resetting expectations after Chris Klieman’s hot start, ESPN+ and more

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

The Wildcats don’t play a football game this week, but that didn’t stop you from asking questions. This is one of the biggest mailbags I can remember. Let’s dive right in.

When I picked the Wildcats to go 6-6 and reach a bowl game in Chris Klieman’s first season in Manhattan I worried that I was being too optimistic.

Not anymore.

I didn’t foresee K-State winning at Mississippi State, so that raises my expectations to at least 7-5 right there.

Based on what I’ve seen thus far, K-State could realistically challenge for double-digit wins and third place in the Big 12 standings. I’m not saying that will definitely happen, but that’s what transpired when the Wildcats stunned Miami on the road and started 3-0 in 2011. The ceiling has been raised.

Let’s break down the final nine games of the 2019 schedule.

I see two probable losses: Oklahoma and Texas.

I see one probable win: West Virginia.

And I see six toss-up games: at Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU, at Kansas, at Texas Tech and Iowa State.

Skylar Thompson obliterated the Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium two years ago, and I already picked K-State to win that game on the road. So I’m not changing that one. Winning in Lawrence won’t be easy if the Jayhawks can duplicate their performance at Boston College, but I’m still picking the Wildcats there, too.

Here’s guessing the Wildcats can win two of the other four, especially with Iowa State off to a slow start and Texas Tech losing Alan Bowman for a few weeks. Part of me wants to say they will win three of the other four. But I’m going to stay conservative for now.

My new projection: 8-4.

It’s possible.

This is one of the things I touched on before the Mississippi State game on our weekly K-State Podcast. If the Wildcats won that game, I said there was no reason why they couldn’t start 6-0.

Not to hammer the 2011 comparison too hard, but the schedule lines up in an eerily similar way.

Back then, Collin Klein and Arthur Brown backed up their win over Miami with another thrilling victory over Baylor. Then they took care of business against Missouri, Texas Tech and Kansas to start 7-0 ... and then lose 58-17 to Oklahoma.

K-State’s next three games are at Oklahoma State, then back home against Baylor and TCU. All three teams are undefeated and the Horned Frogs are ranked.

It’s a tough stretch of games, but they are all toss-ups. They could be 6-0 when Oklahoma comes to town.

Mathematicians say the odds or winning three straight coin flips is 12.5%. So I guess those are the chances.

I totally get that playing games on ESPN+ instead of traditional TV will be an inconvenience for some, but streaming movies on Netflix instead of renting them from Blockbuster also once seemed annoying.

Let’s not fear change.

This is the first time I can recall the Big 12 getting ahead of the curve. Streaming is the future and the conference is launching its own network on the biggest sports streaming app/site on the planet. This is a good thing. Playing a football game against Oklahoma State on ESPN+ very well could be the industry norm in five years.

Playing the game now when Big 12 Now is just getting started on ESPN+ is a bit of a bummer considering K-State/Oklahoma State is arguably a good enough matchup for regular, old ESPN. I understand why some are upset about that. But let’s not pretend like ESPN+ is a black hole that will damage exposure and recruiting. There are lots of cord-cutters in this world, including me, and anyone who wants to watch this game can.

Also: someone has to be second in line (Kansas and West Virginia are first up this weekend). Every other conference network broadcasts conference games. This isn’t unique.

And both teams got a great time slot out of the deal.

That might be one of the best parts about playing on ESPN+. With less competition for time slots, Big 12 teams will be able to play more games at times that best suit them and boost attendance. Translation: fewer 11 a.m. kickoffs.

Streaming Big 12 games under one convenient umbrella could also unite the conference in new ways. Oklahoma and Texas have their own deals for their third-tier games at the moment, but when those contracts expire the conference wants Big 12 Now to be a big enough success for the Sooners and Longhorns to join, giving the league its own true network.

Further partnering with ESPN now could also help the Big 12 during its next round of contract negotiations for TV rights.

Not really.

There’s not much money for individual schools to be made off playing on ESPN+ this year. For now, it’s all about trying to get Big 12 Now off the ground and enticing viewers to purchase ESPN+ subscriptions. But if Big 12 games on ESPN+ become popular they will start making money for schools down the road.

Change the dollar bill to a five spot and yes. That sums it up pretty good.

Back when I was in college and the Royals were in the middle of a truly disastrous season I purchased a ticket to one of their games for $5. Attendance was so bad that year that they had hilarious specials to win free tickets for future games every time they played.

The Royals had something like seven hits that day, which entitled me to a free ticket to a future game. During my next trip to Kauffman Stadium, the Royals held the other team to three runs, which entitled me to another free ticket. On the next trip, they scored multiple runs in the fourth inning and, just like that, I was cashing in another free ticket.

It went on like that the rest of the year, and I ended up going to 10 or so major league baseball games for five small ones. I wish it was still that easy.

Half a dozen or so.

The haters were out in full force on Monday when the Oklahoma State announcement was made, but I didn’t notice nearly the same uproar about six conference basketball games landing on ESPN+ on Wednesday.

It seems like people are already getting used to it.

Top five, for sure.

It’s a better rivalry than the Sunflower Showdown.

A little from Column A, a little of Column B.

I think people are starting to recognize what K-State basketball has accomplished under Bruce Weber, and that’s why the Wildcats will play their first regular season home game on CBS in history next year.

But they should also be pretty good next year. None of the preseason magazines have them contending for another Big 12 championship, but they will be formidable with Xavier Sneed, Cartier Diarra and DaJuan Gordon leading the way.

If it wasn’t clear before, it’s definitely clear now.

K-State football needed a change.

No disrespect to Bill Snyder. The man did more for Manhattan and K-State athletics than anyone dreamed possible. There’s a reason his name is on the stadium and he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

But it was time for a change. There is so much more energy around the program now. K-State players love playing for Klieman, who has modernized things while preaching some of the core principles Snyder valued most.

His positive attitude has been like a shot in the arm for the Wildcats, and helped the them learn how to play through mistakes.

One look at Skylar Thompson tells you all you need to know about how different the team is this year. He’s more confident than ever and playing like a new man. That has rubbed off on his teammates, and they’re exceeding expectations.

The Klieman detractors look worse today. I know people who thought he would set K-State football back a decade based entirely on his FCS history.

It really shouldn’t be that surprising that a guy who went 69-6 at his old job is off to a 3-0 start at his new job.

Harry Trotter’s parents had to know he was going to play running back (or really love Harry Potter) when they named him. It’s a very appropriate name.

I was always a fan of Blake Slaughter. Remember that guy? I’ve never heard a better name for a linebacker.

Hasan Defense is also an amazing name, considering he plays defensive back for the Jayhawks.

Let’s also not forget about Kobe Buffalomeat, Taco Wallace and Cornelius Ruff IV.

I wish I had an answer for this question.

My trip to Mississippi State was one of the least eventful work excursions of all time. Starkville is so isolated I flew into Memphis and still had to drive three hours to the football game.

I was late getting into Memphis on Friday, up before dawn to start driving to Starkville and then back at my hotel at 10 on Saturday night. My flight home was at 5 a.m. on Sunday, so that didn’t leave much time for anything fun. I didn’t have any barbecue, sweet tea or lemonade.

Too bad, I was looking forward to some catfish and ribs.

Army by a mile.

Those Gifs will be fun!

But there are some other good games coming up. Troy presents some entertaining Gif options. So does Buffalo. Washington State could be cool, but only if Mike Leach is still coaching there in 10 years.

I only see two possibilities here.

1. Injuries. The Wildcats have more quality depth than I expected, but there are some starters they simply can’t afford to lose.

2. The players fall in love with their early accomplishments. Klieman has already guarded against this in several press conferences. I doubt it happens, but it will cost K-State some games if it does.

I seriously doubt it happens much the rest of the season.

Phillip Brooks had some issues against Bowling Green, but bounced back with a great game against Mississippi State when Klieman remained confident in him.

The problems against the Bulldogs were a tad fluky. Both fumbles came from secondary returners on horrible, wobbling punts. They will know to play it safe and just let the ball roll in future games.

Daniel Green is going to be a solid contributor all season. He has been a very pleasant surprise at linebacker.

Coming into the season, it seemed like the Wildcats had a huge dropoff from their starters to their reserves at that position, but Green has been really good.

Yes, and I bet he breaks his personal record next week at Oklahoma State.

Thompson threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns the last time he played in Stillwater. The Cowboys are allowing 225.3 passing yards per game this season.

The time seems right.

Texas and its leaky secondary also presents an opportunity for big yardage late in the season.

It’s probably a small advantage for K-State, mostly because Mike Gundy and Klieman have never faced each other before.

The Wildcats will get two weeks to prepare for the game, while the Cowboys will be less prepared.

But I try not to put too much stock in bye weeks. Oklahoma State could beat Texas and ride a tidal wave of momentum into the K-State game. The Wildcats might be a little rusty after taking a week off.

You would rather have the extra week than not, but it’s not a huge advantage.

Related stories from Kansas City Star