The wait is over. Kansas State football is back.
Let’s celebrate by diving head first into your questions, live from Palo Alto, where the Wildcats open the 2016 season against Stanford at 8 tonight (TV: Fox Sports 1). Thanks, as always, for asking them.
The same one he wore in 2001 when Kansas State beat USC at the Coliseum. That was the last time Snyder took the Wildcats on the road for a season-opening game, and they won. Might as well recreate those good vibes as the team returns to California against another marquee opponent.
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Or a completely new windbreaker, because this game will be a completely new experience for everyone involved.
Impossible to answer, because so many of K-State’s opening games have come against FCS opponents. Vegas doesn’t assign betting odds to those mismatches.
But we can go through his 24 previous season-openers and take a guess on whether he covered all the mythical spreads. A loss to North Dakota State and a 10-7 victory over Eastern Kentucky, K-State failed to cover in those games. A 34-0 win over South Dakota, that’s a cover.
My best guess: 16-8. Stanford is favored by 16 tonight.
Love’s absence is significant; because it leaves Stanford down a versatile playmaker, but I’m not sure it will have a huge impact on the game. Stanford would rather have its No. 2 running back than not. Still, he is merely the change-of-pace option behind Christian McCaffrey.
And let’s get real, you don’t need to change the pace that often with a Heisman contender in the backfield.
Love is talented and he amassed 498 all-purpose yards last season while breaking free for several long touchdowns on limited touches. Stanford loses big-play potential without him, but he wasn’t going to be the focal point of its attack.
In the season-opener, Love’s replacement should perform well using the next-man-up mentality.
This is honestly the first time I have wondered whether K-State could win time of possession in a football game. Stanford led the nation in that statistic last season, holding the ball for 34:48 per game. That’s the seventh-best possession time in the past 20 years. Since 2010, no team has held the ball longer than Stanford. There are games it hogs possession for 40-plus minutes.
Then there’s K-State, which averaged 32:08 of possession time last season and routinely dominates the Big 12 in that category.
As Snyder said earlier this week, this game may not take long.
I give Stanford a slight edge in this area and think it will win the stat on Friday, simply because it has more offensive weapons than K-State and could be playing from ahead. It’s a lot easier to run clock with a lead.
Either way, if a team goes down by 14 in this game it is not going to be easy for that team to catch up.
I thought about answering this question with a joke about how Jesse Ertz’s knee is strong enough to handle two plays this season, three plays next season and four plays the season after if the NCAA grants him one or more medical redshirts, but I don’t want to jinx the guy.
Or is that what I just did?
All kidding aside, I think Ertz is ready for the long haul. He says his knee is stronger now after two surgeries than it was before his first ACL injury in high school, and way stronger than it was after. He deserves some good fortune, so here’s guessing he stays moderately healthy this year. This is the season we finally get to see what Ertz can do.
If not, he is among the most snake bitten quarterbacks in the history of college football.
This is an awesome question, especially after we watched Hawaii and California open their seasons in Australia last weekend. If teams are willing to go that far for games, no location is out reach.
Let’s make history and schedule a game in Antarctica!
Too cold? Let’s look at some other destinations. K-State has already played a game in Japan against Nebraska, so that’s out.
Germany would be fun in October. Beer! Mexico would be great if they could play at iconic Azteca Stadium. The Bahamas would be awesome, and reasonably close.
How about Africa? You could schedule a game against another team with a big cat mascot and promote it as a return-your-roots affair — the Safari Bowl. Maybe Brazil, so K-State could create a recruiting pipeline to soccer crazy South America and always have an awesome kicker.
All seem like fun options. But if they let me pick the destination, I’d lean toward Germany for the Oktoberfest Bowl.
K-State’s defense will need to keep an eye on Michael Rector. The fifth-year senior receiver is Stanford’s top deep threat. He caught 34 passes for 559 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and he has reeled off big gains of at least 43 yards every year he has played.
He’s a playmaker.
The Wildcats will likely do all they can to stop Christian McCaffrey and dare the Cardinal to beat them through the air. New starter Ryan Burns will look to his most established receiver as an escape valve if that happens. K-State’s secondary will need to keep tabs on him.
Joe Hubener and Alex Delton played to a virtual tie during preseason practices. That’s why they are both listed as the potential backup behind Jesse Ertz on the depth chart.
My gut says we will see both at times this season, but if something were to happen to Ertz I think coaches would turn to Hubener to replace him.
Delton has more upside, but he’s barely played. Hubener has started 11 games and proven himself a capable replacement under the right circumstances. And he has improved as a passer. Better receivers should help him, too. The difference this year is that if Hubener goes in and plays poorly, coaches will have another capable option to turn to in Delton.
You could call this game the Special Teams Bowl. I won’t, but you could.
I’ve heard a lot of people say Stanford reminds them of K-State and special teams is a big reason why. Few programs value that area of the game more.
K-State kickoff returners are like Texas Tech quarterbacks. It doesn’t matter who you put back there, they are sure to put up huge stats, because of the system. Stanford played Christian McCaffrey at kick returner last season and still ranked behind K-State in kickoff return yardage. The Wildcats were 13th nationally in that category. The Cardinal ranked 20th.
The only other statistical category K-State beat Stanford in last season was net punting. And that was also close.
McCaffrey is back for Stanford and Byron Pringle/Dominique Heath are ready to return kicks for K-State. You’re going to want to watch every kickoff in this game.
That’s the question of the game.
If the answer is yes, K-State will have a shot to pull an upset. If the answer is no, and Dante Barnett and Kendall Adams both make 15 tackles this game won’t even be close.
I think Elijah Lee and Charmeachealle Moore are up for the challenge, but they will need help. Defensive backs will need to make the proper reads when they come up to assist against the run. They were painfully weak in that area last season, and that’s why they gave up so many big games.
This will be an early test that tells us a lot about K-State’s defense.
(Had issues embedding this next question from Twitter, so it’s written in bold).
What Big 12 venue does Stanford Stadium most closely resemble?
Stanford Stadium holds just about 50,000 fans, so it actually might compare well to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. But they are different complexes. Stanford’s stadium has a basic design and the field is completely enclosed. Can’t say any of the football stadiums in the Big 12 look that way.
School also hasn’t started for most students, so the crowd might not be as boisterous as it would be for a Pac-12 game.
The closest comparison is probably TCU or Baylor. Both stadiums are on the smaller side compared to Texas and Oklahoma, but they still great environments.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett