Another week, another stout away game opponent for the young Hurricanes. Outfitted in their fatigues, The 7th Floor parachuted into the flyover states, questions in hand for the resident Kansas State blog, Bring On The Cats.
7th Floor: The late '90s to early aughts were your best era, but what individual season do Wildcat fans hold in the highest esteem? The 1998 near BCS title game appearance, or say the 2003 Big 12 title game demolition of Oklahoma? Another season altogether?
Bring On The Cats: That's a tough call between 1998 and 2003. Both seasons were spectacular in their own way, but both had bitter disappointment. In 1998, K-State beat Nebraska for the first time in more than 30 years and climbed to No. 1 in the polls for the first time ever. But a fourth-quarter meltdown against Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship Game dropped K-State out of the national title game and all the way to the Alamo Bowl. An injury to starting quarterback Ell Roberson in 2003 led to a three-game losing streak that knocked K-State out of national title contention early. But a late-season run culminated in the 35-7 destruction of Oklahoma and K-State's first conference championship since 1934.
For me personally, 2003 was the greatest. That may be because I was a student then and was able to experience the season personally, but also because the season resulted in a tangible accomplishment in the Big 12 championship.
7F: For Hurricanes fans making the trek, tell us the best tailgating spots.
BOTC: Just about anywhere around the stadium. There are two large paved parking lots on the east and west side of the stadium, and there are large grass parking lots across Kimball Avenue to the north of the stadium. Unless you are belligerent, you should be treated well. Two things should be noted. Alcohol is not permitted in any of the parking lots, so keep your coolers covered in your car and keep your drinks out of sight and in a plastic cup while you're tailgating. Also, there is a lot of construction on the west side of the stadium, so check this link for helpful information on which entrance should be used. http://www.kstatesports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/082812aac.html
7F: Bill Snyder is having sort of a renaissance very late in his career. Personally, I think he still doesn't get enough credit for what he did in Manhattan. This potentially predates your fandom, but can you tell us just how bad it used to be?
BOTC: K-State would have dropped football in the 1980s, but dropping football would have ended K-State's Big 8 membership. Even at that, the Big 8 came within one vote of expelling K-State from the conference. In 93 years, K-State had lost 509 games. In the 44 years between the end of World War II and when Snyder took over, K-State had four winning seasons. There were the decades-long losing streaks to Oklahoma and Nebraska and others. K-State wasn't just bad. It was the worst. And maybe Snyder didn't make K-State the best, at least in terms of winning a national title, but the fact that he came as close as he did in 1998 with what he started with is astounding.
7F: The Bill Snyder coaching tree is absurd, but the first go round of post-Snyder Wildcat football was arguably a disaster. Any potential assistants right now who are next in line? What is the new plan? Snyder isn't secretly Ra's Al Ghul and going to live forever, right?
BOTC: With all the great coaches Snyder's coaching tree has spawned, there are relatively few possible replacements. Jim Leavitt is probably the most likely option, as he's an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers right now. But everyone else is either damaged goods or already has a better job. Bob Stoops and Bret Bielema won't leave their current jobs for Manhattan. Mark Mangino is damaged goods and universally hated in Manhattan for his time at OU and, especially, KU. Phil Bennett, Mark Stoops and Dana Dimel were failures as head coaches. Brent Venables allegedly did something so heinous he'll never be welcome again in Manhattan, even though nobody is willing to go on record and say what he did.
And no, Snyder's not going to live forever. But I think he's going to coach longer than anyone thought he would when he came back.
7F: Just how did you guys make Arthur Brown a stud? He killed Miami last year, can we have him back?
BOTC: No takebacks. I'm not sure what K-State did to turn Arthur Brown around. Maybe it was just moving back to somewhere he was comfortable. He seems to be a quiet guy who likes to keep to himself, and maybe Miami just wasn't the atmosphere for him. As far as turning his career around, it may have just been the freedom to go out and play. K-State had nobody else at linebacker who was anywhere near as physically gifted as Brown, so he can just go out there and play.
7F: Speaking of killing Miami, what's the ceiling for Collin Klein?
BOTC: Collin Klein will probably be a slightly improved version of himself from last season. In the offseason, we figured that if he could average 20-50 more passing yards per game (he averaged 147.5 yards/game in 2011), the offense would improve significantly. He threw for 169 yards against Missouri State in the opener. Granted, that's Missouri State, so who knows what it means. But Klein is clearly a run-first quarterback, so he's going to do his passing damage off play action. If he can hit one or two more play-action passes this season, the offense will be quite a bit better. So if he rushes for the same or slightly better average per carry that we saw last season, and can hit a few more play-action passes, that's probably his ceiling.
7F: What would be a good season for Kansas State this year?
BOTC: If we're defining "good" as better than the average expectation, I'd say 10-2 in the regular season is a good season. I waffled between predicting 8-4 and 9-3 before the season, so 10 wins would exceed my expectations. If Klein improves and the defense holds its ground, this team can contend for a Big 12 championship. If not, this is still a solid bowl team.
7F: West Virginia looks to be a great addition to the Big 12. Do you want Louisville and another team added to the conference, and if so, who?
BOTC: From K-State's perspective, the more programs that can compete with Texas and Oklahoma for influence, the better. For that reason, I don't really want Louisville and Cincinnati, and also don't consider the addition of West Virginia and Texas Christian useful for any reason other than maintaining 10 teams and our TV contract. Obviously, that's a huge reason, but if this conference is going to go back to 12 teams -- which is something I want -- then we really need a Florida State or a Notre Dame. In the age of uncertainty, the more power programs in your conference, the better. The Big 12 could survive losing Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M because it still had Oklahoma and Texas. If OU and UT ever decide the grass is greener elsewhere, we're going to need a program like a Notre Dame or Florida State to survive.
7F: Charlie Weis - you guys are imminently afraid of his 'decided schematic advantage'...for consuming calories, right? Or is he no match for the Mangino?
BOTC: I'll give KU credit, they make interesting coaching hires. I'm looking forward to seeing Weis learn, once again, that the college game is significantly different from the professional game. And he can tout his schemes all he wants, but Bill Snyder has been nicknamed The Scheme Doctor for a reason.
As far as caloric intake, I think the edge still has to go to Mangino. But it's a closer race than it should be.
7F: The ACC is most likely going to a 9 game conference schedule next year. The current Big 12 round robin schedule, yea or nay?
BOTC: Mostly yea. My preference is two divisions and a conference championship game. But playing each school every year, and knowing that you'll always have a home game with someone like Oklahoma, Texas or West Virginia is a good situation.
7F: I was born in Houston, so lets try to be objective here, but best BBQ - KC or Texas? Convince me.
BOTC: This furthers my belief that everyone, at some point in their life, will live in Houston (I spent three years there in graduate school). Not to open Pandora's box too much, but I didn't find the BBQ in Houston itself that impressive. Then again, I had a group of friends who barbecued and smoked better in their backyard than anything I've ever eaten at any restaurant, so maybe I didn't try as many places as I should have. So I'm going to give the overall nod to Kansas City, but with the caveat that The Salt Lick in Austin is as good as anything I've had anywhere. Also, I never tried the place in Lockhart, so maybe I should give Texas an incomplete rather than making a definitive choice.