Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Kansas State Wildcats .
What they're talking about...the spring game. Kansas State wrapped spring practice last Saturday with its annual Purple-White game. The game itself wasn't as spectacular as some of the events around the game (more on that below), but it was still the first chance for fans to see how the 2014 squad is shaping up after a strong finish to the 2013 season. An opening weekend loss to North Dakota State and a challenging early conference schedule resulted in Kansas State slipping below the fold. But the Wildcats bounced back and won six of their final seven games, including a win against Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, to build some momentum heading into 2014.
Star wide receiver Tyler Lockett sat out of the spring game as a precaution (minor injury) but fans did get to see Jake Waters as the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback and All-American defensive end Ryan Mueller chalk up a few "called sacks" -- though considering Mueller was one of the nation's leaders in 2013 with 11.5 sacks, he probably would have converted the sack in a full contact situation as well.
There was no question regarding the spring game MVP. That would be eight-year-old Kaiden Schroeder, a cancer patient from the Kansas City area who has become close with Ryan Mueller. Wearing Mueller's No. 44, Kaiden took the field to run "Kaiden's Play" near the end of the game.
What they're saying is...it's WAY too early to panic. SB Nation's Kansas State site, Bring On The Cats, wrote as much in a lengthy review of the spring game. In the review, Derek Smith writes that getting a feeling of security from a spring game is like putting the ADT sticker on your window without installing the whole security system. The offense was underwhelming, due to a combination of Tyler Lockett being out and coaches keeping the playcalling bland, but the defense looked strong and Smith says it is way too early to panic.
While it may have induced more yawns than past spring games, it revealed enough promise to please those who didn't approach it with too much cynicism. Yes, certain elements did justify my ADT sticker analogy, but Bill Snyder deserves our faith that real football isn't played in April. I'd rather have the sticky residue on the window than get fooled into thinking we're safe until the real test comes in August.
What we think is...the Wildcats may not win the Big 12 title, but they will play a role in who does. Colleague Tom Fornelli and I spent half of a podcast discussing Kansas State's role as a potential Big 12 sleeper in 2014, but I will try to summarize our conclusions. The spring game left fans feeling like the offense was a step behind the defense, and that's basically what we predicted for this team until the running back position and offensive line get sorted out in fall camp.
Because Kansas State can keep the Baylor, Oklahoma State and other Big 12 spread teams in check (or at least below their offensive averages) they will give themselves a chance to ride a big performance from Jake Waters or Tyler Lockett to an upset. But until a reliable option emerges to replace John Hubert in the running game it is hard to imagine this team finishing with a 8-1 or 9-0 record in conference play.
We also think that the new $65 million renovations to Bill Snyder Family Stadium, announced at the spring game with the help of K-State greats Terrance Newman and Darren Sproles, will look really cool once the project is completed.