Kansas State Wildcats
Head Coach: Bill Snyder
2015 Record: 6-7 overall, 3-7 Big 12
2015 Bowl Result: Lost to Arkansas 45-23 in the Liberty Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 3 offense, 6 defense
Odds to Win 2017 College Football Championship Game: 2000/1
Odds to Win 2016 Big 12 Championship: 44/1
Regular Season Wins: under 6 -130 / over 6 +110
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There was some talk that legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder would retire for the second time after last season. However, the 76 year old came back for at least one more season. Last year was challenging because of some injuries at the quarterback position. The Wildcats began the season 3-0 but then lost 6 straight games before rallying to win their last three games to become bowl eligible. The Wildcats were beaten soundly by Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, but just making a bowl was a testament to the coaching prowess of Snyder.
Here is an in depth look at Kansas State in all three phases of the game, plus a look at the schedule.
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Kansas State averaged only 334 yards per game on offense, including just 158 passing yards. Still somehow they averaged just under 30 points a game. Only three starters are back for co-coordinators Dana Dimel and Del Miller.
Jesse Ertz was supposed to be the quarterback last year but tore his ACL on the first drive of the first game last season. He is healthy and will be the starter in 2016. Back-up Alex Delton was also sidelined with a knee injury, Kansas State had no choice but to go with a pair of wide receivers in Kody Cook and Joe Hubener at quarterback. Cook has graduated but Hubener is still around as the third stringer behind Ertz and Delton.
Kansas State had to rely on their running game last year, but teams could just stack the box because the passing game was so ineffectual. The top three running backs are back in 2016. Charles Jones had 142 carries for 696 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 12 catches. Justin Silmon rushed for 355 yards on 78 carries with 2 touchdowns. Dalvin Warmack will also get some carries. Fullback Winston Dimel had 6 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns last year.
Receiver Deante Burton returns after making 38 catches for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns. Byron Pringle, Isaiah Zuber and Denzel Goolsby will also get a lot of catches. Dayton Valentine will start at tight end.
The offensive line loses four starters to graduation. Center Dalton Risner returns but there will be new faces at the other four positions.
Usually, Kansas State can be counted on to have a solid if not great defense. That was not the case last year as injuries hit the defensive side as well. Also, they had to stay on the field for long periods of time because of the inept offense. It all added up to the Wildcats allowing 452 yards per game including 286 passing yards and 32 points per game. Six starters are back for coordinator Tom Hayes.
Jordan Willis, Tanner Wood, and Will Geary are all veterans on the defensive line. Willis had 15.5 tackles for loss including 9.5 sacks last year. Geary had 3.5 sacks of his own.
Linebacker Elijah Lee is back after making 80 tackles last year to lead the team and also had 5 sacks. Charmeachealle Moore is also back after showing vast improvement over the second half of the season.
No unit was hit harder by injuries than the secondary. At one point Hayes and Snyder had no idea who would be healthy enough to start at secondary. The Wildcats get a lot of good players back from injury and look to be much better at defending the pass. Safety Dante Barnett was all-conference in 2014 but missed all but one game last year. He is back along with Kendall Adams at the other safety. Sophomore Duke Shelley will start at one corner and Cal transfer Cedric Dozier will start at the other corner.
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Kicker Matthew McCrane was perfect making all seven field goals and all 15 extra points he attempted. Punter Nick Walsh averaged 41.6 yards per punt last year. The Wildcats must replace kick returner Morgan Burns who averaged almost 35 yards per return and took 4 to the house. Dominique Heath returned punts last year and could do both jobs in 2016. Warmack will also be in the mix for both jobs.
Schedule and Outlook
Kansas State opens with a tough road game at Stanford, before two home games against Florida Atlantic and Missouri State. In conference, Kansas State travels to West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor, and TCU. The Wildcats host Texas Tech, Oklahoma State,Texas and Kansas.
Kansas State had their first losing season since 2005 last year because of the injuries. I think this team could surprise and win 7 or 8 games.
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