We continue with our Big 12 preview today by looking at my predicted fifth-place finishers: Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Predicted finish in '09 (Overall and Big 12 North): Fifth, 3-9, 1-7
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Predicted losses in Big 12 play:All but Iowa State
Can build around:Bill Snyder. At 69, he's back and ready to try and resurrect the K-State program … again.
When he took over in 1988, the Wildcats were 0-26-1 in their last 27 games. Things aren't as bad this time. But close.
WR Brandon Banks was the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year with 67 catches for 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns. At only 5-7, he is one of the few sure things on the K-State offense. OT Nick Stringer was All-Big 12 honorable mention is easily the best player on an inexperienced O-line. K-State coach Bill Snyder has high hopes for DE Brandon Herald to take over for the graduated Ian Campbell. Herald's credentials? 10.5 tackles for loss last season - not much.
Need to rebuild: Snyder has the right personality to keep the football team focused even as the administration is suing its former athletic director and former football coach (Ron Prince) over a "secret buyout." According to the lawsuit, the school is suing because administration officials say they were unaware of a $3.2 million buyout with Prince made by former AD Bob Krause (the buyout is set to be paid from 2015 to 2020). In the past year, K-State has seen its AD ousted and its school president (Jon Wefald) retire. There are a lot of distractions at K-State.
On the field, the defense is atrocious and needs a lot of help. Prince moved to a 3-4, then back to a 4-3, and there has just been too much instability and uncertainty. Now, K-State appears to be going with a 4-2-5 nickel defense, which is a good thing considering K-State's lack of talent at linebacker.
Final analysis: Just don't like Snyder coming back from a long-term outlook for the program. Why not go try to get Brent Venables, who played there, or a young coach on the rise? This won't end well. K-State has no proven quarterback to step in for Josh Freeman, but Snyder wants a QB who can run. Good idea with three new starters on the O-line. The K-State vs. Iowa State game in Kansas City will be to get out of last place in the North.
Predicted finish in '09 (Overall and Big 12 North): Fifth, 7-5, 3-5
Predicted losses in Big 12 play: Texas, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma State, OU, Baylor (in Arlington)
Can build around: There are receivers to throw to and running backs to carry the rock, and Mike Leach hopes junior Taylor Potts can come in and pick up at quarterback the way Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons did.
If that happens, Potts will have Lyle Leong, Edward Britton and Detron Lewis – all proven receivers – to throw to. RB Baron Batch and RB Harrison Jeffers will probably give Leach the best running game he's had since Taurean Henderson. The O-line still has Brandon Carter (the guy with the wrestler face paint) and Marlon Winn, who will both play tackle, and veteran center Shawn Byrnes after losing star tackle Louis Vasquez (a third-round draft pick of the Chargers).
On defense, nose tackle Colby Whitlock anchors a line that lost ends Brandon Williams (left early for the NFL, picked by the Cowboys) and McKinner Dixon (suspended indefinitely). The linebackers are solid but not spectacular with Bront Bird, Brian Duncan and Marlon Williams.
Need to rebuild: The whole season rides with Potts and if he can settle the offense into a groove in the wake of record setting careers from Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree. That's hard to follow. At safety, Tech lost two total studs in Darcel McBath (Tech's highest draft pick at safety in school history – second round to the Broncos) and Daniel Charbonnet, who picked off Colt McCoy and returned it for a touchdown last year against the Longhorns.
Without Brandon Williams, who had 13 sacks last season, and Dixon, who had 9, there's no way the Tech pass rush is as good.
Final analysis: If Potts is really good, obviously Tech could get to 8-4 or even 9-3. But if he's not, Tech could lose a non-conference road game at Houston on Sept. 26 and the season could unravel to 6-6.
Here's why I think Baylor finishes ahead of Tech this season: Tech has the two best teams from the north on the schedule - Nebraska (on the road) and Kansas (in Lubbock) and also plays hapless Kansas State in Lubbock. I think Tech will lose to both Nebraska and Kansas. Baylor has Nebraska at home, which I am calling one of my UPSETS OF THE YEAR in the Big 12, and plays at Iowa State and Missouri.
Both Iowa State and Missouri are in big-time rebuild modes, so I have Baylor winning both of those games. I also think Baylor beats Tech head to head in Arlington at the Cowboys new stadium on Nov. 28.
Tomorrow: Fourth-place finishers Baylor and Missouri