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           ***** NCAA Football Preview - Kansas State Wildcats *****
 
 By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Last year was another highly successful one in the
 storied career of Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats streaking
 out to a 10-0 start before suffering their first setback at Baylor. The team's
 only other loss came in the Orange Bowl against Oregon.
 
 K-State is often thought of as a middle-of-the-pack squad in the Big 12, but
 has exceeded expectations in each of the past couple of years, finishing
 second in the conference in 2011 and winning the title last season.
 
 Snyder has never been one to clamor for the spotlight, so if the prevailing
 thought is his team isn't quite on par with the Big 12's best, particularly in
 the preseason, then that's just fine with him.
 
 "As I look at it this year right now where we stand, I'd probably echo the
 same thought," Snyder said at the Big 12's media event last month. "It's
 precarious trying to make those kinds of decisions as the season gets started.
 Our program is no different than any other in that the dynamics of the program
 change year in and year out regardless of how many you do or do not have
 returning. It's just a different environment, and I would suggest that it's
 just a difficult task."
 
 2013 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: The Wildcats were effective running the football last season,
 churning out 194 ypg behind an offensive line that returns in tact this fall.
 Running back John Hubert is hoping to make the most of his final year in
 Manhattan after rushing for 947 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior.
 
 Replacing dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein (920 rushing yards, 23 TDs;
 2,641 passing yards, 16 TDs) won't be easy, but Snyder has all the confidence
 in the world in sophomore Daniel Sams, despite his relative inexperience.
 Sams brings his own athletic talents to the backfield, and while his running
 skills aren't a concern, demonstrating consistency in the passing game is
 crucial.
 
 Helping ease their new signal-caller into his expanded role will be standout
 receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson, the duo combining for 81 grabs,
 1,213 yards and eight scores a season ago.
 
 As mentioned, the line should be a real strength for Snyder's squad, anchored
 by junior center B.J. Finney and massive offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas.
 
 Snyder spoke about what it means to have a seasoned group of veterans in the
 trenches, even as he prepares to break in a new quarterback.
 
 "If you have all five of your offensive line starters coming back, they're
 aware of that as well. Now, whether or not they take some things for granted
 because of that, that would put us in dire jeopardy, I believe. If they
 don't take anything for granted and they commit themselves to becoming better,
 then it's a very, very positive thing."
 
 DEFENSE: The Wildcats were tops in the Big 12 last season in scoring defense
 (22.1 ppg), with their effort against the run (126.9 ypg) also ranking among
 the best in the conference (second). They weren't nearly as effective against
 the pass (248.5 ypg, 82nd nationally), but they proved to be an opportunistic
 bunch in leading the league and ranking third in the country in turnover
 margin (+19).
 
 Unfortunately, the unit lost nine starters, including standouts Arthur Brown
 and Meshak Williams, leaving secondary battery mates Randall Evans and Ty
 Zimmerman as the lone holdovers. That duo combined for 126 tackles last
 season, and Zimmerman was one of three KSU defenders to log five interceptions
 en route to All-Big 12 and Third-Team All-America honors.
 
 With so many holes to fill, Snyder reached into the junior college ranks for a
 handful of guys who he believes have the talent and drive to earn starting
 jobs. Time will tell if any have what it takes to become stars, but defensive
 end Devon Nash, defensive back Travis Green and linebacker Dakorey Johnson
 could see their stock rise as the season wears on.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: K-State had the nation's top overall special teams unit in
 2012, but both kickers (Jack Cantele and Ethan Hammes) are new. The one area
 the 'Cats should be fine is in the return game where Lockett and Thompson hold
 down the fort. Both returned kicks for touchdowns last season.
 
 OUTLOOK: Even with so many question marks, the Wildcats should head into the
 conference opener at Texas (Sept. 21) undefeated. Navigating their way through
 the always tumultuous Big 12 waters won't be easy, particularly in those first
 two games as they head from Austin to Stillwater for clash with Oklahoma
 State.
 
 Three straight home games against Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State are
 winnable, but then again, this is the Big 12. Few things are that
 predictable.
 
 Winning at Texas Tech on Nov. 9 should set the team up favorably as it
 welcomes TCU and Oklahoma to town before closing the regular season against
 bitter rival Kansas.
 
 Winning a second straight conference crown isn't likely considering all that
 needs to go right for the 'Cats, but selling a Snyder-coached team short, even
 before the season starts, has proven futile in the past.
 
 
 
 08/20 10:46:54 ET