Big 12: Collin Klein, Kansas St. and a Big 12 Title


The Kansas State Wildcats came out of nowhere last season, after being projected to finish 8th in the Big 12. The Wildcats were able to put together their first 10 win season since 2003, when they won 11 games and gained a Fiesta Bowl berth. KSU was able to gain a berth to the Cotton Bowl in 2011. While Arkansas’ defense acted as a wall to the Wildcats’ running game, 40 attempts for only 80 yards, the buzz that was created from 2011 can’t be ignored.

Quarterback Collin Klein put together one of the best seasons in school history. Klein threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions, but the way he contributed in the running game was simply brilliant. As a junior he ran for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns, setting a Big 12 record for rushing scores and breaking a 42-year-old school record. Klein also led the Big 12 in points scored with 162.

The biggest knock on Klein was he needs to improve as a passer. His performance in the spring game suggests that he has done just that. As dangerous as Klein was on the ground last season, the buzz surrounding the senior coming into this season is all about his comfort level as a passer. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Klein can use his size to bull forward for the extra yards. Add in the threat he can pose for defenses with a comfort level as a passer and the Wildcats just may have the quarterback to lead them to a Big 12 title.

The offense has the potential to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the Big 12. Klein and RB John Hubert wreaked havoc on defenses last season. The beauty of the running game is, even if Klein doesn’t take on the amount of carries as he did in 2011, the running game can have a good rotation. Behind Hubert are 5-foot-4 Robert Rose and Senior Angelo Pease. Pease can handle a bigger role to become a factor to keep Hubert healthy. WR Tyler Lockett returns healthy, with six of the top pass catchers. If Lockett or Chris Harper can step up to be Klein’s main target and each returning receiver contributes, look out for a well balanced offensive attack. Offensive line can potentially be a weakness, but the line still has strong run blocking ability.

You can call it overachieving, but when you look at the Wildcats system under head coach Bill Snyder, you can pinpoint what made them so successful in 2011. Despite being outgained by its opponents within conference play by 106.8 yards per game, the Wildcats were able to control games with time of possession. The slow, steady tempo on the offensive side of the ball kept the high powered Big 12 offenses off the field. They also made very little mistakes on offense, only turning the ball over 15 times. Compare that to the defense, which came up with 27 takeaways, while only being on the field about 26 minutes a game.

The biggest stat to jump out looking at the Wildcats’ success in 2011 is, nine of the 13 games were decided by a touchdown or less. KSU was 8-1 in those games

There is plenty of experience and athleticism on defense to become great, but the big question mark is the interior defensive line. Senior LB Arthur Brown, an experienced group of linebackers, along with Nigel Malone and Allen Chapman, who are tough, physical corners, has the defensive backfield on lock down. Even safety Ty Zimmerman has big play ability. However, if the pass rush isn’t there, their talents will go to waste.

It’s hard to see Kansas St. duplicate the exact mistake free football they accomplished in 2011, but nine wins is certainly probable. The season begins with home games against Missouri St., Miami (FL), and North Texas before their first conference game against Oklahoma. Kansas St. beat Miami last season and could certainly do it again this season with the game being played in Manhattan. There is no reason why they can’t go into the road game against Oklahoma 3-0. Road games against Baylor, TCU and West Virginia could present some problems. However, home games against Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma St., and Kansas makes eight or nine wins very possible.

Kansas St. probably won’t win a Big 12 championship in 2012, but they will be fun to watch with Collin Klein and could prove us all wrong if they can pick up wins on the road. Mistake free football, much like 2011, will certainly help the Wildcats in their quest.