College football has changed a lot since 1998. That was the first time Kansas State was a serious contender for college football’s national championship.
However, the comparisons for Kansas State between 1998 and 2012 are strikingly similar. K-State fans have savored every minute of Bill Snyder’s coaching renaissance.
In ’98, K-State featured a Heisman Trophy candidate in Michael Bishop, known more for his running than passing. The Wildcats were considered the third-best team in ’98 behind a top-ranked SEC team (Tennessee) and a Pac-10 contender featuring a high-powered offense (UCLA) and a questionable defense.
In 2012, K-State features a Heisman Trophy candidate in Collin Klein, known more for his running than passing. The Wildcats are considered the third-best team behind a top-ranked SEC team (Alabama) and a Pac-10 contender featuring a high-powered offense (Oregon) and a questionable defense.
When Miami, Fla., upset UCLA in 1998, it opened the door for K-State to play for the national championship with a victory over Texas A&M. But the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker when the Aggies were awarded a game-winning touchdown when the officials didn’t see a runner step out of bounds.
K-State lost a fumble and blew some pass coverages late in the Texas A&M game. But the story no one knew was K-State assistant coaches Mike Stoops, Brent Venables and Mark Mangino had promised to join Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
The Wildcats were simply sabotaged by their own coaches. When the defense played poorly at the end of the ’98 season, the blame was properly placed on coaches who lost their focus.
The 2012 Wildcats have earned a right to be called the best football team in school history through nine games.
What makes the 2012 Wildcats unique is their team balance, mental toughness and poise under pressure. Starting with Klein’s leadership, the Wildcats share the responsibility of playing offense, defense and special teams.
The way the game is played in 2012 requires an amazing amount of preparation for pass-oriented teams.
There are no other teams that execute the diverse offensive style of K-State. The Wildcats have the versatility to perform the quarterback run game and switch offensive gears for a passing threat.
While Klein is the acknowledged offensive leader, tailback John Hubert and receivers Tyler Lockett and Chris Harper share the offensive spotlight. Fullback Braden Wilson provides quality blocking protection.
The Wildcats’ unsung heroes are the workmanlike offensive line of center B.J. Finney, guards Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson and tackles Cornelius Lucas and Tavon Rooks. Every starter in the offensive line returns for 2013.
The Wildcats’ offensive execution and lack of turnovers is their key. Coach Snyder’s play-calling that relies on perfect balance between running and passing is simply amazing. Snyder’s offense takes what the defense appears to give them.
The Wildcats’ defense has forced an amazing 24 turnovers that have translated to an amazing 111-0 scoring advantage off takaways. Someone different steps up every week.
K-State’s defensive stars are All-America linebacker Arthur Brown and safety Ty Zimmerman. But the strength of the defense has been the steady improvement of Allen Chapman, Jarard Milo and Nigel Malone in the secondary.
The Wildcats have lost standout linebacker Tre Walker and defensive end Meshak Williams to injuries. Their biggest weakness is a lack of consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Texas Christian, Baylor and Texas pose the final challenges for K-State. Their biggest advantage is they all can play with no fear with little worry of making mistakes.
The 2012 Wildcats have passed every test so far. We’ve seen evidence that the Wildcats are well prepared to pass their final exams.