Oklahoma St.-Kansas St. Preview
All that Kansas State can do now is try to achieve perfection.
That’s all the third-ranked Wildcats control.
Kansas State has already beaten two ranked teams on the road in
Oklahoma and West Virginia, and it blitzed then-No. 15 Texas Tech
55-24 last Saturday to remain undefeated.
The problem is that top-ranked Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and
fourth-ranked Notre Dame are also perfect, and all of them have
strong cases to play for the BCS championship – and that means a
lot of scoreboard watching as the Wildcats (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) play
out the easiest four-game stretch of their season, starting
Saturday night with a visit from Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1).
“It’s tough not to, knowing you’re so close, but man, you just
have to focus in on next week, focus in on next game,” wide
receiver Chris Harper said. “It’s really hard not to look ahead,
but the position that we’re in, you can’t do it.”
It’s been more than a decade since the Wildcats were in this
The last time they started a season with eight straight wins was
1999, when they eventually stumbled against Nebraska. The previous
year, they were seven minutes from playing for a national title
when Texas A&M staged a dramatic rally in the Big 12 title game
and won in double overtime to deal the Wildcats their first
The Wildcats won’t have to worry about a Big 12 title game this
season, now that the league only has 10 members. And that could
turn out to hurt them, denying them one last chance to rack up a
marquee victory – perhaps in a rematch with the Sooners – in the
final week of the season.
Instead, Kansas State’s final four games are against Oklahoma
State, TCU, Baylor and Texas.
That means the first undefeated season in school history might
not be enough to book a trip to Miami if the Ducks and Fighting
Irish are more impressive in finishing out their seasons against
higher-rated teams such as Southern California, Stanford and Oregon
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is just worried about beating the
Cowboys on Saturday.
“It is so easy to lose sight of things,” he said. “I am proud of
our young guys up to this point in time because you do not know
about tomorrow. Up to this point in time they have handled it well.
They go back to work. It is not easy, it just gets harder. I keep
saying there is a border right there, and what we do from this
point in time on will define us collectively.”
Senior Collin Klein, who bolstered his Heisman Trophy resume
with another four-touchdown performance against Texas Tech, is
taking the same detached view as his sagely coach.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of guys here, too, who’ve been
around, and we understand where we’ve been and where we’ve come
from not so very recently, not too far back down the road,” Klein
said. “That’s very vivid in our minds.”
The Wildcats went 6-6 in Klein’s freshman season and 7-6 two
years ago, but after winning 10 games and reaching the Cotton Bowl
last season, they’re playing their way into the BCS picture.
“We have to stay humble and hungry, because we haven’t won
anything,” Harper said. “All these years, we’ve won a lot of games
here, but we still haven’t won a national championship and things
like that to show for it. But without winning these next four
games, we can’t get there.”
Oklahoma State should present a challenge to Klein, as the
Cowboys’ defense seems to be rounding into form.
In starting the season 2-2, the Cowboys surrendered 59 points to
Arizona and 41 to Texas, losing both games. Since then, for the
first time in its Big 12 history, Oklahoma State has held three
straight league opponents under 20 points in wins over Kansas
(20-14), Iowa State (31-10) and TCU (36-14).
Klein and Kansas State pose a unique challenge to any defense.
The multifaceted quarterback is tied for the lead in Big 12 play in
touchdowns scored with 12 and ranks fifth in the league in rushing,
but he also leads the Big 12 in pass efficiency and hasn’t thrown
an interception in 106 attempts.
“It looks like to me he’s worked really hard in the offseason on
his accuracy on his downfield throws,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy
said. “They give him the time and his accuracy is considerably
better, in my opinion, than it would have been a year ago.”
Klein and the Wildcats ran wild at Oklahoma State last year,
nearly pulling off the upset before the then-No. 3 Cowboys held on
for a 52-45 win. Both teams scored two touchdowns in the final
5:16, and the Wildcats were on the verge of scoring again as time
“You’ve just got to swarm to the ball, when (Klein) decides to
pull the ball down and run, and then make sure everybody is in the
right gap and sticking to their assignments,” strong safety Shamiel
Gary said. “In the pass game, all we have to do as a secondary is
lock down on the receivers and then swarm to the ball.”