Snyder, Wildcats ready to surprise
He loves the disrespect card. He lives for the disrespect card. Hell, Bill Snyder built an empire on the disrespect card. Disrespect is the mortar that binds the Kansas State football program. Disrespect oozes out of every pore on Kimball Avenue. It is her lifeblood. Her foundation. Her fuel.
The Wildcats bring back a do-everything, Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback, the Tim Tebow of the Plains. They've got one of the nastiest linebackers in the country beating at the heart of the defense. They return 17 starters from last year's 10-3 bunch, including veterans at punter and placekicker.
The pundits picked them sixth.
Holy Sproles. Snyder should be sending the media thank-you notes. If ever he needed a little extra motivation to tack on the bulletin board, the wags just gave it to him. Wild Bill has us right where he wants us.
"It's not about every else's expectations," Wildcats linebacker Tre Walker told the Manhattan (Kan.) Mercury during Big 12 Media Days. "It's about ours."
Don't make them angry. You wouldn't like them when they're angry.
Yes, the Wildcats lived on a tightrope last fall, winning five contests by five points or fewer. Yes, they've got to visit Norman, Morgantown and Fort Worth. Yes, West Virginia and TCU are saltier, at the moment, than Missouri and Texas A&M, strange as that sounds.
But before you sleep on signal-caller Collin Klein and the rest of the Purple gang, remember last summer. On the eve of 2011 Big 12 Media Days, Kansas State was pegged for eighth. The Wildcats finished second, won seven of nine conference tilts, and rolled to the Cotton Bowl.
Before you take a pass on the Powercat, consider the precedent: Between 1996-2011, the Big 12 took 16 preseason media polls. K-State ended up with a higher finish than its predicted standing on 10 of those occasions — or 63 percent of the time.
In fact, the deeper the slight, the more likely the Wildcats are to overachieve. On 11 polls, K-State was picked third or lower in the old Big 12 North, or fifth or lower in the 10-team league. The Wildcats would go on to post a higher finish on seven occasions, or 64 percent.
On five polls, the Purple were predicted to finish in the bottom half of their division or league. They responded by exceeding expectations in four of those seasons, or 80 percent of the time.
Granted, living well while living dangerously is hard to repeat. We'll give you that. The Wildcats posted eight wins by seven points or fewer last fall, compared to only one loss of seven points or less — a net gain of seven close victories. Statnik Phil Steele published an interesting little study on this in his annual college football preview (page 309), and found that, over the last 10 years, there were just six FBS teams that netted six or seven close victories in a single season. All six wound up with worse records the next fall.
So it isn't just the scribes; history is down on K-State, too. Then again, if anybody knows how to rewrite the history books, it's Snyder.
They are the overlooked team from the overlooked town. And yet more often than not, it's the Island of Misfit Toys that gets the last laugh.
Take tailback Robert Rose, who checks in at 5-4, 174 pounds. Like Darren Sproles — who's listed at 5-6 — before him, the Miami (Fla.) native symbolizes, to a degree, what the Wildcats are all about. You take somebody who the powers thought was maybe a little too short, maybe a little too slow, maybe an awkward fit. You find a couple dozen of those somebodies. You band them together like the gang in "The Dirty Dozen," you rile 'em up, and you turn 'em loose on the rest of the unsuspecting Big 12. Rinse. Repeat.
"My dad always told me, 'David did slay Goliath,'" Rose said. "So that's the slogan I go by, the motto I use."
And there's David, slingshot at the ready, waiting to make fools of the rest of us. Again.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org