K-State's head coach Bill Snyder watches the game against Louisiana at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas on September 7, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
August 10, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Season after season, K-State football is underestimated. Words like 'underdog' and 'grassroots' are used year in and year out to describe the Wildcats, and it's often easy for fans to think Bill Snyder and Co. are overlooked and underrated on the nation's highest sports media platforms.
But that's just not the case.
At least it wasn't the case at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Texas, earlier this summer. K-State Sports Extra had the opportunity to speak to a few sports journalists from some of the nation's top college football media outlets about both the K-State football program and this year's squad.
Top dogs in the college football media business had a lot of good to say about K-State, and they shared their thoughts and predictions on the team heading into the 2014 season.
Bruce Feldman, FOX Sports columnist and commentator, shared this bit as to why the Wildcats may not show up in the national headlines as often as K-State fans would like:
"I think it's kind of the same every year with them: don't take K-State too lightly. They always end up exceeding the media's expectations, especially the national media. (National media) don't always have a great sense of who's there. A lot of times they'll look at a team and say, 'Okay, this guy is projected to be a first round pick,' or 'this guy is a top-five quarterback.' Because K-State's system is a little different and because Coach Snyder isn't the type of guy who is engaging with a lot of media, they just don't get a ton of buzz.
"Plus there's not a lot of guys who were former four- or five-star guys, so all those things will tumble together, but I'd be surprised if they don't win eight games or more this season."
Here's what a few others had to say:
Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports senior college football columnist
"I think, as usual, K-State will be overlooked, but I think they have the chance to surprise everybody much like they did a couple years ago. I think Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett are one of the best dual threat quarterback and receiver combos in the country. Ryan Mueller speaks for himself; he's an inspiration to everybody. They're going to be one tough defense."
Dodd worked as a sports writer for the Kansas City Star from 1981-89, so he has spent plenty of time in Manhattan and was there when Snyder took the program.
"I covered Bill's first game in 1989, so I've seen all this happen," Dodd continued. "As much as you want to say, they're good, they're good, in the back of your mind, as a player, it's human nature not to respect the Cats until you line up against them. That's why they have so much success against Texas. It's the simple things. They always play up, K-State always plays up above its talents, predictions, its perception, and I think that's going to be the case this year.
"I see a lot of people picking them fourth, but I think they're probably good enough to finish second and get to a major bowl in this playoff year, frankly. Never count out Bill Snyder."
Dodd has covered and followed the K-State football program over the years. He was there when the Wildcats were among the nation's worst football teams in the early 1980s, and he watched as Snyder built it into something great.
"Well, he is the program," explained Dodd when asked about what Snyder means to K-State football. "I tell people I was there at that first game in 1989 against Arizona State. K-State lost something like 31 to nothing, but my whole story was about how they looked different; they lined up right, they played disciplined. They weren't the better team but they acted like they belonged on the same field.
"I've seen everything from him working in his office before it was actually completed with just three walls and flies buzzing around him to him not eating to, just a few months ago, when he hurt his ankle. It was the first time, he told me, in his life that that's happened to him. Now, he's at the point where in October he could become the fourth active College Football Hall of Fame coach ever. He'll be inducted automatically if he's elected. So I guess I've seen it all from the ground up, and it's been really inspirational."
Joel Klatt, FOX Sports College Football Analyst
"My take is very standard when it comes to K-State, you can throw it out every single year: they're going to be the most well prepared, the most disciplined team in the country. They play physical, and it's very tough to beat them because they play such a clean style of game. They don't turn the football over, and when Coach Snyder has a returning starting quarterback, they become even tougher to beat because those decisions that that quarterback makes usually lead to even greater efficiency on their offensive side."
No stranger to the Big 12, Klatt played quarterback for the University of Colorado from 2002-05, so he remembers playing K-State during his years with the Buffs.
"I wouldn't expect anything less than nine wins this season from Kansas State," he continued. "I think they're a fantastic football team. It's hard to win in Manhattan, especially with the renovations; it's become an even louder stadium.
"I hated playing Kansas State, and I think that's the biggest complement I can pay them."
Holly Rowe, ESPN College Football reporter
"It's a special time because so many of the kids that are invested in this program started as walk-ons. I was just talking to Ryan Mueller, and so many of the team captains are walk-ons from the state of Kansas. I think that makes it different. I think they're more invested, they've had to pay their own money to be there and to have this experience."
Three of K-State's five captains this season - Mueller, senior linebacker Jonathan Truman and senior offensive lineman B.J. Finney - are former walk-ons and Kansas natives, and during Big 12 Media Days, Rowe spent time talking with them about what it means to work their way through the system.
"I'm really expecting big things from them," she concluded.