Basketball season has officially ended for Kansas State University. Of course I’m going to watch every minute of the remaining three games—mostly because I have this fantasy where KU goes down in a ball of flames, but my heart has moved on to my first and one true love: Kansas State football.
Let me first say that the last four seasons have not been what Wildcat fans are used to. Instead, the first two were a study in watching the greatest coach in college football history lose in embarrassing fashion to his progeny. (Currently, six Division-1 head coaches owe their jobs to Bill Snyder—Phil Bennett-Southern Methodist University, Bret Bielema-University of Wisconsin, Jim Leavitt-University of South Florida, Mark Mangino-University of Kansas, Bob Stoops-University of Oklahoma, and Mike Stoops-University of Arizona. Bill Snyder was 1-3 against Mangino and Stoops in his last two seasons).
The last two were a combination of excitement over Ron Prince’s hiring and the sad realization that he wasn’t another Bill Snyder. Granted, Bill Snyder didn’t have a winning season until his third year, but he inherited the worst program in the nation—not the case for Ron Prince.
In three years Ron Prince has gone from a winning season to two back-to-back losing seasons—something Wildcat fans aren’t used to (Kansas State had 8-straight and 10 out of 11 winning seasons from ’93-’03).
I’m now going to outline why I think that this is Ron Prince’s last year at Kansas State and why I think the Wildcats won’t fare well in ’08.
Reason No. 1—Kansas State just named Bob Krause the new Athletic Director. After this year, Ron Prince will have had three years to prove he can coach, if he can’t do that, Bob has an easy time bringing in someone he wants—after all, if Oklahoma State can fire Sean Sutton after two years after he gave them twenty plus, Ron Prince is easy to kick out of Manhattan after three.
Reason No. 2—Ron Prince is bringing in five, four-star recruits—all of whom are JuCo transfers (he’s never recruited a five-star player). Those five recruits are equal to the total number of four-star recruits from his first two seasons combined.
I’m not a coach (sometimes I wonder why), but I find it hard to believe that you can build a winning D-1 program with purely JuCo recruits. Leon Patton and Josh Freeman remain the only four-star players Prince has ever recruited that aren’t from a JuCo; while Leon will be a solid running back if Prince can throw a decent offensive line in front of him and everyone keeps telling me Josh is a good quarterback, I still don’t see an offensive line worth writing home about and I would give my left leg to see Carson Coffman get more than five minutes of playing time because I’m positive he would show up Josh.
My point being that Ron Prince has failed to reel in a recruiting class worth noting—not a good way to endear yourself to a new AD or, more importantly, the legions of Wildcats fans that live and die with their team every year. I don’t think that after this year’s schedule, Ron has a chance at another recruiting class.
That brings me to Reason No, 3—Kansas State’s 2008 schedule. After dropping Fresno State in lieu of Montana State, the Wildcats’ pre-conference schedule is weak at best (sans Louisville). In contrast to their pre-conference schedule, Kansas State’s tour of the Big 12 is a brutal gauntlet of games that any team in the conference would have a tough time with.
Road games at Texas A&M, Colorado, Kansas, and conference champions Missouri do not bode well for an undermanned Wildcat squad. In my idealistic world K-State will start 3-1 with their first loss coming at Louisville. After that it’s eight straight conference games that, in my opinion, the ‘Cats will be lucky to win two of.
I see K-State winning two games out of their three contests with Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa State. Either way, I have a real hard time seeing my beloved Wildcats escaping the 2008 season with more than five wins (and that comes from a perennial optimist—I predicted seven wins in 2007 and we ended up with what, five?!).
If the atmosphere and fans in Manhattan are ever to factor into the Wildcats' success, this is the year. K-State will be more reliant than ever on their fans to help them get over the hill in close home games. The 'Cats should be able to steal one road game and if they can win three out of four at home, they will fare better than even I predict they will.
You can bet your life that I’ll be at every home game and at least one road game to cheer on my ‘Cats. I honestly think we can beat our hated rivals to the east—the Jayhawks—but this year will, sadly, not be a diversion from the last four. Yet rest assured Wildcat fans, come 2009 we should, in my opinion, either have a new head coach to guide us back to the glory and dominance we are accustomed to, or have faired well enough in '08 to warrant giving Ron Prince one more go at a winning season.
Since I’m sure I’ve exceeded the attention span of just about everyone reading this article, I’ll save my in-depth critique of Kansas State’s offense and defense for another day. I’ll leave you with my prediction for the Kansas State University Wildcats football team of 2008: an optimistic 6-6 with wins over North Texas, Montana State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa State.
Only time will tell, but I'm afraid the Wildcat Nation will have to wait a bit longer for the Wildcats' return to dominance. 2008 will decide the fate of KSU football for at least half a decade to come, let's all hope for the best. But remember, no matter the outcome, every man a Wildcat!