The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 11: Kansas State
Coach: Bill Snyder (159-83-1, 21st season)
2011 record: 10-3 (7-2 in Big 12 Conference, second in Big 12)
Look back: Kansas State opened the 2011 campaign with seven straight victories including wins over Miami, Baylor and Texas Tech. It was the best start for a Wildcats team in 12 years. Bill Snyder’s group then stumbled with back-to-back losses to 11th-ranked Oklahoma and third-ranked Oklahoma State before capturing its eighth win of the season with a thrilling four overtime victory over Texas A&M. Kansas State ended the year with wins over Texas and Kansas State, earning the Wildcats their first double-digit win season since 2003. The team earned a bid to the Cotton Bowl where they lost to seventh-ranked Arkansas, 29-16.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 3/8
Defensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Key losses: QB Sammuel Lamur, DB David Garrett, LB Emmanuel Lamur, DB Tysyn Hartman
Top returnees: QB Collin Klein, RB John Hubert, WR Chris Harper, LB Arthur Brown
Strengths: With eight starters returning, Kansas State is preparing to duplicate the success it had on offense last season when the Wildcats averaged 31.8 points per game. Collin Klein is back for his second season as the starter. A dual-threat quarterback, Klein was seventh in the Big 12 Conference in total offense (235.3 yards per game) last season where he threw for 1,918 yards and rushed for another 1,141 yards. He finished with 40 total touchdowns. Joining Klein in the backfield is running back John Hubert, who was second on the team in rushing behind Klein with 970 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas State returns its top four receivers including Chris Harper, who led the team with 40 catches for 547 yards and five touchdowns.
Weaknesses: The defense returns six starters from a group that was ranked fifth in the Big 12 in total defense (450 ypg). Linebacker Arthur Brown is the leading returnee on the unit. He was the team’s leading tackler last season with 101 tackles. The line loses two starters but will be anchored by defensive end Meshak Williams, who led the team in sacks (7). Joining him will be defensive end Adam Davis. The secondary took some big hits in the offseason as well. Gone are defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman. Both combined for more than 150 tackles and five interceptions. Nigel Malone, who led the team with seven interceptions, will provide leadership in the secondary. … The offense line took a huge hit in the offseason when it lost three starters leaving center B.J. Finney to anchor the group starting in 2012.
Outlook: Kansas State surprised a lot of teams last year but that won’t be the case this season. Collin Klein demonstrated that he is a force to be reckoned with out of the backfield but still needs to develop as a pure-passer. His development in that area could go a long way in continuing Kansas State’s success on the national scale. The defense lost four of its top five tacklers and needs younger players to step up and fill those roles especially considering some of the competition in the Big 12 Conference.
Sept. 1 Missouri State
Sept. 8 Miami
Sept. 15 North Texas
Sept. 22 at Oklahoma
Oct. 6 Kansas
Oct. 13 at Iowa State
Oct. 20 at West Virginia