Preview 2016

Kansas State Wildcats Preview 2016

Nov 21, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats football players leave the field before the start of a game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. The Wildcats won the game 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 21, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats football players leave the field before the start of a game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. The Wildcats won the game 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Wildcats, best players and season prediction.

KSU Preview: Wild Card Wildcats | Top 10 Kansas State Players To Know

What You Need To Know About The Kansas State Offense

It was a struggle. The Wildcat offense couldn’t find anything that consistently worked all that well, and scoring points at times was like pulling teeth. But sometimes the thing worked, and in shootouts against TCU and Texas Tech, it did what it was supposed to do.

Joe Hubener is a good, tough quarterback, but he was only in because the other options were hurt. Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton are back and should bring more firepower, but Hubener had a decent offseason and isn’t done with the job quite yet.

Can the Wildcats get Charles Jones and the ground game going? It seems like he’s been around for 12 years, but the senior is a versatile option who’d shine with more help around him. He’s running behind an okay line, but not a great one. It’ll get the job done from time to time for the ground attack, but it might take a while to come together.

The passing game needs to find some more pop, and there’s plenty of hope in the receiving corps with JUCO transfer Byron Pringle adding some flash to the group. Now that the quarterback play is better, the rest of the receivers should shine, too.

Biggest Key To The Kansas State Offense

The passing game needs to be ultra-efficient again. The running game needs to be effective for Kansas State to be Kansas State, but if it’s not, the offense has to be able to hit the big throws to make up for it. The ground attack stunk in 2014, averaging 134 yards per game, but the passing game made up for it finishing 11th in the nation in efficiency. In 2013, the running game was solid, but with the 13th-most efficient passing game the offense worked. Last season the Wildcats averaged just 158 yards per game on the ground and was 113th in the nation in passing efficiency. Expect that to change in a big way with a better quarterback situation.

What You Need To Know About The Kansas State Defense

The defense should be one of the best in a few years. Coming off a disastrous season against the pass, and just doing okay against most ground games, the Wildcats now have the pieces in place to be fantastic.

If the linebacking corps isn’t the best in the Big 12, it’s not far off with three upper-classmen starters who’ll be in the hunt for all-star honors. There’s depth, speed, and the normal toughness K-State linebackers bring – these three will be a rock against the run behind an improved line.

There might not be enough options or enough depth, but the starting four up front should be solid as long as they can hold up. Jordan Willis and Tanner Wood from a strong group of ends, while Will Geary is an anchor at one tackle spot.

The secondary that had so many problems last season should be instantly better with the return of safety Dante Barnett, who missed almost all of last year hurt. It’s still going to be a patchwork defensive backfield, but there are enough new, talented parts to expect a big improvement right away.

Biggest Key To The Kansas State Defense

The secondary has to ramp it back up. Like all Big 12 pass defenses, Kansas State had its down moments against the big-time offenses two years ago, but for the most part it did a good job in 2013 and 2014 before collapsing in 2015. The Wildcats gave up 300 yards or more seven of the last 11 games, and on the year the gave up fewer than 300 in five of the six wins. The secondary should be vastly improved, so if it can give up under 3,000 yards on the year like it did in ’13 and ‘14 – and come up with more than the five picks it generated last season – it’ll be doing its job.

Kansas State Will Be Far Better If …

The defense comes up with third down stops. The offense isn’t going to be good enough to always keep up the pace with the biggest attacks, so the defense has to do its part by getting off the field as soon as possible. That was an issue last season allowing teams to his 50% or more of their third down plays five times in the final 11 games – all losses. K-State has won just once in the last nine games when it allowed teams to hit half of their third down tries.

Best Kansas State Offensive Player

WR Byron Pringle, Soph. – The starting quarterback – when that settles itself out – could end up being the true star of the Kansas State offense, but it’s Pringle who might grow into the main man coming in from the JUCO ranks and with the talent to quickly become one of the Big 12’s most dangerous playmakers. There are a slew of off-field issues coming into Kansas State, but if all is right, the upside is massive.

Best Kansas State Defensive Player

LB Elijah Lee, Jr. – DE Jordan Willis and S Dante Barnett will be in the hunt for all-star honors, too, but Lee is the all-around defender who looks like a big defensive back but has the speed of a devastating pass rusher. He can do it all, but in this veteran defense he won’t have to.

Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Jesse Ertz, Soph. – Joe Hubener had his moments. He carried the team in a few key games and came close to pulling out a few big wins out of the fire. But he’s not a passer and he’s not as good as Ertz, who got hurt on the first drive of last season and missed the entire year. Healthy now, it’s up to him to start making the passing game go, while also being like the typical Kansas State quarterback and adding a dangerous rushing threat.

The Kansas State Football Season Will Be A Success If …

It wins nine games and gets into the hunt for the Big 12 title. It might be tough with games against Stanford, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU on the road, but the defense might just be good enough, and the offense should be improved enough to be three wins better overall. There can’t be any problems at home against Texas or Oklahoma State – win those, and the Wildcats will run the home slate. Eight regular season wins is an easy goal, and then throw in the bowl game.

Key Game

Oct. 15 at Oklahoma – It was the low point last year coming off a scintillating 52-45 loss to TCU and tough two-point loss to Oklahoma State. Just when it seemed like K-State could hang with the big boys, Oklahoma – delayed flight and all – came into Manhattan and came away with a 55-0 stomping. If the Wildcats can beat West Virginia on the road, they might just be on a nice run to start out the season before having to go to Norman. If they can pull off the win, they’re going to be a player in the Big 12 title chase.

Kansas State Football Stats From 2015

– Passing Yards: Opponents 3,712 – Kansas State 2,288
– Interceptions Thrown: Kansas State 13 – Opponents 5
– Time of Possession: Kansas State 32:08 – Opponents 27:52

2016 Kansas State Season Prediction

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