KSAL Staff - August 29, 2016 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Kansas State’s football team opens their 2016 season with a nationally televised game at Stanford this Friday (Sept. 2) at 8:00 p.m. Fox Sports 1 (Channel 60 on Cox Cable) will televise the Pac-12 vs. Big 12 game.
Stanford is ranked eighth in the initial 2016 Associated Press Poll; the Cardinal is a solid program, coming off a 12-2 record in 2015. And Stanford has won the Pac-12 three of the last four years.
Stanford’s leading offensive player is RB Christian McCaffrey (Jr 6-0, 205) who was sensational in 2015. He was voted the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the AP Player of the Year. If that’s not enough, McCaffrey set the NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yards (3,800) in 2015. That’s scary for K-Staters.
Stanford’s starting QB is Ryan Burns (Jr 6-5, 232); he’s thrown just one pass during four years in the program. And the Cardinal has to replace three starting offensive linemen along with a number of key departures from their defense.
But Stanford is an established program that has talented depth and they will be on their home field at Palo Alto.
On the plus side for the Wildcats, the defense is highly regarded and will be K-State’s strength against the Cardinal’s weaknesses. Coach Bill Snyder will focus his defense on McCaffrey and Stanford will be forced to pass with a new QB.
Kansas State’s defense has the potential to be formidable this fall. The Wildcats had 13 of their defensive players receive preseason accolades from four prestigious college football magazines: Athlon, Lindy’s, Phil Steele, and Sporting News.
DE Jordan Willis (Sr 6-5, 250), DT Will Geary (Jr 6-0, 297), and LB Elijah Lee (Jr 6-3, 218) are expected to have big-time seasons. Safety Dante Barnett (Sr 6-1, 193), LB Charmeachealle Moore (Sr 6-0, 221), CB Duke Shelley (So 5-9, 160), and DE Reggie Walker (Fr 6-2, 239) also received recognition.
If K-State’s defense can keep McCaffrey from piling up yardage, the Wildcats might hang with Stanford or even pull a big upset. Stanford is, however, a 15-point favorite.
If QB Jesse Ertz (Jr 6-3, 210) comes out with a hot hand passing, K-State will be competitive. Snyder’s receivers will be better; the wide receiving corps has experience and star JUCO recruit Byron Pringle (So 6-2, 212) is a game-changer.
Kansas State’s main concern on offense is the offensive line—the Wildcats graduated four starters from the 2015 team. The preseason depth chart has experience, listing two senior guards, a senior and redshirt freshman at the tackles, and a junior TE. Dalton Risner (So 6-5, 300) is the returning starter at center and he’s a proven player.
Predicting these early games is guesswork as no one knows how teams will perform in their openers. The hunch here is that Jesse Ertz is going to emerge as an outstanding QB for K-State—he’s due for some luck in avoiding injuries.
Kansas University begins their second season under Coach David Beaty this coming Saturday (Sept. 3) at 6:00 p.m. against the Rhode Island Rams. KU’s home opener will be televised by Jayhawk TV.
No one knows what to expect from the Jayhawks, who had a dismal 0-12 a season in 2015. Coach Beaty hasn’t lost his enthusiasm and said, “We have to give our fan base something that they can be proud of and that doesn’t happen overnight . . . we’ve been putting that work in for a good year and a half and we’ve made a lot of strides.”
There have been notable changes since Beaty’s first season. Beaty has taken over as offensive coordinator and he’ll call the plays. That’s a lot for a head coach to handle and it might not work.
Kansas needs an easy opener and Rhode Island is just that. The Rams were 1-10 in 2015 and finished in the cellar of the Colonial Athletic Association. In addition, the Rams are picked to finish last in the CAA again this season. It will serve no useful purpose to try and describe Rhode Island as a respected opponent because they are not a quality college football team.
KU is better than last year; the Jayhawks need to show enough improvement to jolt the Jayhawk fans into a state of excitement and anticipation for the rest of the season.
Kansas should crush Rhode Island and it’s a perfect time for QB Ryan Willis (So 6-4, 215) to gain confidence and show that the Jayhawks’ offense is improved.
KU has more depth and all of the players who went through the horrid 2015 season are bigger and stronger and more mature. They know what to expect. The Jayhawks will be improved in all areas; no one knows by how much, but the outlook is encouraging.