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Sports Editorial

KSAL Staff - November 17, 2014 8:00 am

MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS

MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS

The Kansas City Chiefs roared into a first place tie with Denver following a scintillating 24-20 win over the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.  KC and Denver are tied atop the NFL West with 7-3 records.

Head coach Andy Reid, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, and general manager John Dorsey are doing a remarkable job of managing KC’s personnel.  In just two years with KC, they have pulled players out of nowhere that have made major contributions.

What are the odds that Kansas City and Kansas State would both be on national TV on this Thursday night?  That’s how it is.  But K-State starts at 6:00 p.m. and KC at 7:25 p.m., so football fans in Kansas will be able to watch a lot of both games.

Kansas City is for real; the Chiefs are playing stellar football.  KC could get to the Super Bowl and match the Royals World Series run.

Kansas State is tied for first place in the Big 12 football race; the Wildcats have a 5-1 conference record and 7-2 overall.  K-State has a crucial game this coming Thursday (Nov. 20) at West Virginia—the game will be nationally televised by Fox Sports 1.

West Virginia is the most-improved team in the Big 12 with a 4-3 league record and 6-4 overall.  Coach Dana Holgorsen’s potent offense is led by senior QB Clint Trickett (6-2, 175) and a corps of skilled and quick running backs and receivers.

West Virginia lost to Alabama (33-23), Oklahoma (45-33), TCU (31-30), and Texas (33-16).  Their biggest win was a 41-27 thumping of Baylor in Morgantown.  West Virginia has been competitive in every game they’ve lost during a daunting schedule.

In K-State’s last game, which they lost to TCU (41-20), the Wildcats were soundly whipped at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  That was untypical.  K-State’s offensive and defensive lines have been superior—or held their own—against every team they’ve played, with the notable exception of TCU.

West Virginia isn’t even close to TCU in overall team speed and Kansas State should prevail in a close game.  The Wildcats will slip from a first-class bowl to something lower if they lose to both West Virginia and Baylor.  That makes the West Virginia game vital; if K-State wins, they will likely finish either 10-2 or 9-3.

One factor that has gone virtually unnoticed in K-State’s last few games is the play of sophomore QB Joe Hubener (6-4, 205).  Even though Hubener has played limited minutes, he’s performed well.  His passing and running have been exceptional, with just one bad pass that was returned for a TD in the win against Oklahoma State.

When Coach Snyder employs the Wildcat formation, don’t be surprised if Hubener replaces RB Charles Jones as a pass-run threat at the tailback position.  Hubener has certainly positioned himself to compete for the starting QB position next season.

The transformation of the Kansas football team since Clint Bowen took over as head coach has been extraordinary.  KU scared the living daylights out of TCU and their fans before losing 34-30.

It’s not just that the Jayhawks are playing harder under Bowen—KU looks like a different team.  AD Sheahon Zenger has an opportunity to make a very wise decision:  He should name Bowen as the new head coach immediately.

Hiring Bowen at once would give KU’s staff the needed momentum to recruit an outstanding 2016 freshman class.  Kansas has been a slumbering giant in football for a long time:  Clint Bowen is the young man who can rouse the giant from his drunken slumber.

KU, Wichita State, and K-State got their basketball seasons off to solid starts by winning their season openers.  All three had some bright spots and all three have a long way to go before they are finished products.

Coach Bill Self will know a lot more about his Kansas team after the Kentucky game on Tuesday, November 18.  The Jayhawks are hurting for size in the pivot.  Perry Ellis (6-8, 225) and Jamari Traylor (6-8, 220) aren’t the answer at the center and power forward position.

Ellis can play power forward or small forward, but he’s limited in size and jumping ability against big, strong teams like Kentucky.  Traylor gives great effort and he excels as a reliable reserve, but Traylor is no threat to score inside.  Freshman Cliff Alexander and sophomore Landen Lucas will eventually play most of the minutes at center.

KU has the potential to be a special team; however, it’s not the type ball club that Self is used to coaching.  The lack of an inside scoring threat at center is going to be a problem for KU’s inside-out offense.  Coach Self might have to make some changes in his offensive strategy.

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