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Sports Editorial

KSAL Staff - September 15, 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

Kansas State will play their most significant nonconference, regular- season game in their history this Thursday (Sept. 18).  Ranked number 19 in the polls, K-State will face the number five Auburn Tigers in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.  ESPN will televise the game from coast-to-coast with a 6:30 p.m. start.

With the new playoff formula in place, this game is crucial for both teams.  It’s a big one.  Auburn poses a daunting challenge for the Wildcats; the Tigers are coming off a sensational season with eight starters returning on offense and six on defense.

Auburn posted a 12-2 (7-1 SEC) record in 2013; the Tigers played in the national championship game against Florida State, losing 34-31.  And that was after Auburn defeated defending national champion Alabama, 34-28.  The Tigers led the nation in rushing in 2013; that’s a remarkable achievement when playing in the SEC.

In their first two games, Auburn pummeled Arkansas (45-21) and San Jose State (59-13).  Coach Gus Malzahn has two talented quarterbacks:  senior starter Nick Marshall and sophomore Jeremy Johnson.

Marshall (6-1, 210) is a proven run-pass threat who has played well in numerous big games.  And Johnson (6-5, 230) is a deadly passer, just waiting for his turn as starter next season.

Auburn showed a hard-to-defend, pass-run balance in their first two games; they rushed for 330 yards and passed for 214-.  Marshall and Johnson combined for 29 completions on 40 passing attempts for three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Auburn is experienced and talented on both offense and defense; they have exceptional overall team quickness and athletic ability.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has had a week and a half to prepare for Auburn, which is a major factor in favor of the Wildcats.  Snyder’s teams have always been emotionally ready for crucial games.  And playing in Snyder Stadium will be an advantage.

K-State will have to be successful in their passing game if the Wildcats are going to make it a tight game.  With the notable exception of Tyler Lockett, the supporting cast of pass catchers wasn’t impressive against Iowa State.  That must change.

If Kansas State wins, they will be propelled into the top ten in the national rankings and the sky will be the limit.  Beating Auburn is easy to talk about but difficult to accomplish.

College football teams cannot be successful unless they believe—down deep where it really counts—that they have what it takes to be winners.  Kansas University’s team doesn’t have that belief.

KU has a lack of poise and an obvious lack of team chemistry; it doesn’t take long for the players to begin hanging their heads.  Not all of them, but many.  Part of the cause is the recruitment of so many JUCO players and transfers.  In both of those cases, a number of the players involved bring some excess baggage with them.

There’s usually a reason why a JUCO transfer didn’t go to a four-year college in the first place; more often than not, it’s because of weak academics.  And transfers are usually young men who couldn’t earn playing time at their first school.

KU doesn’t have a quarterback.  Montell Cozart might develop over time, but he may never become an effective passer.  Right now he’s a very poor passer and has a defining lack of poise.  Coach Charlie Weis is in his third season at Kansas and he hasn’t recruited a big-time QB that’s capable of leading KU to a competitive level.

KU football fans have nothing to be encouraged about:  the Jayhawks offense is substandard, the defense is lacking, and the coaching isn’t getting it done.

During Weis’s tenure, the recruiting has been weak; Kansas State has dominated in-state.  And the worst part of it is that KU is starting a large number of seniors on this year’s team—next year looks even worse.

It’s going to be a long, long season.  It’s clear that the present setup is never going to work.  In three years under Charlie Weis, KU has not improved appreciably.

Last Saturday the Kansas City Royals’ baseball team bounced back from a mind-numbing streak of poor fielding and inept hitting to defeat Boston 7-1.  Whether or not that was a temporary reprieve or a signal the Royals are ready to roar down the homestretch will determine their playoff chances.

It’s going to the wire—14 games remain.  Through the September 13 games, KC was a half game behind Detroit in the AL Central.  If Kansas City is to have success in the playoffs, it’s essential to win the AL Central rather than a wild card spot.

The Royals have a vital three-game home series against Detroit on September 19, 20, and 21.  That could decide the AL Central, or it could go down to the final day.

City of Salina