Race for second heating up in the Big 12

ISUGipson
As the Big 12 season enters its final week, the most fascinating race is for second.

Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma are all tied with 10 conference victories. All four teams have two games remaining, and all four teams could finish second as easily as they could finish fifth.

A breakdown:

Kansas State
Remaining Games:
at Oklahoma State, vs. Baylor.
Why they could finish second: The Wildcats won their last road game and have already beaten Oklahoma State this season. Winning in Stillwater, though difficult, is hardly impossible. And they should be favored against Baylor at home, where they have won 15 straight. K-State also benefits from tie-breakers, by virtue of its victory over Kansas. Texas also beat the Jayhawks, but it is hurt by losing twice to Oklahoma. That could come in handy when its time to seed the Big 12 Tournament.
Why they could finish fifth: Oklahoma State has been on a roll since Marcus Smart returned from his three-game suspension, and K-State is 2-6 on the road. There’s a reason the Cowboys are favored by 8.5 points in Stillwater. Baylor has also been playing well since it downed K-State in Waco. Beating the Bears at Bramlage Coliseum isn’t a given. The Wildcats face arguably the toughest schedule of this four-team group.
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Kansas State beat Oklahoma with defense last month. Toughness could decide rematch

RyanSpangler
Ask Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler what it will take for the Sooners to beat Kansas State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center, and he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.

“We can’t let them out-physical us,” Spangler said. “We have to be the tougher team.”

That wasn’t the case when K-State defeated Oklahoma 72-66 last month at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats were clearly the tougher team, particularly on defense.

The Sooners sport one of the nation’s top offenses. They average 83 points, with all five of their starters averaging double-figures. But they couldn’t get anything going in Manhattan, outside of Spangler, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds. Shane Southwell and Nino Williams held Cameron Clark to two points and Oklahoma made 33 percent of its shots.

“They do as good a job as anyone defensively,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “It’s hard to simulate, because they are so good at it. But you know what you are getting. They just line up and guard you like crazy. Executing against it is difficult.”
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K-State Q&A: Looking ahead to important road games, looking back on the Baylor loss, plus NCAA Tournament and Justin Edwards

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another K-State Q&A. Apologies for taking last week off, but it was 86 degrees in Texas leading up to the Baylor game. I chose to spend every second I could away from the computer.

Anyway, there’s a big week of basketball ahead. The Wildcats play at Oklahoma and Texas Tech and then return home to take on Iowa State. All three games could be considered toss-ups. They will certainly impact the seed K-State earns in the NCAA Tournament.

Let’s go ahead and jump into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.


1. The expectation has to be 0-2, given K-State’s recent history. Though it has often looked dominant at home (winning 14 straight) it has played poorly on the road (losing every away game other than at bottom-feeder TCU). But the majority of its road losses have been close, so it’s also reasonable to assume K-State will break through and win a road game at some point. Oklahoma is 11-3 at home. Texas Tech is 10-5 at home. K-State could win in both venues, but both games will be difficult. Too difficult to expect victories given that K-State has lost five straight on the road.
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Postgame Thoughts and Player Ratings: Kansas State 72, Oklahoma 66

OUJevonThomas
Three thoughts from Kansas State’s 72-66 victory against Oklahoma on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum:

1. Wesley Iwundu is growing up.
This was a very important game for Iwundu. K-State’s starting forward hit the “freshman wall” coaches always talk about a few weeks ago. And when he hit it, he hit it hard. Iwundu had been as quiet as a mouse since scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds against Gonzaga. In the five games leading up to Tuesday’s win over Oklahoma, he averaged 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds. He essentially disappeared in games against TCU and Kansas. Those performances were clearly fresh on the minds of K-State fans, who urged him not to attempt an open three in the first half Tuesday. Funny thing is, those same fans cheered when he knocked down a late three-pointer (his third of the game) to spark a 16-4 run that led to K-State’s victory. Iwundu has never been known as a shooter, but he made several key shots in this game. Perhaps more importantly, he grabbed vital rebounds in crunch time. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds for his best game of the season. “I have been absent the past two games,” Iwundu said. “I had a talk with coach and he was just like, calm down and let the game come to me. I wasn’t trying to force anything and just shot the ball with confidence.”
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Is Kansas State headed for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl or the Holiday Bowl? A Sugar Bowl executive will provide the answer

DanielSams1
As strange as it may sound, a New Orleans man in a blazer will decide Kansas State’s bowl destination.

The Wildcats face two possibilities:

1. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which will be played against a Big 10 opponent (possibly Nebraska) on Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ari.

2. The Holiday Bowl, which will be played against a Pac-12 team (potentially Arizona State) on Dec. 30 in San Diego.

K-State could end up in either game, but the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl seems like the current favorite. That’s a drastic shift from a few days ago, when K-State appeared destined for the Holiday Bowl. The bowl’s executive director said it was planning on selecting the Wildcats. But the dominoes of college football have fallen in a way that may bump K-State up to one of the Big 12′s top four bowls.
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Sunday Rewind: Oklahoma 41, K-State 31

OULockett
A look back at Oklahoma’s 41-31 victory over Kansas State:

THREE THOUGHTS

1. This game showed the importance of a balanced offense.
Tyler Lockett didn’t just play the game of his life. With 440 all-purpose yards, 278 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, he played the finest game of any K-State receiver … Ever. When he went off in the second quarter, catching touchdown passes of 48, 30 and 90 yards, the Wildcats looked unstoppable. But when Oklahoma adjusted and put top cornerback Aaron Colvin on him in the second half, K-State couldn’t adjust back. Jake Waters threw two devastating interceptions, while Daniel Sams and John Hubert were essentially bystanders. Sams attempted three runs and no passes. Hubert touched the ball nine times. K-State rushed for 24 yards.

The Wildcats didn’t have a balanced offense, and, much like a loss at Texas when Lockett went crazy for 237 receiving yards while the rest of the offense was quiet, they lost by double-digits. Oklahoma, meanwhile, ran for 301 yards and threw for 171 yards. That balance kept K-State’s defense guessing. That was the difference in this game.
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‘Belldozer’ origins trace back to Collin Klein

Some of the most interesting moments of Monday’s Big 12 Media Days session came near the end when Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops bumped into Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein in between interviews.

The two talked for a few minutes about all sorts of different topics. Football, marriage, honeymoons, country music, Blake Bell … They all came up.

For this blog post, we will focus on that last topic. Klein said Bell was in attendance for his wedding over the weekend, and then Stoops said something revealing. He told Klein that he got the idea to sub Bell (Oklahoma’s sophomore backup quarterback who once starred at Bishop Carroll) for Landry Jones as a short-yard specialist last year after watching Klein dive into the end zone week after week.

“I saw you running all these great plays,” Stoops said, “and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a guy with the same body over here. I need to borrow that.’ That’s where it all started.”

So the “Belldozer” origins trace back to Klein. Who knew?

A quick Google search reveals that Stoops has hinted at the connection before. And Bell’s breakthrough success as a power-running, touchdown-scoring quarterback certainly correlate with Klein. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder scored his first collegiate touchdown against the Wildcats. Stoops must have watched lots of Klein film that week.

Bell impressed Stoops so much that he played in the remainder of Oklahoma’s games and finished the season with 171 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Following a big spring game, Sooners fans have already begun clamoring for him to see more playing time.

Stoops said that is unlikely to happen yesterday. He doesn’t want to alternate quarterbacks, and likes the big-play capabilities Jones brings to the field with his arm. But Bell will definitely continue to be a threat near the goal line.

If not for Klein first rushing for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior, that might not be the case.

A few minutes with … ESPN’s Chris Fowler

A few days ago, I got an e-mail out of the blue from an ESPN publicist. She said she saw my blog post last week about how the city of Manhattan was catching “College Gameday” fever, and that Chris Fowler was interested in speaking with me.

As the longtime host of one of ESPN’s most popular shows, Fowler can offer insight into “Gameday’s” decision to head to Southern California this week for its game against Stanford when it appeared destined for Manhattan. So, I told her to have him give me a call.

The first thing he said to me today was, “I’ve heard from a lot of angry K-State people. Maybe I can explain our decision a little bit.”

We’ll go into Q&A form the rest of the way, though Fowler did most of the talking.

Why don’t we just start there with that request. What explanation would you like to offer those K-State fans?

We were disappointed. Obviously Oklahoma and Kansas State had been No. 1 on our grid for a few weeks, and the hype was building. We fully expected the Wildcats to take care of the Jayhawks and the Sooners to win. It was almost a foregone conclusion. And we’re sitting in the bus last Saturday night in disbelief, watching Oklahoma fall. When that happens, it forces you to hastily reconsider.

We don’t ever pick the “Gameday” sites until the results of the previous Saturday are in. There is no upside to doing that. Through the years we have had plenty of last-minute changes in location due to upsets. It seems to happen a lot in the Big 12. I can remember times when we were supposed to be at Texas A&M but they lost to Baylor. It happens from time to time.

This one, though, was among the most surprising. I mean, we were there. We had the location. The director of the show had been there. We had looked at locations for the set. We were set to go. But when you lose the angle of having a top 5 team, unbeaten, on the road. The game nationally takes a hit.

Now, nobody on the set makes the decision. That is handled at a management level. We are no longer given much input. But based on what happened, the idea of Stanford against a USC team that not many expected to beat Notre Dame looked pretty good.
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Looking ahead to gameday: Oklahoma

Editor’s note: In preparation of the upcoming football season, K-Stated will look ahead to all 12 games on the Wildcats’ 2011 schedule. Next up, at Kansas.

If the only championship Oklahoma wins this season is of the conference variety, some will view it as a disappointment.

In 2011, the Sooners are thinking bigger. As the nation’s top-ranked preseason team, they are thinking national championship. With 14 starters returning, including Heisman Trophy contender Landry Jones at quarterback, Oklahoma truly is loaded.

An injury to linebacker Travis Lewis, which will keep him out of the season’s first few games, could be problematic with highly-ranked Florida State on the schedule on Sept. 17, but he should be back to lead Oklahoma’s defense in time for make-or-break conference games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

He should also be back in time for Oklahoma’s trip to Kansas State on Oct. 29. If the Sooners are still ranked No. 1, the Wildcats will take on a top-ranked team (at least in the AP Poll) for the first time since facing Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 championship game.
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Scheduling strategies differ in new Big 12

Scheduling photo

At his annual preseason media day news conference last week, a reporter asked Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder why he canceled a future home-and-home series against Oregon.

His answer was robotic.

“My feelings about scheduling,” Snyder responded. “That hasn’t changed. I still feel the same way — right, wrong or indifferent — that I always have.”

Snyder’s feelings about scheduling (if you need a refresher) are to play as many nonconference games as possible at home against beatable opponents. Traveling to both UCLA and Louisiana-Lafayette last year was not at all his cup of tea.

With the help of athletic director John Currie, he has added future games against Texas-San Antonio and Central Florida. Expect more games of that caliber to show up on future Wildcats’ schedules. Not just because they please Snyder, but because Currie believes extra home games will be needed when the Big 12 becomes a 10-team conference and switches to a nine-game format.

Other coaches and athletic directors across the league are also talking schedules these days, but no two opinions are exactly the same. K-State and Kansas appear to be scheduling light, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops is thinking about doing the same and Texas just added Notre Dame.
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