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Predicted For 6th, K-State Again Plans To Surprise
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

Kansas State's all-time record in college football is 486-615-2. The win total is 215 games below .500 when Bill Snyder wasn't the Wildcats' coach and it's 85 games above .500 with Snyder as the coach.

"Difference makers" are often mentioned when talking about players but Snyder, obviously, is a difference maker as a coach.

K-State enters the 2013 season as the defending Big 12 Conference champion and is again in a familiar place. The preseason poll of the media has the Wildcats pegged for sixth place – the same as last season.

"It's a chip on our shoulder," said sophomore defensive back Dante Barnett, who will be counted on to help rebuild a defense missing nine starters.. "Nobody knows us so we kind of like that because they can't really give us an identity. So we have to go out and show the world what we can do."

Snyder's 16 building blocks for a successful program became common knowledge last season. The touchstones are: commitment, unselfishness unity, improve, be tough, self-discipline, great effort, enthusiasm. eliminate mistakes, never give up, expect to win, no self-limitations, don't accept losing, consistency, leadership, and responsibility.

On the field, that translates into playing a physical brand of football with a strong running game, a passing game that strikes when unexpected, a defense that forces turnovers and outstanding special teams.

Assuming all of those factors will still be in play in 2013, it would not be a surprise for the Wildcats to rise above their predicted level.

While the defense will have a number of new faces, the offense must replace a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Quarterback Collin Klein's inspirational play defined Kansas State for the last two seasons. Either sophomore Daniel Sams or junior-college transfer Jake Waters will wind up running the offense this season.

"Both quarterbacks are similar," said senior running back John Hubert, who has gained at least 950 yards each of the last two seasons. "They both throw the ball well. They both run the ball well. It's just getting the plays down, getting more mature, more confident in leading the team."

Snyder flipped a coin to decide the starter in the spring game. The assessment of the two quarterbacks has continued throughout August and leading up to the season opener. No matter which is selected to start, the odds are that Snyder will make a wise decision.

"The one thing he said was always just compete,'' said Waters, who last season led his team to the junior-college national championship. "He wants to see a guy step up and take ownership of it, but he mainly wants us to compete. If it's a really hard decision for him, that's a good thing.''

Fundamentals
Coach: Bill Snyder, 170-85-1 in 22 seasons.
2012: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in Big 12, tied for 1st.
Bowl: Lost to Oregon, 35-17, in Fiesta Bowl.
Returning starters: 7 on offense, 2 on defense.
Key players: Sophomore QB Daniel Sams, junior QB Jake Waters, Senior RB John Hubert, junior WR Tyler Lockett, junior WR Tramaine Thompson, senior OT Cornelius Lucas, junior C B.J. Finney, senior LB Tre Walker, senior SS Ty Zimmerman.

Three Key Questions
1. Who will be the quarterback?
Sophomore Daniel Sams is a better runner than a passer. Junior-college transfer Jake Waters is a better passer than a runner. The competition to be the starter could last into September and up to the Big 12 opener at Texas. When he hasn't had a clear-cut starter, Snyder has never shied away from having his quarterbacks prove themselves through practice competition.

2. Who will step forward on defense?
The defense must replace nine starters. Senior Blake Slaughter took a red shirt last season so he would be in position to replace middle linebacker Arthur Brown. Senior linebacker Tre' Walker and senior safety Ty Zimmerman are the only returning starters. The entire defensive line will be new and at least 10 players have been in the mix for the four starting spots.

3. Can John Hubert be the team's top rusher?
The senior running back is an over achiever. He has gained 950 yards each of the last two seasons while sharing carries with quarterback Collin Klein. Assuming there will be more touches for Hubert, can he break through the 1,000-yard barrier and flourish with 25 to 30 carries per game. K-State's running game also has to replace underrated fullback Braden Wilson, whose blocking created lots of yardage.

Information, Please
Jake Waters, the National Junior College Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year, set a JUCO record last season with a 73.3 completion percentage in leading Iowa Western to the national championship. He had 39 touchdown passes and three interceptions. … Kansas State has six returning offensive linemen with starting experience. Junior center B.J. Finney, a former walk on, said the group calls itself "The Misfits." "We were just completely random, different guys with different backgrounds and random postures," Finney said. … Typically, K-State is solid to great in the kicking game. This season, the Wildcats must replace its kicker and punter. Sophomore Jack Cantele is slated to replace his brother, Anthony, at kicker. Mark Krause and Ethan Hammes are the candidates to handle the punting duties. … North Dakota State, the season-opening opponent, is the two-time defending champion in the Football Championship Subdivision and returns 18 starters.

Numbers To Note
Kansas State outscored its opponents by 145 points in the second half of its games last season. That's an average of 11.3 points per game. … The Wildcats won a school record six games against ranked opponents in 2012. … In 51 games since Bill Snyder returned as coach in 2009, K-State is plus-42 in turnover margin. … Snyder has been the Wildcats' coach in nine of the 10 seasons the school has finished with 10 or more victories.

Schedule
Aug. 30 North Dakota State
Sept. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette
Sept. 14 Massachusetts
Sept. 21 at Texas*
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State*
Oct. 12 Baylor*
Oct. 26 West Virginia*
Nov. 2 Iowa State*
Nov. 9 at Texas Tech*
Nov. 16 TCU*
Nov. 23 Oklahoma*
Nov. 30 at Kansas*
* - Conference game.
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