All I Want For Christmas

K-State has plenty to be thankful for -- a Big 12 football title, a Fiesta Bowl bid and a successful year thus far for the men's and women's basketball team. <BR><BR> But, it doesn't hurt to hope for more. Dear Santa, for Christmas I want...

5. is a win over Kansas.
Kansas State locks horns with the Jayhawks on Jan. 11. Looking at the remaining part of its schedule prior to that -- games against Missouri-KC, Saint Louis and Savannah State -- the Wildcats could well be 10-1 when they face the Jayhawks. And considering the Jayhawks' road meltdown against Nevada -- that's right, Nevada -- in a game they trailed by 20 at times, K-State may be in line for its first win against the Squawks in quite some time. The game is played at Allen Fieldhouse, making a win no small order, but with a better record entering the game, the Wildcats could make an important statement on a national scene. Okay, so I guess I'm looking past SLU, a team that always seems to give the Cats a scrape, but the fact remains: this Wildcat team is different than many in the past. Call it youthful exuberance, call it newfound talent and athleticism, call it what you like. But Santa, I think Coach Wooldridge has been awfully nice this year.

4. Bill Snyder to not even think about retiring.
Look, the fact is Coach is well past 60 and, like his mentor Hayden Fry, questions are going to be popping up from recruits across the country as to his longevity. Snyder may appear full of vigor right now, but assuming a kid redshirts, will Snyder still be going five years down the line? It's going to become important for the Wildcat recruiting/coaching staff to put to rest any questions as to Snyder's longevity -- and well on the way to one of the top classes in several years, the Cats appear to be doing just that. Bolstered by the Wildcats' victory over Oklahoma in the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship, the Cats recently gained a commitment from one of the top defensive ends/tackles in the nation in McCollins Umeh -- over Texas and Oklahoma, of all programs. Still, the Big 12 title remained the unicorn for Snyder -- the fabled creature uncatchable -- and it will be interesting to see what comes of the next several seasons.

3. a high-profile quarterback to be signed.
Sure, we can look at the major commits the Wildcats have already gotten ahold of, sit back and say job-well-done. We can look at the commitments of Gerard Spexarth, Caleb Handy and Matt Boss and drool at what the future offensive line will look like. We can look at Maurice Porter and Tyvenskie Page and say what a tremendous secondary the Wildcats are going to have in the next few years. But K-State is still looking for a trigger-man to run the Wildcats in the post-Ell Roberson era. Roberson was the last of the high-profile quarterbacks to come to K-State, and look what happened. All signs point to two very similar dual-threat quarterbacks both ranked among the best in the nation -- Nick Patton and Brent Schaeffer. Patton, from Winfield, Kan., is the highest on the recruiting radar due largely to his locality. Winfield, a drive South from Manhattan, means the 6-foo-3 signal caller will look heavily at Kansas and K-State for his final decision. Missouri appears out of the picture with the Tigers' commitment of Chase Patton (no relation), so the future of the Governor's Cup could well be decided off the field and in the off-season. Many Wildcat eyes will be watching the US Army All-American Game, where Patton is expected to make his decision. Then there's Schaeffer, who is less known but equally capable. The 6-foot-3 quarterback from Deerfield Beach, Fla. is high on Tennessee, but recently visited the Wildcats. Santa, I don't know if a 6-foot-3 frame can be stuffed in a stocking, but either of those two would be just fine.

2. Darren Sproles -- one more year.
It's safe to say Sproles, the 5-foot-7 running back from Olathe North near Kansas City got the shaft when it came to postseason awards. He'll likely break the 2,000 yard mark in the Cats' bowl game, his numbers stack up well against virtually anybody in the nation, and yet when it came time to walk across the stage, it was Michigan's Chris Perry and Virginia Tech's Thomas Jones getting the hardware. Folks, that just goes to show you what exposure and hype can do. Sproles was hurt this season by a lengthy stretch of not playing on television, something K-State can remedy with a more appealing schedule. He was hurt by not playing full games against better competition, something K-State can remedy with a tougher schedule. He was hurt by being hurt, missing part of the Troy State game and struggling with injuries part of the season. But all of that points to a banner season in 2004, when Sproles will be called on to carry the load even more with the departure of offensive weapons Roberson, James Terry, and his bread-'an-butter blockers Nick Leckey and Travis Wilson. Sure, he's lost a lot of help and opposing teams will undoubtedly be keying on him all season, but under that kind of pressure, it's time to see if Sproles really was a Heisman Trophy candidate this past season.

1. a fiesta the night of Jan. 2.
The last time K-State played in the Fiesta Bowl, the Wildcats dominated Syracuse in 1997. This season, all things point toward another such outcome. Ohio State has relied heavily on its defense to win close games, but K-State may be playing the best of any team in the nation not named USC right now, and the last time K-State went up a gainst a top-flight defense they ran amock against the vaunted Sooners. The Cats will be under that national spotlight again, against a big-time opponent, in a BCS bowl game for the first time -- the ramifications of a stoic performance are by the hundred: recruiting improves, exposure improves, donations roll in. I don't care if Christmas comes late, Santa, just grant us all a win on Jan. 2.

And grant us all a safe, warm, happy holidays.

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