Big 12 Opener Can Set The Tone

Kansas State opens Big 12 play Saturday in a 2:30 ABC kickoff against No. 7 Texas Tech at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats won last year's opener against No. 7 Texas, but that's the only 1-0 start enjoyed in the last seven years.

Saturday is the first of several biggies for Kansas State if it hopes to reach bowl-status at the end of the season.

The Wildcats are half way to the needed six victories to be bowl eligible with eight Big 12 Conference games yet to play.

Being realistic, let's say that Oklahoma and Missouri are very doubtful victories. So, that leaves six games to win three. Likely, the Wildcats may only be favored in one of those with that being Iowa State on the final Saturday of the regular season.

Opening the Big 12 year Saturday with an upset victory over No. 7 Texas Tech could/would supply the Wildcats a huge momentum boost heading into consecutive road games against winnable teams in Texas A&M on Oct. 11 and Colorado on Oct. 18.

K-State could come out of that that trio of games 2-1, and salvage at least one, or two, victories in the next four games – Oklahoma, at Kansas, at Missouri, Nebraska – it could set up a plus-.500 season with a win over the Cyclones.

Kansas State, and perhaps coach Ron Prince as well, appear to be at the fork in the road. Prince's popularity has become George Bush-like, and mentally, it's iffy as to whether the Kansas State defense could take another 500-yard hit like in the last two games against Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Prince is doing everything in his power to get the right X and O parts in order. The move of Lamark Brown from wide receiver to running back appears to give the Wildcats a chance to have a Big 12-presence in the backfield. vHowever, to think Tysyn Hartman – quarterback to safety – is ready to face Texas Tech's pass-happy offense is a bit of a stretch.

The key Saturday, and in those to follow, will be the play of the offensive line. While Josh Freeman has yet to be sacked, he has been hurried, and especially against Louisville, made hurried decisions that resulted in turnovers.

On defense, it's the same story. How well the line does, whether it be a three- or four-man front, will determine how the overall defense will look.

One still wonders if a junior college heavy linebacking crew – Hansen Sekona, Ulla Pomele and Olu Hall (transfer from Virginia) – are truly ready for the rigors of Big 12 football, and veteran Reggie Walker's play remains inconsistent as he switches from inside- to outside-backer.

Win or lose, Kansas State needs to compete on Saturday to have the right mind-set to move on into the meat of the Big 12 schedule.

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