PALMER,WIZARD IN OZ
With just three clicks of their jet black cleats, the USC Trojans will find themselves on a wild ride to a strange and foreign land populated with lions and tigers and... Wildcats? Pretty scary stuff if you're a pigtailed little girl straight off the farm, but these are the Men of Troy. By the end of this adventure they'll either be chanting "There's no place like home. There's no place like home..." Or, quickly come to realize there is no land of Oz and this barren plain full of twisters, tornadoes and flying houses is really just plain old Kansas...
To say this is not the biggest game of SC's season thus far, would be foolish. It is, but because of the intensity of the Trojan's schedule, every upcoming opponent take that position from their predecessors. So, in other words, when I said that the Buffaloes would be the toughest non-conference game USC would have I was right, for a week. Actually let's face it. I was wrong. Colorado was plain lousy and whether that was because the Trojans were just that good or the Buffaloes couldn't buy a break, won't be known until they play the other LA team this coming weekend. I think we're going to find out it was a little bit of both. Whatever the answer, I can't wait to watch that earlier matchup. Okay, on with the important stuff - KState.
SC's coaches truly feel that this is a benchmark game. They respect Wildcat's coach Bill Snyder and should. He has produced multiple eleven win seasons and put Kansas St. on the map - actually Kansas has been on the map for a long time - it's the state many Americans fled from searching for a nice place to live - most wound up in California, unfortunately. Ah yes, the plains states, home of... nothing. No, I take that back, they have football - great football. There's the Sooners, the Cornhuskers...and the Wildcats. Yes, that region produces great football teams, but it's not Kansas State that comes to mind, when you put your mind to it.
When it come to playing the Wildcats Coach Carroll is quoted as saying: "Now's the test. It's taken all this time to hopefully get prepared for game time..." I think Pete's been watching Lou Holtz do his pre-game shuffle lately and has picked up the moves, nicely. Carroll also said: "We didn't do well at all last year." To me, this is the key to comparing the USC Trojans of 2001 to this current squad. We just didn't do well last year, especially against the Wildcats. It was our first game out of the gate, with an entirely new staff, new system and still nursing a Hackett hangover.
Hell, we barely new what good football looked like. It might have taken a genius prognosticator to see the Trojan's future, but not anymore. The writing is on the wall. SC is in for a fight every week till New Years and SC is up for the challenge. The Trojans will not go unscathed, but they will deliver far more hurt than they will possibly receive. Here's the way I see the coming weekend...
Ah, wait a minute, I need to take off my Cardinal and Gold glasses. Ah, there we go, much better...
Never thought I could be that concise.
Let me break it down.
For the first time in Bill Snyder's 14 seasons as head coach, Kansas State will play a ranked non-conference opponent in a game at KSU Stadium in Manhattan. That should nearly tell you everything. This is their non-conference marquee game - in... forever. They don't play teams like us. They think we'll be intimidated by fifty thousand farmers dressed in purple - actually, that does sound somewhat frightening. Wildcat fans weren't there for the CU game, with the loud speakers, fifty-three thousand black and gold maniacs and Ralphie the cow, er, bull - (never saw him after pre-game and figured he got snipped with the rest of the boys). I'm kidding. Kansas State is a better team than the CU Buffaloes - at least for this week and probably for next week too.
KState does have some offense... The Wildcats scored 179 points in their first three games against, oh hell, I don't know. But they do appear improved from a year ago, with Marc Dunn showing some consistency at the quarterback spot. Head coach Bill Snyder is excited that four different receivers have caught touchdown passes. Hell, he should be excited that four passes were completed at all. In three games the two Wildcat qb's have only attempted 20 pass plays. Snyder says that they get loads of practice at throwing the ball during their weekly visits to the county fair because both Ell and Marc love knocking down those darned milk bottles - sent both their moms the cutest stuffed animals... No, he said they throw the ball alot in practice, but that's not game time with Cody, Patterson, Riley, Udeze and Nazel in your face.
KState is a running team. They like the option. They beat SC last year with the option. The qb who generalled that victory is still on the team, but Josh Scobey isn't. Neither is their starter at full back, either. Both are in the NFL, last I checked. Not only are those two boys gone, but so are ten other starters from last years squad. The Wildcats field only ten total starters from the 2001 6-6 team. Their fans say they are better. Coach Carroll thinks they might be better, but they are not. Snyder says that Darren Sproles, their new starting tailback is lightening in a bottle. If so, then Josh Scobey was the thunder that introduced him. Sproles is similar to our own, beloved, Chad Morton. Chad was a blast to watch - still is, returning kicks for touchdowns in the NFL, but Chad wouldn't have gotten as many carries on the 2002 Trojans as he did when he played ball here. With Justin Fargas back, Hershel Dennis showing glimpses of his game, Sultan sprinting at full speed, Fo proving to be Superman with the pass and the run, and now Poston showing his quicks, it's going to be very difficult to get the ball around. That's talent and I can't think of any team in the nation that possesses such depth. Carson may have to reduce his numbers of passes just to keep the running backs happy. It is that balance with the USC running and passing attack that will have the Wildcats crying for Auntie Em.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Kansas State's a bunch of munchkins, but their opponents certainly have been. Most in the media have referred to KState's schedule, up until the Trojans, as a preseason. Give Snyder some credit. He knew USC was coming to town so he went out and brought Eastern Illinois, with hotshot quarterback Tony Romo, in for a tune-up. Romo quickly proved that a talented quarterback and good skill players can throw K-State's defense for a loop, at least temporarily. Carson Palmer, USC's quarterback, already is on fire, having earned Pac-10 player of the week against Auburn before ripping apart the Buffs. His eyes will widen when he sees tape of Eastern Illinois' Tony Roma carving up K-State's secondary for two first-quarter touchdown drives. K-State coach Bill Snyder said," and Romo -- he can play anywhere." Just wait until Carson drops his house on the Wildcat defense. Palmer will be the difference maker, but not because he is SC's only star. He is surrounded by a bevy of talent that will give Carson nothing but choices to continue his stellar play.
The Wildcats best and only hope might be the play of Terry Pierce, Josh Buhl and Bryan Hickman, the newest trio of the school's linebackers.
Buhl is a speedy 6 foot, 210 lb outside player that is known for heavy hits. It will be his charge to stay with MacKenzie and as evidenced in the CU game, that is no easy task. Hickman, at 6-3, 220 will undoubtedly be on our tight ends, but covering the super tall Guenther could prove too much. And Price, who will handle the middle, is going to see, but perhaps not touch, (unless he's on the receiving end), the best of all SC's backs, Justin Fargas. Price had this to say about his brethren: "As a group of linebackers, I think we communicate well," Especially on the field. When we're on the field, we talk so much to each other that we know what to expect from each other." They're going to need to do more than talk to stop SC's crop of tailbacks.
No seriously, Kansas State, under 14th-year head coach Bill Snyder, is off to a 3-0 start (home wins versus Western Kentucky, 48-3, Louisiana-Monroe, 68-0, and Eastern Illinois, 63-13, last Saturday). The Wildcats have won 35 straight September home games and 37 consecutive non-conference home contests. Just 10 starters (only 3 on offense) return from last year's team that went 6-6 (ending a streak of 8 straight winning seasons) and fell to Syracuse in the Insight.com Bowl (it was KSU's ninth straight bowl appearance). What they don't know, however, is up until their match against the Trojans, it's all been a dream. They're going to wake up, look around and see their surroundings for what it really is, not a magical land with a golden road that leads them to victory, but just plain old Kansas. And by the way, if they dare to headhunt our own Troy P., the Trojans will return the favor with such intensity that the hit will cause monkey's to fly out of the Wildcats'..., well, you know.
Having some fun, ‘Cats but the score below is no joke.
SC 31 KState 21