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Free Football Picks: Kansas State Will Contend for Big 12 Conference Title

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Kansas State was an extremely inexperienced team last season as 135 underclassmen made starts for head coach Bill Snyder.  Those growing pains resulted in a surprising 9-4 season for the overperforming Wildcats, including a win over Texas A&M in their bowl game.

Coach Snyder welcomes back fourteen starters from last year’s squad and has his most talented roster in years.  Snyder is one of the best coaches in the game and is already enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Snyder always gets the most out of his players and will have the Wildcats contending for the Big 12 Conference Title in 2017.

Despite having just five starters back on offense, Kansas State managed to average 32.2 points per game last season (29.9 points per game in 2015). Offensive coordinator Dana Dimel now has eight returning starters, including a veteran quarterback in Jesse Ertz.

Ertz threw for 1,755 yards last season (57.6%; 9-4) and was the team’s leading rusher with 1,012 yards at 5.5 yards per rush attempt.  The senior gunslinger lines up behind one of the conference’s best offensive lines that returns 63 career starts.  This unit outperformed expectations last season, paving the way for 232 rushing yards per game at 5.3 yards per carry).

Coach Snyder also fields his best wide receiving corp. since 2014 with last year’s top two producers returning in 2017.  Junior Byron Pringle led the Wildcats with 631 yards at 16.2 yards per reception, while  California transfer Carlos Strickland provides immediate depth.

Kansas State’s ultimate success will be predicated upon one of the nation’s best defenses.  The strength of coordinator Tom Hayes’ stop unit is its defensive line that returns three of its top four performers from last season. The loss of defensive end Jordan Willis is significant (taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in this year’s NFL Draft) but seniors Tanner Wood and Will Geary are poised for breakout campaigns in 2017.

The loss of defensive end Jordan Willis is significant (taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in this year’s NFL Draft) but seniors Tanner Wood and Will Geary are poised for breakout campaigns in 2017.  The Wildcats will also have one of the most improved secondaries in the country despite losing Dante Barnett to graduation.

The biggest concern for Kansas State is its linebacking unit, which loses four starters including NFL Draft choice Elijah Lee.  However, Snyder will have this unit outperform expectations in 2017 despite the lack of experience.  Let’s also note that the Wildcats lead the country in non-offensive touchdowns with 106 since 1999.

The last time coach Snyder had fourteen starters was in 2012 when his team started 10-0 and ultimately finished 11-2.  Kansas State’s elite special teams – the best in the nation – will help secure wins in what I expect to be a 10-win season for the Hall of Fame coach.

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