When Bill Snyder first became the head coach at Kansas State in 1989, he took over a team that had gone 0-11 the year prior. Snyder had two long coaching stints in Manhattan, and in total was there for just over a quarter century. Now, new head coach Chris Klieman, in taking over a 5-7 football team from a year ago, is in a much better position than the legend he’s replacing.
Klieman comes over from FCS North Dakota State, where he won multiple championships, and will try to create a new legacy with the Wildcats. He’ll look to do so with ample experience on both sides of the ball, and talent along the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage. Questions about Klieman’s transition to FBS have the Wildcats projected to finish in the bottom of the Big 12, but enough pieces are in place for them to have success.
What kind of challenges does Kansas State’s schedule present for the new coaching staff? Below we take an early look at next season’s lineup for the Wildcats and offer some thoughts on how many wins and losses are likely in Chris Klieman’s inaugural season (Also be sure to check out discussion of Kansas State’s most important game this season on the Ten12 Podcast, hosted by our own Chris Ross and Phillip Slavin).
2019 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
AUG 31 – Nicholls
SEP 7 – Bowling Green
SEP 21 – at Mississippi State
SEP 28 – at Oklahoma State
OCT 5 – Baylor
OCT 19 – TCU
OCT 26 – Oklahoma
NOV 2 – at Kansas
NOV 9 – at Texas
NOV 16 – West Virginia
NOV 23 – at Texas Tech
NOV 30 – Iowa State
Kansas State’s next contest will be against a team that was one of the worst in college football in 2018, going 3-9 on the season. That’s why, like the Wildcats, the Falcons have a new head coach in Scott Loeffler headed into this season.
This game will mark Klieman’s first face-off against an FBS opponent, and the Wildcats will probably be favored by a couple of scores. And even though a game against Bowling Green won’t have anyone lunging for their remote, this contest will tell us a lot about where the floor is for this Kansas State team.
Likewise, the Wildcats’ next opponent should provide an idea of the ceiling. Kansas State has to travel to Starkville to take on Mississippi State, a team that narrowly missed out on being named in the Top 25 of the Amway Coaches Poll.
Last year, the Bulldogs really beat down Kansas State in Manhattan to the tune of 384 yards rushing, wining the game by a score of 31-10. Mississippi State, who went on to a 8-5 record in 2018, brings back only four starters on defense and has some questions at quarterback, where they’ll be breaking in a new starter as well.
Beating Mississippi State at home would send a strong signal to the Big 12 that the Wildcats are a force to be reckoned with in 2019, and a 3-0 start here would grant them almost instant legitimacy as a title dark horse. Coming out of this slate 2-1 is more likely at this juncture.
Kansas State’s new coaching staff opens conference play up against Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Gundy’s been in the Big 12 longer than any current head coach, so Chris Klieman will have quite the test ahead of him.
In addition, the last time the Wildcats had a conference opener when coached by someone not named Bill Snyder, they lost 17-3. They will in all likelihood be underdogs going into this one, and the Pokes will not forget the last two consecutive upsets they were handed by Kansas State.
The Wildcats will play at home for all of their games in October, giving them opportunities to win games against three teams they didn’t defeat last year in Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma.
When the Wildcats and Sooners meet at Bill Snyder Stadium, it will be the 100th meeting of these two squads. Currently, Oklahoma is on a four game winning streak, but this year might setup better than others for Kansas State to get the upset.
Klieman makes his home conference debut against Matt Rhule and the Baylor Bears in a game decided by three points last year. There’s certain to be a lot of excitement around that game, and it’ll be the first of many contests that tests how well the Wildcats plat in Manhattan under Klieman.
The next game against TCU, who’s also coming off a bye, will gauge how well the new coach and his staff can take advantage of a week off. Klieman’s initial face-off against Gary Patterson should be pivotal in this midseason matchup.
Kansas State will travel to Lawrence for the Sunflower Showdown in early November to play a game that they’ve not lost since 2008. An in-state rivalry game like this might be tricky for the Wildcats, especially considering the new energy that the Jayhawks are sure to have under Les Miles.
A win there would mean a lot to the Jayhawks, making it a potential letdown spot.
Entering their last four games, the Wildcats will likely be eyeing how realistic the prospect of bowl eligibility is for them. West Virginia, who they play at home, and Texas Tech may well be in similar circumstances when those teams face off.
Both opponents have new coaches, making them difficult to project. No matter who the coach is for the Red Raiders, Lubbock is not an easy road trip, so that’ll be a new test for Klieman. The last time Kansas State beat both the Mountaineers and Red Raiders, they went 9-3 in the 2014 regular season, so pulling that off again would be a boon for a new staff.
The early November tilt in Austin is an interesting road game for Kansas State, who haven’t beaten the Longhorns since Tom Herman took over. Still, the Wildcats remain the only Big 12 team that has more wins than Texas in this game, and a loss would give each squad ten wins in the history of the matchup.
Farmageddon is in Manhattan this year, and this has been a rivalry that’s been decided by an average of 3.4 points over the last half-decade. If Iowa State is still a Top 25 squad headed into Kansas State’s last home game of the year, it will only make this one more exciting.
PREDICTED WINS: 4-5
Really, I could almost just put a bunch of question marks beside “Predicted Wins” here. Snyder was the master of developing unheralded talent, but last year’s team played a lot closer to the level that you would project if you were going off the recruiting rankings. That is really the fear with trying to anticipate what the post-Snyder Wildcats will look like – is Klieman the guy who’s able to just step in and win the majority of his games in Year One?
I will have to see that before I believe it. Kansas State should enter conference play with a winning record, but there are so many good coaches in this league that Klieman will have to compete against. Kansas State has a good chance to pull off an upset or two at home, but a November with three true road games might keep bowl eligibility just out of reach.