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Straight outta Manhattan: A Q&A With Bring On The Cats

Well TB from over at Bring on the Cats was kind enough to answer my awesome questions regarding the matchup this weekend, and other stuff.  His answers are below.  Enjoy it.

1) The Kansas State 118th ranked run defense has a challenge this week in trying to contain Mr. Kendall Hunter. Do you anticipate the defense keying on the Cowboy run game and taking their chances with the (potentially Justin Blackmon-less) passing game, or will they try to play balanced?
You posed the question before Blackmon's suspension became official, so I'm answering with the benefit of the passing of time.  With Blackmon out, our defense probably will be able to key on Hunter a little bit more, but that's assuming that our defense actually adjusts for the different strengths of other teams, and I'm really not sure that's the case.  Through our seven games this season, it's become pretty obvious that we just sort of run out there and play the same defensive style regardless of who we're playing.  If we do change things up, Gundy's head will probably explode (obvious hair-gel joke omitted) because he's probably spent the week watching footage of us playing the same defense for seven games.

Put simply, I'm not sure we'll change things up much with Blackmon out, despite the fact that we should try to key on Hunter and force Brandon Weeden to beat us.  Which, admittedly, isn't much of a comfort.
2) Daniel Thomas, while still solid, has not been as dominant statistically in the last 4 games as he was in the first three.  Is this a product of defenses stacking the box and daring Carson Coffman to beat them, or has something changed in the Wildcat offense?
It's mostly what the other teams are doing.  No matter how good you are as a running back, if there are no weapons around you, you can be taken out of the game, or at least substantially slowed down.  We saw that with Darren Sproles in 2004.  Against teams with inferior defensive talent that our line can just push around, Thomas flourished.  Against teams who can actually plug up running lanes, he's struggled.  Everyone knows K-State won't win by slinging it around -- unless you're totally inept like KU -- so they take Thomas away and take their chances that Coffman and the receivers won't beat them.  For the most part, they've been right.

3) How do you feel about K-State taking on all the South teams starting next season?
My philosophy is that it doesn't matter who we're playing, our job is to get better.  During K-State's best days, or about 1995-2003, it didn't really matter who they were playing, they were usually better.  If they can get back to the same level, then it will be the same situation now.  The Wildcats are obviously nowhere near that level now, so they need to improve to be competitive with UT, OU, OSU and Baylor.  The difficulty of the competition won't be what holds K-State down.  It will be our own inability to improve our standing.

4) Basketball questions. The Wildcats come in at #3 in the nation, and projected to win the Big XII... and I have 2 questions about this.. a) Who is going to replace everything Clemente did, and b) How excited is Manhattan for the emergence of some basketball? 
As in most situations, Clemente will be replaced by committee.  Nobody is as fast as Clemente, and few have the competitive fire and passion that he brought to the game.  But everybody called for K-State to fall off a cliff when Michael Beasley and Bill Walker left, too, because "nobody can replace them."  Well, yeah, no one person can replace them, but if there are several talented players waiting for their chance, they can combine to do enough that there isn't a huge drop off.  Anyway, that's a long way of getting to the actual players who will "replace" Clemente.  Nick Russell, a sophomore from Dallas, is my main candidate to pick up some minutes at guard.  He's a fairly big guard who is very smooth on the court and has a decent shot.  If not for his inability to pick up Frank Martin's rotations on defense, he would have seen more playing time last year.  Martavious Irving is another sophomore who is a bulldog on defense (hence BOTC's nickname, Bulltavious), but not much of an offensive threat.  Irving will see some time this year.  Then there are the real wildcards, in freshmen Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Juevel Myers.  We've heard good things about these guys, but it's hard to tell what you're going to get out of freshmen who aren't named Durant, Beasley or Griffin.

For the second part of the question, I don't know anyone who isn't excited about basketball.  As you know, if you're 40 years or older or have actually studied the history of the Big 8 Conference, K-State was a traditional basketball power back before I was born.  The old-timers at K-State tell stories about those days, and it has really been a joy for them to see the basketball team reemerge as a contender in the conference.  So while football is improving, it's a far cry from the best days under Bill Snyder, and a lot of people are looking forward to what could happen on the hardwood this winter.

5)  How about a prediction for this weekend?
My gut tells me Oklahoma State wins in a shootout, similar to what we saw against Baylor last weekend.  Weeden is at least slightly more likely to throw a pick than is Robert Griffin III, so if the defense can get a turnover or two and William Powell can provide us with some big gains in the kickoff return game, the Wildcats might be able to sneak out a win.  Barring those events, I'm guessing 42-31, Pokes.