The Vanderbilt Commodores play Kansas State on Saturday, and to get ready for the game, we’ve asked Jon Morse of our sister blog Bring on the Cats to answer your questions. You can follow Jon on Twitter at @jonfmorse.
1) Bill Snyder seemed to be slipping at the end of his first tenure in Manhattan, but since returning he's gotten the Wildcats back to being a top 25 team. What's changed, or is he just the same old Bill Snyder?
Oh, he's the same old Snyder. We have a theory 'round these parts, and it goes like this: once Snyder started showing he could beat the big boys on the reg, he actually started landing highly-rated recruits... and nearly every last one of them seemed to wash out. That left his 2004 and 2005 teams really lacking in depth and even more dependent on try-hards, and the results were rather predictable in that vein.
Basically, Bill Snyder is better at coaching up guys who aren't as talented than he is at coaching actual talent. There are folks who argue with this, claiming that really talented players work just as hard, but I tend to doubt this.
2) K-State is 2-0 after beating Central Arkansas and Charlotte to open the season, both by embarrassing scores. What have we learned, if anything, about the Wildcats from those two games?
That Jesse Ertz is better than he was last year. That for the first time in maybe ever, K-State has depth across the board. That Bill Snyder is sneaky and is hiding players. And... we'll get to this last one in a moment.
3) Jesse Ertz is probably the only K-State player that most Vanderbilt fans have heard of (if we've even heard of him, to be honest.) Who else should Vanderbilt be paying attention to on the offensive side of the ball?
If the first two games are any indication, everyone. You're probably also aware that K-State has a great offensive line even if you don't know them by name, because, well, it's K-State. The playmaker potential at wide receiver runs eight deep, with Byron Pringle being the headliner. You'll want to keep an eye on Dalton Schoen, a freakin' walk-on who seems to make something huge happen every time a ball is thrown in his general vicinity. And K-State also runs three deep at tailback, where Alex Barnes will probably get most of the action. Barnes and Justin Silmon both made the Doak Walker watch list, so there's that.
4) What about defense? (Though since you're a Big 12 school, it's not a safe assumption that you play defense.)
K-State plays a 4-2-5 on nearly every down these days. Individually, you'll want to pay attention to whatever D.J. Reed and Kendall Adams are doing in the secondary. Will Geary is a caveman on the defensive line, a workout warrior. Linebacker has been a bit of a weak spot, but hey, there's only two of them. If the subs start coming in at linebacker, watch out; the second string is actually faster and more talented, and are probably not starting largely due to scheme knowledge more than anything else.
5) Seriously, Missouri's defense would fit right in the Big 12. Would you guys take them back?
Personally, I would, but there are a lot of people who'd rather just burn Columbia to the ground.
The one in Missouri. We actually like the one in South Carolina, because we still love Frank Martin.
6) Finally, what's your prediction for the outcome of Saturday's game?
I honestly have no idea. We don't know what this version of K-State is really capable of against Power 5 competition, although the end of last season should allay any fears. Still, losing three of the squad's four best defenders to the lure of the NFL has us nervous until proven otherwise.
That said, I'd expect a close one, although probably not as close as Vegas would have us believe. Vegas has K-State in the neighborhood of three-point favorites, but there's uncertainty there because so many of the starters have mysteriously been absent for one or both warm-up contests. I'll just throw a 24-17 Wildcat win out there.