Will Harris of ESPN Insider wrote a piece evaluating the conference title odds in college football. The thing that caught my attention was his comments on the Big XII and Kansas State, who he tabbed as “true favorites” in the conference despite having the fifth best listed odds to win the Big XII.
Bill Snyder’s teams consistently excel at things that are usually (and often correctly) dismissed as signs of good fortune.
The Wildcats relied heavily on positive markers in areas like turnover margin, yards-per-point, third-down conversion rate and nonoffensive scoring en route to a 10-win season last year. The Cats’ long-term track record in these areas under Snyder suggests that winning a half-dozen games per year despite being outgained is a repeatable norm, not an outlier that’s a harbinger of an impending fall.
It was the last part that made my radar go up. I have watched a fair amount of Big XII football over the last 15 years, and I can say that the Kansas State team from last year was not like most, at least that was my perception. When I think of Bill Snyder’s teams at their best, sure, they are fundamentally sound, but they also tend to dominate teams. The current iteration of Wisconsin under Bret Bielema come to mind, often bludgeoning opponents utilizing a balanced offense and winning at the line of scrimmage.
But I wanted to go back and check. Is “winning a half-dozen games per year despite being outgained” a repeatable norm for a Bill Snyder team?
sports-reference.com/collegefootball has individual game stats going back to 2000, so we can look at Bill Snyder’s teams. In 2011, the Wildcats did win despite being out gained, winning a whopping 7 of their 9 FCS games despite the opponent gaining more yardage. They were also 8-1 in games decided by 8 points or less last year. They did it by forcing more (and more key) turnovers, special teams, red zone, and third down efficiency. They won several games with key fourth quarter plays.
You might be surprised, then, to learn that the Wildcats were 14-18 in “close” games under Snyder prior to last year, since 2000. Further, while they won seven games in which they were out gained last year, there were only ten other such wins in the previous decade under Snyder. 10 of their 54 FCS wins under Snyder from 2000 to 2010 came when they were out gained (19%) compared to 78% last year. They were also out gained by 90 yards in those wins last year, versus by about 60 yards when it happened the previous decade.
Bill Snyder is a legendary Hall of Fame coach. His teams play hard, sound football. They also don’t tend to get out gained while winning like they did last year. We’ll have our Top 25 rankings coming out in future weeks, and do have the Wildcats in there. I think they will improve, though the record may not if they are not 8-1 in close games. Collin Klein is a great dual threat quarterback, and if he improves his passing, the offense can be much better.
I just wouldn’t look for the Wildcats to continue winning like they did in 2011. Even for Bill Snyder, that was atypical.
[photo via US Presswire]