Kansas State University

K-State merits first dibs in North

MANHATTAN — Here we are midway through the Big 12 season, and the North division is still entirely up for grabs.

From last place Missouri (0-3) to first place Kansas State (3-1) every team is still in the running. One could argue Iowa State (2-2) has the best chance of winning the division. An equally strong argument could be made for Kansas, Nebraska or Colorado (all 1-2).

But they'll all have to catch Kansas State.

The standings are so jumbled and the scenarios so abundant that K-State coach Bill Snyder says they are no longer appropriate for him to look at.

"There is no real way of predicting how things will turn out," he said.

With his team a game up on the field, there is no need to try. From here, the future is simple for the Wildcats: Keep winning and the division is theirs.

"It's nice to be able to not have to look at other games and say 'Oh, if they lose and they lose and we win the next two.. ," senior quarterback Grant Gregory said. "'If we take care of business we'll be where we want to be."

That would be playing for a Big 12 championship on Dec. 5 in Cowboys Stadium.

Wins in its three remaining games against North competition — Kansas and Missouri at home, and at Nebraska — would get K-State there. The Wildcats would finish with no more than two conference losses — they play at Oklahoma this week — and hold all the tiebreakers.

At 7-1 or 6-2, with a perfect record against North opponents, no one can pass them. At 6-2 with a loss in the North, only Kansas and Nebraska can overtake them without the help of a multi-team tiebreaker.

"That's why we don't look at the standings from the perspective that if we win this game but lose to this team we'll be all right," K-State center Wade Weibert said. "We try to win every game."

With so many unexpected outcomes in the North this season, though — look no further than Iowa State's 9-7 win at Nebraska — it's hard to imagine anyone ending the year on a huge winning streak.

Its possible victories in its final two home games will be enough for K-State to capture the North. The Wildcats are 4-0 at Snyder Family Stadium this season, and if they stay undefeated they will end the year with no fewer than five conference wins.

In that scenario, they would have head-to-head tiebreakers over Kansas, Colorado, Iowa State and Missouri, with the Tigers mathematically eliminated from the race. As long as Iowa State and Colorado each pick up another loss and Nebraska suffers two setbacks, K-State would be headed to Dallas.

K-State could win the North with a 4-4 record, but it would need a multi-team tiebreaker to do so. The Big 12's multi-team tiebreaking formula starts with best record against each other and then goes to best divisional record.

That's too much for senior defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald to think about. He'd prefer to keep things simple.

"As long as we just continue to do what we've been doing and play the way we're capable of playing," he said. "I think we have a good chance to win the Big 12 North."

Flu update — Snyder revealed that eight players missed practices last week because of the flu, and in all likelihood more will sit out this week.

As of Tuesday's news conference, he said 10 new cases of the flu had hit the team since the conclusion of Saturday's victory over Colorado.

Snyder said he has not come down with the flu and neither have any of his assistant coaches.

Goofy — Not much surprises Snyder these days, but even he was left scratching his head when he heard Texas A&M defeated Texas Tech 52-30 on Saturday.

Texas Tech defeated Kansas State 66-14 two weeks ago — and Kansas State beat Texas A&M 62-14 a week later.

"It really is an amazing thing that you have the kind of turnaround with Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Kansas State, those three games," Snyder said. "It tells you that this is as goofy a game as you could possibly ever be involved with."

Next question — When Snyder was asked what he thought about Oklahoma's 27-game home winning streak, he took a light approach.

"We might stay home," he said. "That's impressive."

Cherry on top — Since conference play began, kicker Josh Cherry has made all four of his field goals. That's quite a turnaround considering he made just one in K-State's first four games.

"I've turned bad habits into good habits and become a lot more confident kicking," Cherry said.

KU tickets remain — Almost 6,000 tickets remain for Kansas State's next home game on Nov. 7 against Kansas.