Kansas State University

Kansas State itching to start difficult Big 12 football schedule

K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz looks for a hole as he heads to the end zone Saturday afternoon as K-State took on Oklahoma State in Manhattan. (November 5, 2016)
K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz looks for a hole as he heads to the end zone Saturday afternoon as K-State took on Oklahoma State in Manhattan. (November 5, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

After watching three weeks worth of college football games, Kansas State left guard Abdul Beecham is ready to make a bold statement about the Big 12.

“I feel like it is the best conference,” he said.

Beecham thinks that way for several reasons. Four teams -- No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 16 TCU and Texas Tech -- are undefeated, and three more -- Iowa State, K-State and West Virginia -- have winning records. The league boasts nonconference victories over Arizona State, Arkansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh. Texas also appears dangerous coming off an overtime loss at Southern California.

Oh, and many consider OU quarterback Baker Mayfield to be the Heisman front-runner, followed closely by OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph. The Big 12 has strong teams and star power.

“Everybody we play from here on out it is going to be top competition,” Beecham said. “We have Baylor in two weeks. We have to be ready. We can’t take anyone for granted. We have to be ready for every opponent.”

K-State’s next nine games, all against Big 12 competition, will be a challenge. Many predicted the Wildcats to contend for a conference championship this season, but that was before they lost 14-7 at Vanderbilt and before the Sooners, Cowboys and Horned Frogs surged up the polls. K-State can still certainly live up to preseason expectations, but the path to a trophy appears more difficult now than it did at the season’s outset.

TCU looks better than expected. So does Texas Tech. West Virginia’s only loss came on a neutral field against Virginia Tech. Iowa State fell one play short of an undefeated nonconference run. Texas seems to be improving. Outside of Baylor and Kansas, Big 12 teams are playing well.

The conference seems to have taken a step forward from last season, when only four teams finished the regular season above .500 and Oklahoma steamrolled its way to a 9-0 league record.

“I don’t think there is any real doubt about that,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “As it relates to the rest of the nation, (the Big 12) seemingly fits in quite well. Oklahoma State has been very productive. Oklahoma, the same. Texas is on its way back. TCU is making a great deal of improvement from last year. Texas Tech, exactly the same thing. You can go down the list and see ample reason why it is a very strong conference.”

K-State players will sit back and watch as conference games get underway this weekend. TCU at Oklahoma State is the game of the day, but the Wildcats will probably keep a closer eye on Oklahoma at Baylor.

They open Big 12 play against the Bears on Sept. 30 at Snyder Family Stadium. It’s a game K-State should be favored to win, (Baylor is a 28-point underdog against Oklahoma) especially coming off a bye week. Under new coach Matt Rhule, Baylor is off to a winless start that includes home losses to Liberty and Texas-San Antonio.

The game is an opportunity for K-State to get right before it embarks on a pivotal three-game stretch against Texas, TCU and Oklahoma. K-State began preparing for it at the start of its current bye week.

“It’s a good week for us,” K-State linebacker Elijah Sullivan said. “We can go back and look at film. It give us a chance to look at a lot of different teams and what we (need to do) to get better.”

The bye week also gives the Wildcats one more preview of what’s in store for the remainder of the season. Not that they needed it.

“It’s been fun watching Oklahoma State and Oklahoma play,” K-State defensive end Kyle Ball said. “Everyone is really excited to get Big 12 Conference play going. You are itching to get out there and prepare to play against them. I think everyone is excited and focused.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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