June 8, 2007

Big 12 breakdown: Kansas State

What do you call winning as many games as any Big 12 first-year coach in the previous seven seasons and getting the Wildcats to their first bowl game in three years? Ron Prince believes it's a good start. Seven victories weren't enough for Prince, and he returns with visions for a memorable encore. As for the Wildcats' standing in the North? That remains a little blurry.

BRIEFLY: Big opener to jumpstart Prince's second season

Ron Prince in his first season didn't totally orchestrate the Bob Stoops' one-year turnaround that stole headlines as the Sooners went from 5-6 to 7-5 in Stoops' first season. But no Big 12 first-year coach has done better since 1999.

All Prince did in his first season at Kansas State was lead it to as many Big 12 wins (four) as it had in the previous two seasons combined. For the North division last season, that was good enough for a second-place tie with Missouri in the standings. Sure, one week after DVDs of the Wildcats' 45-42 upset of No. 4 Texas flew off the shelves, fans quickly hit delete on the team's worst loss to Kansas (39-20) in 14 years in Lawrence.

And, yes, 37-10 blowout loss to No. 16 Rutgers in the Texas Bowl, the program's worst margin of defeat in a postseason game, further extinguished the warm fuzzies.

Somewhere during the season, though, we forgot one thing: K-State wasn't supposed to be good in 2006. A poll of media covering the Big 12 last July predicted the Wildcats to finish sixth in the North. And K-State's 40 total votes were six fewer than Baylor overall.

Translation: Most believed the Wildcats would be the worst team in the league.

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