If anyone can minimize distractions, and in the process block out the pressure of being on top of the Bowl Championship Series standings, it is veteran coach Bill Snyder.
The Kansas State coach has long privatized information regarding his teams — everything that flows in and flows out. The Wildcats, in particular this 10-0 group, are conditioned to accept those policies, even in this age of social networking.
“We try to stay out of the media, stay out of the Twitter,”‘ said running back Angelo Pease. “It can interfere with where we’re trying to get to, so we try to stay out of all that.”
One recent exception — Sports Illustrated cover boy Collin Klein, an unexpected Heisman candidate and the unquestioned leader of the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
As the Klein snapshot reveals, the Wildcats don’t seem to be worried about sending Klein to Broadway, and instead keeping in tune with life in Manhattan, Kansas, which is what got the Wildcats to this point.
The Wildcats said after Saturday’s wiin at TCU that they did not learn of Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M until after the game. That result bumped Alabama from the top BCS spot and created an opening for Kansas State, which took over the lead with two games remaining. Their first is Saturday at Baylor, a primetime TV game that will be an unveiling for many fans yet to find time to get to know Kansas State.
“I’m honored and pleased that we are, but the day hasn’t been any different and yesterday wasn’t any different, either,” Snyder said as preparation began for the game against Baylor, which has just one conference win and is ninth in the Big 12.
The Bears’ record, however, almost makes the matchup a trap game for the Wildcats. Texas, a team Kansas State plays in Manhattan on Dec. 1, is considered the more dangerous challenge potentially blocking the Wildcats’ path to the national championship game.
Yet that is precisely the kind of thinking Snyder tries to suppress.
“It’s not anything we’re paying a lot of attention to, just honored to, just honored to be there,” Snyder said of the BCS perch. “Hopefully, nothing is changing. We like to be as consistent as we possibly can.”
Some concerns emerged from the win at TCU.
The Wildcats were held to season lows of 260 yards and 12 first downs, settling for three field goals as Klein had trouble getting the offense jump started.
Klein, who left a Nov. 3 win against Oklahoma State early in the second half with an apparent hand injury, did fire a first-quarter bomb to wide receiver Chris Harper and also scored on a 34-yard keeper early in the third quarter. Klein was hounded by a tenacious TCU defensive front, which may have offered a blueprint on defending the Heisman Trophy hopeful.
To get past TCU, the Wildcats had to win a game with their defensive might. That unit responded by pitching a shutout through the half-way mark of the final period. Defensive end Meshak Williams was especially impressive, giving Kansas State a disruptive presence on the edge.
As much as those developments will be harped on and fine-tuned in practice, the bigger question is one Snyder wants to avoid. Can the Wildcats withstand the pressure of being tops in the BCS for the first time in their history? They have seniors such as Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown, whose measured, heady leadership is suited for handling the situation.
“Nothing changes,” Brown said. “We just have to continue with what we’ve done and that is to prepare as well as we can. Coaches are always on us to do that.”