In this week's Varsity Numbers, I take a look at some of the more surprising rankings thus far, now that all preseason projections have been phased out of the numbers.
Kansas State: No. 5 in Off. S&P+
See, Kansas State fans? Maybe I didn't design a system of numbers with the sole purpose of dumping on K-State whenever possible! (Honestly, this ranking is pretty well-deserved and not incredibly surprising. I just wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to antagonize.) Thanks to improvement by running back John Hubert and some explosive passing options (No. 2 target Tramaine Thompson is averaging 12.3 yards per target, No. 3 Tyler Lockett 9.9, tight end Travis Tannahill 13.6), Kansas State is proving more capable of scoring via big play this year, not just working enough controlled, "cloud of dust" drives to win tight games. Many of the big gainers come late in the game, too, after three quarters or so of pounding away with quarterback Collin Klein and Hubert. The Wildcats scored 35 points in the fourth quarter against Missouri State, 21 against Miami, and 14 against Oklahoma. And they scored 28 against Kansas in the third quarter. Eventually they get you.
Honestly, I am a little surprised to see the Wildcats grading out this high, simply because of their occasional ability to dilly-dally as well. They led Missouri State by just seven points until the fourth-quarter explosion, they beat North Texas by just 14, and they had to hold on for dear life to take out Iowa State last weekend. But thanks to the overall explosiveness, they are still winning games with more margin for error this time around.
Will it last? I think so. If they don't finish in the top 5 of Off. S&P+, I could definitely see top 10. This is a controlled attack capable of greater diversity than last year. The defense still bends a little bit too much for my tastes, and the team still relies a bit too much on not only turnovers but timely turnovers. (KSU recovered a fumble for a touchdown and recovered another fumble at their own 6 in a five-point win over Oklahoma -- do the math on that one.) This is a much sturdier team in 2012, and if KSU wins in Morgantown on Saturday, this sturdy team could win the Big 12.