Eastern Kentucky: W 10-7
Kent State: W 37-0
at Miami (Fla.): W 28-24
Northern Iowa: W 20-19
Iowa: W 44-41
at Connecticut: W 24-20
Kansas State and Iowa State were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 standings before the 2011 season. After undefeated starts in nonconference play, they will get a chance this week to show whether they’re contenders or pretenders.
The Wildcats will play host to No. 15 Baylor on Saturday, trying to start 4-0 for the second straight year after failing to do so six years in a row. Iowa State, which won each of its first three games by four points or less, will get a visit from 17th-ranked Texas and try to open with four straight wins for the first time since 2000.
K-State’s opening stretch has grabbed the attention of the league after the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the 10-team conference in the preseason. Iowa State was picked ninth, ahead of only Kansas.
“Bill Snyder’s stamp is starting to show on the program,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday. “They’re playing very, very good defense, time of possession football, very good on third downs. They’re running the football.
“That’s just kind of his stamp on him rebuilding that program.”
The Wildcats needed a goal-line stand in the final minute to preserve a 28-24 win at Miami on Saturday, with linebacker Tre Walker making three straight tackles inside the 2-yard line to earn conference defensive player of the week honors.
“To be able to do what they did really shows you a great deal about their determination, their spirit, their toughness,” said Snyder, in his second season since coming out of retirement to take charge of the program he built from a national laughingstock into a title contender.
“They had their backs against the wall,” he said.
Baylor coach Art Briles said it “certainly makes your eyebrows rise up” to see K-State’s defensive stats through three games: the sixth-fewest yards allowed (246.3 ypg) and the seventh-fewest points given up (10.3 ppg) in the nation.
Then, to punctuate it with a late stand should only give the Wildcats a lift heading into their game against the Bears (3-0) and star quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“It’s certainly going to give them a lot of confidence and belief, and that’s your first step into developing a really good football team because you have to have something you can hang your hat on,” Briles said.
“That’s definitely a signature win against a great opponent on the road, and to win it in the fashion that they won it will certainly give their guys a lot of boost and energy,” he said. “I was very impressed.”
Iowa State has been squeaking past opponents to maintain its place among seven Big 12 teams who’ll make it through September undefeated. The Cyclones edged Northern Iowa by a point in their opener, beat Iowa by three in triple overtime then won 24-20 at Connecticut two weeks ago.
They had an off week leading up to the rematch against Texas (3-0), which will be trying to avenge its first loss in the series last season in Austin.
“Iowa State beat us last year and I thought they outcoached us, they outplayed us, they outhit us, beat us on our own turf,” Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. “So, it’ll be a real challenge for us to go up there.”
Paul Rhoads’ Cyclones have overcome 10 turnovers through three games, in part due to clutch play by transfer quarterback Steele Jantz.
“They’re finding ways to win,” Brown said. “They’re fighting hard, they’ve got better players than I think probably they’ve had in many years, they’ve got more depth, they’ve got more speed and Paul’s doing a great job coaching them.”
Iowa State and Kansas State are both receiving votes in The Associated Press poll after going 7-6 last season, then starting out strong. Brown said he thinks the Cyclones should be ranked.
“Through three games this season, we’ve improved our football team,” said Rhoads, who has the Cyclones 3-0 for the first time since 2005. “We’ve got to keep that up as we go into our fourth game.”