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Big 12 Storyline 2020: Chris Klieman, Kansas State look to top last season’s 8-win total

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Liberty Bowl - Navy v Kansas State Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Oklahoma Sooners have an opportunity to win their sixth consecutive Big 12 championship. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are loaded with their own rendition of star power in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. But maybe this is the Texas Longhorns’ year after all.

From coaching to quarterback play, the Big 12’s intriguing storylines are worth monitoring. Most of the conference’s teams are expected to improve at the quarterback position, as 70 percent of the league’s starting quarterbacks return this season. Of the three teams that don’t return a starting quarterback, the Texas Tech Red Raiders brings back a healthy Alan Bowman and – *drum roll* – the Spencer Rattler era is set to begin in Norman.

With Matt Rhule out and Dave Aranda for the Baylor Bears, now half of the league’s coaches are in their first or second-year as head coach, making fourth-year Tom Herman a wise man of sorts.

Those are just a few of the most exciting narratives at play. Let’s get into it.

We’ll continue with ... the middle of the pack – the underdogs.

Kansas State Wildcats

It’s year two of the Chris Klieman era. Led by senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, can the Wildcats top last season’s 8-win total?

It didn’t take long for Klieman to prove that he was the perfect hire to replace longtime Kansas State legend Bill Snyder. By the end of October, the Wildcats secured the conference’s best win when they upset No. 5 ranked Oklahoma at home.

Coming from North Dakota State as a former four-time FCS National Champion, Klieman has set the foundation for his program in Manhattan.

After losing defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton to Michigan State, Klieman stayed true to his championship coaching roots and promoted safeties coach Joe Klanderman to fill Hazelton’s role. Klanderman worked under Klieman at North Dakota State as a safeties coach.

It’s not easy playing defense against Kansas State when the quarterback run game is working. The Wildcats often line up in different personnel sets in their pro-style offense, an especially hard scenario to prepare against for opposing defenses. The Wildcats have a tendency to mix it up a lot formation-wise and utilize a number of different tight ends.

While they lost top wide receiver Dalton Schoen, the Wildcats return a plethora of gadget wide receivers to their offense. Wykeen Gill (five-foot-ten inches), Phillip Brooks (five-foot-seven), and Joshua Youngblood (five-foot-ten) all caught a double-digit number of passes last season.

Although Thompson doesn’t have the strongest of arms among quarterbacks, he’s accurate and tends to put good touch on his throws. In a run-first offense that revolves around getting the ball out quick, Thompson is a prototypical quarterback for what Klieman wants to do. His offense is centered around the quarterback power run and draw game.

Entering his senior season, could this possibly be Thompson’s Collin Klein type of year as Kansas State’s quarterback?

That’s the question at hand.