Berry’s college football predictions: KU’s Lance Leipold channeling KSU legend Bill Snyder

Berry’s college football predictions: KU’s Lance Leipold channeling KSU legend Bill Snyder

Berry Tramel: Between 2008 and 2022, KU’s conference record was 8-106. But the Jayhawks a year ago went 6-7 and spanked OSU 37-16 in Lawrence. Now Kansas is 5-1 and as good a pick as any to finish third in the Big 12.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Oct 11, 2023, 11:40am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Oct 11, 2023, 11:40am CDT

STILLWATERMike Gundy had a front-row seat for Bill Snyder’s transformation of Kansas State football.

Snyder arrived in Manhattan for the 1989 season, which was Gundy’s senior year as the OSU quarterback.

Gundy spent the next six seasons as a Cowboy assistant coach, while Snyder coached the Wildcats from the nation’s worst program to a 10-2 record by 1995.

Now Gundy has another Nicholson view, as OSU’s head coach, for another Sunflower State Miracle. Lance Leipold has transformed Kansas from depths that not even K-State reached, into a formidable Big 12 program.

Between 2008 and 2022, KU’s conference record was 8-106.

But the Jayhawks a year ago went 6-7 overall and spanked OSU 37-16 in Lawrence. Now Kansas is 5-1 overall and as good a pick as any to finish third in the 14-team Big 12, behind only the soon-departing Sooners and Longhorns.

And yep, Gundy sees similarities with Leipold and Snyder.

“Good similarities,” Gundy said. “To me, it looks like he (Leipold) believes in these things and this is what they do. They don’t get out of their box. They stick with it. They just try to improve.”

That’s what Snyder did, after taking over a program that in the three decades of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s won more than one Big Eight game in a year just nine times.

Leipold’s Jayhawks are of particular relevance to our state. They play in Stillwater on Saturday, as the Cowboys try to continue a revival from a sluggish start. And Kansas hosts OU on Oct. 28 in what might be the unbeaten Sooners’ toughest remaining assignment.

Despite a back injury that has mostly sidelined star quarterback Jalon Daniels, Kansas already has beaten Central Florida, Brigham Young and Illinois. Leipold hit the transfer portal hard two years ago, and he’s got the Jayhawks believing. Kansas fans, too.

“It’s pretty rewarding in a lot of ways,” said KU athletic director Travis Goff, who hired away Leipold from the University of Buffalo. “You think back to where we’ve been, on a pretty challenging stretch, challenging journey. It’s still early, but in our second year of success, to show something has a chance to be sustainable, is really meaningful.”

Leipold won six NCAA Division III national titles at his alma mater, Wisconsin-Whitewater, then went 37-33 at moribund Buffalo.

“He had a proven track record,” Goff said. “He’d done it at two different spots … he was so consistent in his approach, so confident in his plan, and a plan that had worked in multiple places. He had a staff, they spoke the same language, understood expectations, and he fit. It was really a no-brainer.”

Gundy is impressed with the cohesion of Leipold’s staff. KU offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki has been with Leipold since 2013. Defensive coordinator Brian Borland has been with Leipold since 2007, his first season at Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“He’s had those guys with him, so obviously this is what he wants to do,” Gundy said. “He doesn’t have to vary from it much. They speak the same language all the time. And they can minimize, and they don’t waste a lot of time doing things. That’s the same thing Coach Snyder did, right?

“… They were good at kick return, they were good at punt return, they tried to steal from you a possession and win the special teams yards. Then offensively, he built it around who his quarterback was. They went empty sometimes, then sometimes they ran triple option based on who their quarterback was.

“So the comparison here (with Leipold) is the same.”

Leipold was 56 when hired at Kansas. Snyder was 49 when hired (from Iowa, where he was offensive coordinator) at Kansas State. Both were older. Solid. Not easily moved.

“The similarities are, they stay in their box, they know what they want,” Gundy said. “They’re not real complicated, which allows players to compete and play fast. Then every year, they’re recruiting better players.”

It worked for Snyder. It’s working for Leipold.

Let’s get to the predictions: (Last week: 36-14. Season: 290-69)

Kansas at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 24-23. Can OSU keep the magic it found last week at Boone Pickens Stadium, beating Kansas State 29-21? Let’s say yes. The Cowboy defense plays a whale of a game, and quarterback Alan Bowman makes enough plays to get OSU just enough points.

West Virginia at Houston: Mountaineers 29-17. WVU goes against Dana Holgorsen, who coached the Mountaineers from 2011-18 (with only one losing record), but left to take over the Cougars. 

Kansas State at Texas Tech: Red Raiders 29-26. The Wildcats have won 11 of the last 12 in the series, but Tech seems to have it more together. 

Iowa State at Cincinnati: Cyclones 26-22. Iowa State can get to 3-1 in the Big 12, with OU already in the past.

Brigham Young at Texas Christian: Horned Frogs 26-24. In 2005, TCU joined a conference, the Mountain West, that contained BYU, and the newcomer beat the veteran 51-50 in overtime. Now BYU joins a conference, the Big 12, that contains TCU and seeks to return the favor.

Texas A&M at Tennessee: Volunteers 21-20. Strange conference, the SEC. The Aggies joined the league in 2012. This is A&M’s first trip to Knoxville. 

Auburn at Louisiana State: Bayou Bengals 44-28. Strange conference, the SEC. These Tigers didn’t play between 1942 and 1969.

Missouri at Kentucky: Wildcats 23-13. Both were unbeaten going into last Saturday but now are licking wounds after losing to powers LSU (Missouri) and Georgia (Kentucky).

Florida at South Carolina: Gamecocks 28-26. You might think this is a one-sided series, and it is historically (Florida leads 30-10-3). But the Gators are just 7-6 against Carolina in the last 13 years.

Arkansas at Alabama: Crimson Tide 31-6. Bama is Texas’ best friend. Maybe OU’s, too. Every Alabama victory fortifies the Longhorns’ status, since UT beat the Tide, and the Sooners’, since OU beat Texas.

Georgia at Vanderbilt: Bulldogs 31-0. Here comes Georgia.

Iowa at Wisconsin: Hawkeyes 16-13. Upset special. The point spread seems a virtual lock. Wisconsin is a 10-point favorite, but the Badgers will be hard-pressed to reach 10 points.

Ohio State at Purdue: Buckeyes 26-14. Ohio State is a 19-point favorite, but I almost picked the Boilermakers before chickening out. 

Illinois at Maryland: Terrapins 23-14. Maryland played Ohio State tough and should get win No. 6 vs. the Illini.

Michigan State at Rutgers: Scarlet Knights 21-19. Rutgers, 4-2, needs two more wins for bowl eligibility and might need to get them against Michigan State this week and Indiana next.

Indiana at Michigan: Wolverines 51-7. Big Ten coaches are rather impressed by Michigan. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck called the Wolverines the best team he’s seen in 11 years as a head coach.

Massachusetts at Penn State: Nittany Lions 44-0. The northeast version of OU-Arkansas State.

Oregon at Washington: Huskies 31-30. A battle royale in the Pacific Northwest. UW is ranked seventh, the Ducks eighth.

Southern Cal at Notre Dame: Trojans 31-27. Lincoln Riley is having some close calls against inferior teams. The Fighting Irish are not inferior. USC can stamp itself as legit.

UCLA at Oregon State: Beavers 28-25. Loser gets sent to marginalized status in the Pac-12 race. 

California at Utah: Utes 27-14. The continued void of quarterback Cameron Rising remains a massive mystery in Utah.

Stanford at Colorado: Buffaloes 34-20. CU can get to five victories with a win. Don’t you know the Pac-12’s bowl partners are clamoring for Deion Sanders?

Arizona at Washington State: Cougars 33-28. Arizona has made great strides under coach Jedd Fisch, from 1-11 in 2021 to 3-3 this season. But Fisch cost his team a chance at an upset over Southern Cal last week. After USC took a 35-28 overtime lead, ‘Zona scored a touchdown and could have won the game with two-point conversion. But Fisch ordered a kick, to force a second overtime, which gave USC’s Caleb Williams more chances with the ball. Bad decision.

Miami at North Carolina: Tar Heels 30-20. This would have been a monster game, had Hurricane coach Mario Cristobal been the least cognizant of how games are won and lost. Declining to take a knee with the clock under 40 seconds left against Georgia Tech? Inexcusable.

Syracuse at Florida State: Seminoles 35-15. The Orange didn’t put up a fight against North Carolina, no reason to think it will put up a fight in Tallahassee.

North Carolina State at Duke: Wolfpack 23-20. Without injured quarterback the Blue Devils look in trouble.

Louisville at Pittsburgh: Cardinals 34-16. The Cardinals are a stunning 6-0.

Wake Forest at Virginia Tech: Demon Deacons 27-20. Wake dang near won at Clemson. Which probably says more about Clemson than Wake.

Tulane at Memphis: Tigers 19-18. Probably the two best teams in the American Conference; each program has made the Cotton Bowl in recent years.

Alabama-Birmingham at Texas-San Antonio: Roadrunners 31-20. I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but down in the Metroplex last week, I noticed that in the old Fort Worth train station is a campus of Texas-Arlington. So there’s a satellite campus of a satellite campus.

Southern Methodist at East Carolina: Mustangs 34-10. SMU is unbeaten in the American and played OU tough, so don’t count out the Mustangs.

Temple at North Texas: Eagles 32-17. North Texas is a disappointing 2-3 but should get this one.

Navy at Charlotte: Midshipmen 22-14. Navy has struggled, but Charlotte’s only victory is over South Carolina State.

Florida Atlantic at South Florida: Bulls 29-20. FAU beat Tulsa 20-17 last week.  

Wyoming at Air Force: Falcons 24-20. The winner has an outstanding case as the best mid-major. The Academy is unbeaten; the Cowboys are 4-1, with victories over Texas Tech and Fresno State, plus a competitive defeat at Texas. 

Fresno State at Utah State: Bulldogs 33-14. Fresno State was knocked from the unbeaten ranks last week by Wyoming.

Boise State at Colorado State: Broncos 28-19. Boise State is 3-3, but the losses are respectable — Washington, Central Florida and Memphis — and the Broncos are 2-0 in the Mountain West. 

San Jose State at New Mexico: Spartans 39-7. San Jose State is 1-5, but the schedule has been tough — Southern Cal, Oregon State, Boise State and Air Force.

Nevada-Las Vegas at Nevada: Rebels 21-16. UNLV hasn’t posted a winning season in 10 years, but Oklahoman Barry Odom — the pride of Maysville and Ada — has the Rebels rolling at 4-1, including a victory over Vanderbilt.

San DIego State at Hawaii: Aztecs 18-14. San Diego State, 2-4, finally gets a breather after consecutive defeats to UCLA, Oregon State, Boise State and Air Force.

Georgia Southern at James Madison: Dukes 38-30. JMU joins Air Force and Liberty as the lone remaining unbeatens among mid-majors.

Troy at Army: Trojans 24-19. Ancient army against contemporary.

Marshall at Georgia State: Thundering Herd 35-23. Marshall gets back on the horse after getting knocked from the unbeaten ranks last week by North Carolina State.

Louisiana-Monroe at Texas State: Bobcats 29-7. Every team in the Sun Belt’s West Division already has a conference defeat. Every team but ULM and Southern Mississippi has a conference win. 

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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