Kansas, K-State show football still belongs in hoops country

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas State barged into the Top 25 after its win at Oklahoma on Saturday night, and there’s a good argument to be made that the Wildcats’ biggest rival – just down Interstate 70 – deserves to be there, too.

As it stands, Kansas is just outside of the rankings. You read that correctly.

The long-downtrodden Jayhawks are among the 21 of 131 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision that have yet to lose this season. They knocked Duke from those ranks Saturday, which was enough for Kansas to show up on 43 of the 63 Top 25 ballots – leaving them just a few points behind the 25th-ranked Wildcats.

Asked whether he puts any stock in it, Kansas coach Lance Leipold replied Tuesday: “I have not. Never have.”

There’s a lot of folks in the Sunflower State that do, though.

Only five states have multiple programs in the Top 25. Kansas could become the sixth if the Jayhawks and Wildcats can inch their way one spot higher. Kansas (4-0) plays Iowa State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence – a place that sold out last week for the first time in years, while Kansas State (3-1) hosts Texas Tech the same day.

The schools haven’t been ranked at the same time since Oct. 14, 2007, when the Jayhawks were 15th and the Wildcats No. 25. That was the year Kansas won the Orange Bowl and tied its best-ever finish of seventh in the AP poll.

“National recognition – and recognition as a whole – is something that obviously we strive for,” Leipold said of the rankings, “but we don’t control it, so let’s get back to what we can control. If you spend a lot of time worrying about if you should or shouldn’t, you probably won’t be very long anyway.”

Most Kansas fans typically turn their attention to basketball at this time of the year – to the defending national champion Jayhawks. The football fans that are scattered across the state usually have to pin all their hopes on the Wildcats, who have been to bowl games 10 of the past 12 seasons.

Yet the “house divided” flags waving outside of homes from the Missouri border to the Colorado border are flying proudly for the first time in more than a decade.

Make no mistake: Leipold hears the chatter. He sees more people showing up for his weekly news conference, and it is impossible for him to avoid a schedule that’s rapidly filling with interview requests.

“It makes good stories,” he admitted, “but again, I want to keep this team in a good mindset. Stay focused on Iowa State. We left a lot of things out there Saturday that we have to get better at, and I don’t know if you can keep winning games if some of those things keep stacking up on you at the wrong time.”

It took Kansas State about six hours to move on from its win over Oklahoma: The Wildcats didn’t get home from Norman until about 3 a.m. Sunday, then went through normal treatments and game film before getting back to practice Monday to prepare for Texas Tech.

Much like Leipold, that’s exactly how Kansas State coach Chris Klieman prefers it: Don’t dwell on success. Get right back to work, and keep working to ensure more success.

There are plenty of folks patting the Wildcats on the back after rebounding from a brutal loss to Tulane with their stirring upset of the Sooners. But as Klieman noted Tuesday, as quickly as the Wildcats went from downtrodden to darlings, they could be headed the other way with a loss to the Red Raiders.

“It’s one-week seasons,” Klieman said. “It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in any conference, in any league, so we’ll play them when we play them, where they ask us to play them. Our guys are just excited to be 1-0 in league play and that’s the most important thing for us, trying to continue to play well in the league”

Texas State hires Incarnate Word coach Kinne to lead Bobcats

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Texas State hired Incarnate Word coach G.J. Kinne on Friday to lead a Sun Belt program that has had only one winning season since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The 34-year-old former Tulsa quarterback has made a fast rise in coaching since ending his professional career in 2017.

After three years as an offensive analyst at SMU, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles, Kinne became offensive coordinator at Hawaii in 2020. He held the same role for UCF in 2021 before landing the head coaching job at FCS Incarnate Word this season.

Incarnate Word is 10-1 and averaging 53 points and 8.3 yards per play, both FCS highs, heading into its playoff game Saturday against Furman. Kinne will remain with Incarnate Word through their playoff run.

“It’s with great honor that I’m accepting the call to be next head football coach of the Texas State Bobcats,” Kinne said. “We are going to play fast, have relentless energy, and when the going gets tough, have the mental confidence to win tight games in the second half and represent the state of Texas. Eat ‘Em Up!”

Texas State fired Jake Spavital last week after the Bobcats won just 13 games in his four seasons.

Kinne signed a five-year contract, the school said. Terms were not immediately released.

“My goal was to hire someone with demonstrated leadership experience, success as a head coach, established relationships with Texas football coaches, and success with recruiting and developing players,” said Texas State President Kelly Damphousse. “I sought a leader with a plan to capitalize on our location in the heart of the best high school football in the country.”

Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as football coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”