They call Manhattan, Kansas, the "Little Apple." Once again, however, wily coach Bruce Snyder is doing big things with Kansas State.
The Wildcats, surprising many in the Big 12 with a 5-0 start that has helped them climb to No. 6 in the latest AP Top 25 poll, is the new No. 1 team in this week's UPS Team Performance Index, barely edging out previously top-ranked Alabama.
Snyder, who celebrated his 73rd birthday Sunday by working in his office after Kansas State rolled past rival Kansas 56-16 the day before, has his team 5-0 for the second straight year. The Wildcats, who were ranked third in last week's UPS index, have been a steady force offensively thus far, averaging 43.6 points and 440.2 yards. They broke open Saturday's game with three touchdowns in a 5:22 span of the third quarter as John Hubert had two TD runs and quarterback Collin Klein added a 28-yard scoring scamper that helped the Wildcats overcome a sluggish first half.
"We did well, even though we had around 40-45 plays on offense," wide receiver Tyler Lockett said. "Usually we get around 70. If you look at the stats, we were able to be really productive with a minimum amount of carries. I think the offense did pretty good, but there are still some things we need to work on."
Kansas State actually ran 51 plays, but it averaged better than nine yards each snap in racking up 475 total yards, and its season mark of 7.26 yards per play is not only well above the FBS average of 5.78 yards, but nearly one full yard better than No. 2 Alabama (No. 1 in AP poll), which gains 6.34 per play.
While the Wildcats are more efficient offensively than the Crimson Tide, the other key area that allowed them to take over the top spot is special teams play. Kansas State's return teams for both kickoff and punts have been spectacular: The Wildcats had 35 yards on their lone punt return Saturday, which is actually one yard below their 36.0 mark per return in five attempts - one which was run back for a touchdown - and nearly four times the FBS average of 9.75 yards.
They also average 27.5 yards on kickoff returns with one touchdown in 11 runbacks. Conversely, on defensive special teams, Kansas State has yet to concede a single return yard on 14 punts.
Oregon, ranked second in the AP poll, jumped 11 spots in this week's index to climb to ninth. The fast-paced Ducks' offense again proved too much for an opponent to handle in a 52-21 win over Washington, racking up 497 total yards. Oregon is averaging 52.3 points and 541.7 yards thus far, including a whopping 302.3 per game rushing after Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas combined for 197 on the ground.
The only team which appears to be able to match Oregon point for point - No. 5 West Virginia - actually dropped a spot in this week's index to 31st after outlasting No. 15 Texas 48-45 on the road thanks to four TD passes by Geno Smith and 207 rushing yards by Andrew Buie. The Mountaineers are ranked third in offensive efficiency, but 81st in the index defensively as they've allowed 35.0 points and 460.0 yards per game.
Smith, though, doesn't feel pressure to outscore opponents despite his team yielding 108 points in its first two Big 12 games.
"We play as a team, we fight as a team. No matter what it takes to win the game, that's what we're going to do,'' said Smith, who finished with 268 passing yards.
Oregon State, which entered the Top 10 in the AP poll, is again the lowest-ranked unbeaten team in the index at No. 37 after climbing eight rungs following a 19-6 win over Washington State. The defense stepped to the forefront for the Beavers, limiting the Cougars to 20 rushing yards and 227 overall while forcing five turnovers. Jordan Poyer had three interceptions and Scott Crichton had three sacks.
The marquee matchup in the index next week will pit No. 5 South Carolina - riding high after a 35-7 romp over Georgia that knocked the Bulldogs down 21 spots to 34th - at 13th-ranked LSU, which will try to regroup from a loss at Florida.