1996-2014 K-State FootballEver wondered who the greatest team in K-State history was? Some of us have spent hours arguing that very thing. You may be one of them. Well wonder no more. This summer on The Salute we’re going to find out in the K-State Football Ultimate Battle for Ultimate Destiny.

The Process

It would be great if we could go back and measure every possible team. Unfortunately we have some limitations. We’re going to be using whatifsports.com to play out the simulations, and their database only goes back to 1996. So apologies to folks like Chad May, the 1993 team that got K-State’s first bowl win, and the ’89 team that started it all.

Each Tuesday, starting next week, we’ll play another game. We may even release some podcast episodes to talk about it through the summer. 19 teams, 18 games over 18 weeks, leading us right into the 2015 K-State football season.

The Bracket

ultimate bracket

A 19 team, single elimination contest means that 13 teams got byes into the main bracket. 3 play-in games will kick things off starting next week. The bracket has been seeded through a very intense selection process.

The criteria:

  • Teams earning a Big 12 Championship automatically move to top of the list. That means 2012 and 2003 were automatically the top 2 seeds.
  • Remaining seeds were ranked by the number of wins they earned.  11 wins, then 10, and so on
  • Teams with the same number of wins were ranked by fewest losses, so an 11-1 team is ranked higher than an 11-2 team, and so on.
  • Edge between teams with identical records given to the team that won their bowl game.
  • Any further ties settled by margin of victory over KU, because that’s just fun.

The Rankings

Because we don’t want to just go into it blindly, here’s how some of the contributors to The Salute see it. Leave your predictions in the comments, and we’ll see you next week for 2005 vs 2007 in Game 1 of the Ultimate Battle for Ultimate Destiny.


Derek Larson

Mike Tufano

1998, 11-2, Alamo Bowl (L)11121
2003, 11-4, Fiesta Bowl (L)43512
2012, 11-2, Fiesta Bowl (L)24633
1997, 11-1, Fiesta Bowl (W)37244
2002, 11-2, Holiday Bowl (W)82455
1999, 11-1, Holiday Bowl (W)66366
2000, 11-3, Cotton Bowl (W)55787
2011, 10-3, Cotton Bowl (L)78978
1996 , 9-3, Cotton Bowl (L)998119
2014, 9-4, Alamo Bowl (L)121110910
2013, 8-5, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (W)1110111211
2001, 10-3, Insight.com Bowl (L)1012131012
2010, 8-6, Pinstripe Bowl (L)1413121313
2006, 7-6, Texas Bowl (L)1317141414
2009, 6-61614151515
2005, 5-61515161616
2004, 4-71916171717
2007, 5-71818181918
2008 , 5-71719191819
The 1998 team is still my #1. What may be controversial is the '97 Fiesta Bowl team ahead of the '03 Fiesta Bowl team. That might be bias from seeing that team in person 8 times that season, but their performance versus Syracuse was dominant. I surprised myself by putting the 1999 team at #6. They were an 11-1 team that won a bowl game and they seem to be an afterthought in the conversation of best Wildcat teams. I wanted to put to 2013 team higher based on how well they were playing at the end of the season, but I couldn't justify a top 10 ranking. I put no thought into the non-bowl teams. I've done my best to forget everything about those seasons. Depending on how the simulator factors in defense, I really think any of the late '90s teams could win. My money is on 1998 winning it all, just like I thought 17 years ago.
I could spend entirely too much time reviewing this list, and - in doing so - I'd invariably rearrange the order endlessly. For the well-being of my marriage and my "employed" status, as well as Mike's tournament, I'll refrain from doing so and stick with this list for the moment. I can look nowhere other than 1998 for my top-ranked squad. Bishop. Kelly. Simoneau. Gramatica. Allen. McDonald. The team was stacked. It was K-State's National Championship squad... Unfortunately, the fates disagreed. I feel like my choice for No. 2 may prove unique. The Big 12 Championship did not arrive until a year later, but the 2002 squad featured all the best parts of that memorable 2003 squad (#3 in my rankings), plus two dominant defensive pieces in Terence Newman and Terry Pierce. They don't have the trophy, but in an alternate-reality, single-elimination tournament featuring things like cloned Snyders and confused fans, I really like their chances. Teams 5-7 are a toss-up. Same with 8-11. Good grief, this is like picking between my children. True, I don't have children, but you get the idea. Yes, there's one bowl squad (2006) ranked below a trio that missed the postseason. I'm not bold nor daring enough to pick Prince over Snyder, even in a fictional online realm. How much money do we have to raise to figure out time travel and make this tournament actually happen? Can someone get a Kickstarter page going?
Maybe I'm biased for having lived through the creation of the legends, but I have a hard time putting anything other than 1998 as the greatest team in K-State history. And it only makes sense that the teams surrounding that year would be up there as well. It hurts leaving 2012 as low on my list as they are, but in spite of contending for a national title, I don't see that team as being as good as the 1997-2003 teams (minus the weird 2001 anomaly, of course). And hey, Ron Prince, I see you holding up the bottom of this list with 4 of the bottom 6 spots being either Ron Prince coached teams, or, in the case of 2009, Bill Snyder digging his way out of the hole that Prince created.
This is one heck of an exercise in Kansas State Football fandom. I want you all to sit down and do your own ranking. No, don't just tell us where you disagree, rank all 19 teams from top to bottom and post your list in the comments. It is really tough to go back and remember the strengths and weaknesses of the past 19 teams. My favorite for this is the 2003 team. If Ell would not have sustained an injury against Marshall we win that game and probably the next two, OSU and Texas. Then you remember it was the team that won Bill's 1st Big 12 title and then you remember what (didn't) happen at the Fiesta Bowl. That team was stacked when Ell was behind center. The 1998 team was the team everyone fell in love with. You had the most dynamic quarterback in the nation in Michael Bishop and the toughest, most dominant defense. The "Paint it Purple" movement started a few years earlier, this team just put an extra coat on Manhattan. A team that would have made a bigger impact is the 2012 team lead by Collin Klein. I believe that if he had any health remaining after the TCU game, this team would have won the national title over Notre Dame and they are my number three team.

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About The Author

Founder & Chief Saluter

Mike is a '00 graduate of Kansas State University and holds season tickets for Football and Men's & Women's Basketball. He lives in Kansas City, but stays loyal to his Chicago sports (Bulls & Bears & Hawks & Sox). He's a social media marketer by day and dreams in purple at night.

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