Kansas State has seen this adversity before.
It was just a year ago that the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. The season played out quite differently, as KSU rattled off 10 wins and a second-place finish in the conference.
This year, they are in a similar position, picked to finish sixth despite the success of 2011. They will again have to prove they belong among the league's top teams.
"I think you look back at last season and we moved up maybe six slots," coach Bill Snyder said. "I just hope that we can do something similar to that. But for us that's, I don't think, really significant."
With Snyder, the main focus is internally, with the demeanor of his team. He wants to make sure it has the best opportunity to win, and it starts with All-Big 12 senior quarterback Collin Klein.
Klein broke onto the college football scene last season, passing for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns with only six interceptions. However, the bulk of his impact was made in the running game, as he carried 317 times for 1,141 yards and a conference-leading 27 touchdowns.
"Collin is a wonderful young person," Snyder said. "He has made tremendous improvement during his time in the program, and it's happened because of the quality of person that Collin is. He's one of those young guys truly committed not just lip service to it, he's truly committed to becoming better every single day of his life in all facets of his life."
Klein, who ranked fifth in the Big 12 in rushing yards in 2011, said he was a pro-style quarterback in high school, and that running the ball so many times last season was different for him. However, he said his main focus is winning games, and if that means carrying the ball 20-plus times, that's what he'll do.
"Last season took on a little bit of a shape of its own to where I'll do whatever we have to do to win," he said. "I ended up running the ball a lot, but it's whatever the team needs at that time, then we'll do it."
Klein said the most important aspect of playing quarterback is leadership, a quality that he learned from his upbringing and has continued to work on in Manhattan. He said the accountability of the veteran players would help drive the Wildcats toward success in 2012.
"If there was one set formula for leadership, someone would be making a ton of money," he said. "Leadership is something that's not quantifiable, it's not physically measurable, other than in the results you see. For me, I think my biggest thing is I truly wanted my teammates to know that I cared."