The Sunflower Showdown has typically been one of two types of games. First is the one where Kansas State is clearly superior to Kansas and plays like it. These games end in blowout wins for the Wildcats. Second is where both teams look absolutely horrible, and Kansas State stumbles less in a close win.
This year’s game is an entirely different one. Both of these teams look somewhere between competent and legitimately good.
This is the 4th longest active uninterrupted series in all of college football. The Jayhawks and Wildcats have met in each of the last 109 seasons. The overall record in the series depends on who you talk to. Officially (according to the NCAA), the Jayhawks lead the series 66-45, with 5 ties.
Kansas State has won the last 10 meetings between these teams. The last time the Wildcats were favored by less than 10 points was in 2010.
- When: Sat, Nov 2, 2:30 PM CT
- Where: David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
- Weather: Partly Cloudy, High of 50°F
- TV: FS1
- Stream: FOX Sports GO
- Line: Kansas State -5.5, O/U 55
No. 22 Kansas State Wildcats (5-2)
Kansas State is coming off a dominant showing over Oklahoma. The Sooners only ran the ball 6 times. Whether that was by (poor) design or because the Wildcats took it away is up for debate. However, the offensive explosion in the running game is certain. not up for debate.
James Gilbert leads the team in rushing, with double the yards of the next leading rusher. Kansas State is clearly a run first team, so his 105 yards against Oklahoma is a very good sign. He is expected to have a big game against a suspect Kansas rushing defense.
Skylar Thompson has been improving over the last few weeks. He threw for 213 yards against Oklahoma. However, none of the scoring for the Wildcats last week came through the air. That will need to change to keep the Kansas defense honest.
The defense is looking to improve, especially in the passing game. They are one of the worst in the conference in allowing explosive plays. The secondary especially needs to improve.
Kansas State Keys To The Game
Ball Control – Kansas wants to push the tempo. The Wildcats have a dominant run game. Slowing the game down with methodical drives will prevent the crowd from getting too juiced up.
Contain The Quarterback – Pooka Williams is the player that can singlehandedly beat you. But concentrating on him too much opens up the dynamic and explosive passing game. If you can contain Carter Stanley, you eliminate his ability to make the play on the run. That severely limits what Kansas can do.
Big Plays On Special Teams – The Jayhawks have had lots of issues on special teams. From kickoffs out of bounds to allowing blocked kicks, it’s almost certain that Kansas will have at least one big mistake. The Wildcats will need to use that to their advantage. If Malik Knowles can break a couple big returns, it will be huge.
Kansas Jayhawks (3-5)
The Jayhawks are coming off their first Big 12 win of the year. While it took a miracle play to finish the game in regulation, Kansas clearly had the momentum in the game.
The change at offensive coordinator has given this team new life. The blocking has been better. The wide receivers have all gotten involved. Running lanes have opened up for Pooka Williams and Velton Gardner. Carter Stanley has gone from multiple benchings to Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. It’s fair to say that this potential has been there all along.
The defense has been struggling. The secondary is one of the most experienced in the conference. The front seven has struggled to replace multiple high level performers. The injury of Dru Prox hasn’t helped at all, but true freshman Gavin Potter has stepped in and is getting better each week. While they can’t focus solely on the running game, this should be an opportunity to see if they can continue to improve.
The special teams has been a problem, but it’s fair to say most of that is on the blocking scheme. If they can avoid random mistakes, the blocked kicks shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Kansas Keys To The Game
Start Quickly – The Jayhawks have gotten down big early in the last two games. They have been able to come back from three scores down in each of those games. But having to make a comeback hasn’t done them any favors. With Kansas State looking to limit the total number of possessions, they can’t afford to waste any early ones.
Take What The Defense Gives Them – This team is talented enough that they can win in multiple ways. It may be tempting after last week’s lackluster rushing performance to do everything they can to get Pooka going. But if Kansas State is going to give them passing plays, they need to everything they can to score in whatever way possible.
Get The Crowd Involved – Kansas State has had problems playing on the road. Part of that seems to be that they struggle with hostile environments and when they fall behind. If they can get an early lead or hype the crowd up with some big stops, they should be able to build off that momentum.
This is a tough one to call, which is reflected in the lowest line in a long time. It’s easy to say that Kansas State looks like the better team on paper. It’s easy to assume that they will build off the big win. But it seems like everyone is writing this Kansas team off. They have an offense that is still relatively new to those outside the program. They have talent that has remained largely hidden. They have all the swagger they need. I think this will be a dogfight, but I have the Jayhawks pulling off another one late.