For the first time in three seasons the University of Kansas will travel to Manhattan, Kansas. That game three years ago marked a positive turning point for the Kansas State football program, and a negative one for KU. The Jayhawks entered the game with a 5-3 record (but on a 3 game Big 12 losing streak). K-State entered at 5-4 having nearly pulled an improbable upset at Oklahoma. Todd Reesing had defeated K-State every season that he was quarterback for the Jayhawks. That ended on that fateful day in Manhattan.
K-State went on to beat KU 17-10, giving K-State their first victory over KU since 2005. A 17-10 victory doesn’t sound like a big win, but it was coming after a 52-21 disaster the season before, which most likely was the reason Ron Prince was fired. Since then, the road to the game on Saturday have been polar opposites for each school. K-State has been to two consecutive bowl games (Pinstripe bowl, Cotton Bowl) and has defeated KU in Lawrence the past two seasons by a combined score of 108-28. KU, on the other hand, has only managed one conference win and are on their third head coach in four years.
K-State enters the Sunflower Showdown ranked #7 in the nation, fresh off a 24-19 upset of the University of Oklahoma. Kansas enters 1-3 fresh off of a 23-30 loss to Northern Illinois, and are the only team in the Big 12 to not receive a single vote in either top 25 poll. K-State will look to keep their hopes of a big 12 championship alive, and KU will look to get their season on track.
A Look at the Kansas Jayhawks
The Kansas offense had high hopes entering the season. They received two five star QB transfers, plus the addition of offensive genius Charlie Weis as a head coach. So far, however, KU has been less than impressive offensively. Rushing the ball the Jayhawks are 47th in the nation with 178.5 yards per game, and even worse 100th in passing with 191.5 yards per game.
Quarterback – Dayne Crist enters his first season as the KU starting quarterback. The Notre Dame transfer has been less than spectacular to say the least. Through his first four games Crist has thrown for 763 yards completing only 48% of his passes for only two touchdowns compared to four interceptions. Crist is rated as the #9 senior quarterback for the 2013 NFL draft, according to nfldraftcountdown.com, but has a lot left to prove if he expects to be drafted.
Running Backs – The HB position is KU’s biggest strength with its most depth. Two year starter James Sims returns for the Jayhawks. The teams leading rusher Tony Pierson is also a vital part of the offense, as is third string newcomer Tony Cox. Former four star recruit Brandon Bourbon has also received some carries for KU, but hasn’t done much with them. As a team the hawks are averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 155 carries (714 yards). For KU to be successful they have to get this unit rolling.
Wide Receivers – The Kansas receiving core is an experienced unit with three senior starters (Kale Pick, DJ Beshears, and Daymond Patterson). Patterson leads the team in catches (17), while Pick leads the team in yards (148). This unit has not been a strong suit for Kansas. Pick had been the starting QB, but lost his job after a 3-6 loss to North Dakota State in Turner Gill’s first season. That being said they are a speedy group that needs to be contained to avoid big plays.
Offensive Line – The offensive line for Kansas is another experienced unit. Leading the hawks will be SR LT Tanner Hawkinson (6’5 300 lbs). Hawkinson was a freshman All-American in 2009 in Mark Mangino’s last season. Also starting for KU will be SR LG Duane Zlatnik (6’4 306 lbs), SR C Trevor Marrongelli (6’3 303 lb SR), JR RG Randall Dent (6’4 300 lbs), and JR RT Gavin Howard (6-4 300 lbs). Starting at TE will be another Notre Dame transfer in Mike Ragone.
The Kansas defense was worse than awful in 2011. They couldn’t stop a nose bleed if they tried their hardest. Last season they gave up 42 points to Northern Illinois, 66 to Georgia Tech, 45 to Texas Tech, 70 to Oklahoma State, 47 to Oklahoma, 43 to Texas, 61 to Texas A&M, and 59 against that Kansas State Wildcats. So far this season KU has had a little more success. As a hole they do seem to be in the right spots, but still can’t seem to stop the football. They had an impressive performance against TCU allowing only 20 points to that high powered offense, but it has to be noted that TCU had four turnovers (2 unforced) inside the KU 15 yard line. That score easily could have been 48-6 TCU. Still, last season those turnovers would have been unthinkable.
Defensive Line – The Kansas defense has allowed 185.8 yards per game on the ground (good for 90th in the nation). That starts at the defensive line for KU. The line is led by former starting HB Toben Opurum (SR). Opurum 18 tackles on the season with a sack. Last season Opurum had a team leading four sacks. The rest of the line consists of Nebraska transfer Josh Williams (SR), Kevin Young (JR), and Jorden Tavai (JR).
Linebackers – JR Huldon Tharp is the most experienced linebacker for KU. Tharp had a very impressive season his freshman season, but had a season ending injury his sophomore season and hasn’t quite gotten back to his freshman seasons level. So far this season Tharp has 19 tackles with .5 of a sack. Ben Heeney is the lone sophomore starter for Kansas on the Kansas defense. Also starting at SLB will be SR Tunde Bakare.
Secondary – The Jayhawks have allowed 253.3 yards through the air this season. But the teams leading tackler (SR S Bradley McDougald) is a member of the secondary. McDougald has 34 tackles on the season along with a sack and two interceptions. Also starting in the secondary will be SR Greg Brown, SR Lubbock Smith, and JR Tyler Patmon.
JR Ron Doherty has done both the kicking and punting for KU. He has a successful 42.1 average per punt including 6 inside of the 20 yard line. As a kicker he has not done as well connecting on only 5 of 9 field goals. It also may be a field day for Tyler locket as Doherty only has 1 touchback on the season. He is 5-6 from inside 40 yards though. DJ Beshears and Tre’ Parmalee will do the kickoff returns for KU.
I decided not to do a 3 keys to a victory this week because in reality there is only one key needed: Don’t overlook the opponent. This is a rivalry game. No matter what KU fans say, or what Charlie Weis says, this game means something for the K-State players and fans. It doesn’t matter if KU is 1-3 or 4-0. A loss to KU would be detrimental to the schedule and K-State would be eliminated from a possible National Championship appearance (although they are still a long way off from that goal win or lose on Saturday). I don’t feel K-State will overlook their opponent, and I don’t think KU will be ready for a game in Manhattan. K-State fans always step it up in Manhattan. In 2009 that stadium shook as if we K-State was playing the #1 team in the nation, and neither team was very good that season. I feel KU will play fight more than last season, but the Cat’s will get a decent sized victory.
K-State wins 48-13
On the year Brandon 26-3 Deante 27-2 Jordan 23-6 Paul 25-4
|Brandon Starkey||DeAnte Mitchell||Jordan Bayless||Paul Badke|
|KU @ KSU||KSU 48-13||KSU 59-3||KSU 38-14||KSU 45-17|
|ISU @ TCU||ISU 27-26||TCU 21-17||ISU 14-10||ISU 21-17|
|OU @ TECH||OU 42-21||Tech 24-21||OU 35-14||OU 38-24|
|WVU @ TEX||TEX 41-37||WVU 42-38||WVU 45-41||TEX 42-35|