Death, taxes and the Sunflower Showdown...? For obvious reasons, the annual Kansas vs. Kansas State game doesn’t get the national recognition, but it’s as much a staple as any game in college football. The series is one of six in the nation that has currently been played continuously for at least 100 years and the longest among Big 12 opponents.
That being said, it’s been all Wildcats in recent years. Kansas State has won eight straight in this matchup and Bill Snyder is 23-4 against the Jayhawks in his legendary career.
The Wildcats are coming off of a tough, late 42-35 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners last week. It was game they led by double digits at halftime, but Baker Mayfield led OU back to victory behind his 410 passing yards.
Meantime, the Jayhawks were embarrassed on national television last Saturday night in Fort Worth, losing to the Horned Frogs 43-0. KU compiled 21 total yards, with -25 rushing yards, and the officials used a running clock late in the game. The Jayhawks can’t get wait to get that taste out of their mouths and get back on the field.
Kansas State at Kansas
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Kansas State -24
Three Things to Watch
1. Jesse Ertz’s health
Ertz has missed the past two and a half games for the Wildcats with undisclosed injuries. Head coach Bill Snyder has implied this week that Ertz is going to start at quarterback. Alex Delton filled in serviceably the last couple of games, but the passing game was not utilized like it would have been with Ertz. Delton ran the ball 27 times last week against the Sooners, which would not have been sustainable moving forward. The Wildcats’ passing offense is now a distant last place in the Big 12.
The good news for the Wildcats is that this game against KU is essentially a tune-up game for Ertz to get back to being comfortable in the pocket. He should not have to be his usual dual-threat self and should be able to carve up this Kansas defense that ranks last in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.
2. Kansas’ defensive line
This was supposed to be the strength of this team and is has not lived up to expectations. Dorance Armstrong Jr. (above, right) was the Preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and he’s looked like anything but that with just one sack on the season and only seven tackles for a loss after accumulating 20 in 2016. Armstrong along with Daniel Wise and Josh Ehambe have to be able to get to Ertz to give this team any chance of an upset. If Ertz has all day to sit back and carve up this Kansas defense he will with weapons on the outside like Byron Pringle and Isaiah Zuber.
3. Special teams
This season has not lived up to the preseason expectations for Snyder’s Wildcats, but they are still effective on special teams, ranking second in the Big 12 in kickoff return average and punt return average, while ranking third in kickoff coverage. Conversely, Kansas is last in punt return average and second to last in kickoff coverage. If the Jayhawks want any chance of an upset, they have to find something on special teams to ignite them.
The Jayhawks are likely to be at least three-touchdown underdogs in the remainder of their games this season. That’s a bad situation for head coach David Beaty who is in Year 3 with Kansas and is not showing the improvement necessary to have the fan base supporting him 100 percent.
The Wildcats have dropped three straight and four of their last five games and will take out many frustrations on this Jayhawks team. Plus, K-State finally got back to looking more like themselves last week, despite the loss to OU. They limited the penalties and turnovers, uncharacteristic mistakes of a Bill Snyder-coached team.
Expect Jesse Ertz to come back and open up this offensive playbook that was generally limited the last two weeks against TCU and Oklahoma. Also, K-State running back Alex Barnes had his best game of the season last week with 108 rushing yards and will look to continue his momentum against a defensive giving up 224 yards on the ground per game.
Prediction: Kansas State 38, Kansas 7
— Written by Pete Mundo, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as well as owner and operator of HeartlandCollegeSports.com, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.