A Thursday night special between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas State Wildcats. Rivalries are a funny thing. This one was dominated by the Jayhawks for years, but the Wildcats picked up quite a bit of ground during Bill Sndyer's first stint.
Currently the Jayhawks have won four of the last six, so how do they make it five of seven?
Stop Daniel Thomas(and the K-State Rushing attack)
Daniel Thomas has used his abilities and a solid Kansas State offensive line to gain nearly 700 yards on the ground through five games. In each of the first three games of the season he surpassed the 100 yard mark including a monster 200 yard performance against UCLA, the same UCLA that beat Texas. Bill Snyder will most definitely ride Daniel Thomas and the K-State rushing attack to a victory if he can, it's the Jayhawks job to force something different.
Whether Carl Torbush decides to go eight in the box, a Justin Springer spy, sellout on the run, or play it straight that's decision is on him. Based on the way he approached Georgia Tech and his comments about wanting a Ferrari this week I'd guess he'll have a wrinkle in store. If Kansas can keep the Kansas State ground game in check, that will be step one to getting a win.
Throughout the season so far Kansas hasn't always come out with the best emotion/fire/intensity whatever you want to call it. In some instances it's put the team in a hole that just can't be recovered from. There were moments and situations against both Baylor and Southern Miss. where Kansas could have closed a gap and made a manageable game of things but they were unable to do so. The resulting downward spiral in both instances got ugly.
Kansas has to start the game strong. It will be important to the collective psyche of the team and if there's one thing Bill Snyder can and will do better than many teams Kansas will play, it's protect a lead with Daniel Thomas.
Stay Ahead of the Chains
As our favorite Fox Sports announcer Dave "I can't remember anyone's name" Lapham likes to say, stay ahead of the chains. Basically, avoid 3rd and long. Kansas State is a team that the Jayhawks should be able to run reasonably effectively against. Kansas State is a defense that isn't as fast as others Kansas has played.
3rd and long is where you begin to hurt yourself and give the defense the advantage. Kansas has to avoid those as often as possible. Keeping the offense on the field, controlling the clock and moving the chains in manageable situations is going to be the goal of both coaches. Can Kansas do this better?
Overall on the year Kansas has not looked good in this area. Kansas State under Bill Snyder has always found a way to take advantage of this phase of the game. Against Baylor Kansas showed a little life in the special teams arena and often found themselves winning the battle of field position. It was a small battle in a losing war but Kansas was doing a nice job in many instances.
Kansas needs to find a way to win or draw even in this phase in order to win. The last thing they can afford is a big play going against them in the special teams arena. The Jayhawks just haven't been consistent enough to feel confident in overcoming that.
Win the Turnover Battle
Turner Gill says he wants three or more. Personally I'd be happy with two provided we don't give any away. Again Kansas has looked good at times and very bad at times in this arena, which team shows up will be big.
If Kansas takes care of key #1 then they'll force K-State to throw. That's a situation where Kansas can force a turnover. If Kansas can't take care of key #2 or #3, they'll find themselves in situations where they will have to take a gamble and that's where you give the ball up. The turnover battle is always huge, it can change a game in an instant. In this game it would certainly go a long way toward swinging things in someone's favor.