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Kansas State Preview

It’s time for the 116th edition of the Sunflower Showdown.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas heads west down I-70 to take on Kansas State for the 116th time in the 6th longest consecutively played series in all of college football.

Kansas is coming off a 27-3 extremely non-competitive game at home vs Iowa State, while K-State fell 14-13 on the road at TCU after missing an extra point. Laces OUT!

KSU Schedule

W vs South Dakota, 27-24

L vs Miss St, 31-10

W vs UTSA, 41-17

L @ WVU, 35-6

L vs Texas, 19-14

L @ Baylor, 37-34

W vs Okla St, 31-12

L @ Oklahoma, 51-14

L @ TCU, 14-13

That’s right, the Wildcats are nine points away (Texas, Baylor, TCU) from being 6-3 at this point in the season and want to run a Hall of Fame coach out of town. I don’t get it.

How They Rank

Following the conclusion of all the games from Week 10, Kansas State is ranked #96 in S&P+ (out of 130). Their offense is ranked #99 and their defense is ranked #86.

Conversely, Kansas finds itself down at #115, with the #114 offense and the #102 defense. #RutgersFactor!

In the preseason, KSU was given a 77% chance to beat KU by S&P+. That number is down slightly to 73.2%. S&P+ predicts an 11-point KSU win, 33-22.

F/+ has much better outlook for Kansas, predicting a 7-point K-State win and giving the ‘Cats a 66.0% chance for victory.

ESPN’s FPI gives ISU a 72.8% chance of victory.

Vegas has the line set at -10.5 as of the time of this posting.

Players to Watch

Rumor has it that K-State will be missing both QBs Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton. Thompson started last week at TCU, but came out in the first quarter with an unknown injury. Delton played the rest of game against TCU, but is dealing with “a nagging leg injury” himself. If neither QB can play, K-State will be forced to turn to either true freshman John Holcombe or JR Hunter Hall, neither of whom has thrown a pass for KSU this season.

Additionally, there have been questions surrounding RB Alex Barnes’ availability, but this preview by 247Sports doesn’t mention it. Barnes is KSU’s workhorse, accounting for 80% of K-State’s rushing attempts by running backs and averaging 5.3 yards per carry while doing so. Barnes has had 100+ yards in three of KSU’s last four games, including 250 yards at Baylor. If Barnes is unable to go, look for a tag-team by Dalvin Warmack and Justin Silmon.

K-State’s leading receiver is Isaiah Zuber, but who knows how he’ll perform after being absolutely thrown under the bus by Bill Snyder last week. Dalton Schoen is the deep threat for the Wildcats, averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

K-State will also be missing Duke Shelley out of the secondary, who leads KSU with 3 INTs on the season. Safety Eli Walker leads the team in tackles with 56, while LB Da’Quan Patton leads the linebackers with 53 tackles. You’ll likely see Walker in the box a lot, especially with KU’s dreadful passing game.

Keys to the Game

The First Quarter. If KU is going to make this a game, they can’t get run out of town in the first quarter. Under Bill Snyder, K-State has a history of scoring lots of points quickly on KU. The Jayhawks need to possess the ball, keep the K-State offense off the field, and not turn it over. A couple of early turnovers will feed a rabid crowd and things could quickly spiral out of control.

Create turnovers on defense. Kansas has been fortunate in the turnover department so far in 2018, and will probably need (at least) three or four K-State turnovers to get the W. With KSU’s uncertainty at the quarterback spot, this might actually be feasible.

Fourth and timeout. I say this every week - DON’T. WASTE. TIMEOUTS. David Beaty officially has nothing to lose at this point. Be aggressive on fourth downs, don’t settle for field goals, and don’t burn timeouts before kicks (but preferably, don’t kick at all).

The Pick

Despite the line on this one, several factors make it appear as if Kansas might actually have a chance. Bill Snyder hasn’t lost to KU in Manhattan since his first season, 1989. However, it appears as if the gap is closing. Last year, the Jayhawks lost by only 10 points, but outgained the Wildcats by 142 total yards.

Additionally, it should be noted that K-State and Rutgers are the only FBS teams to rank 115th or worse in both scoring offense and total offense this season. If KU’s strength is indeed its defense, that bodes well for the Jayhawks considering how badly KU wrecked Rutgers back in September.

The uncertainty at the QB position for KSU makes this game tough to call. If Thompson and Delton both can’t go (or get hurt), it makes sense to predict a (very) low-scoring affair. Kansas generally struggles to move the ball through the air, and if KSU can get nine guys in the box, the Jayhawks will have a tough time moving the ball at all.

I’m going to assume that Delton plays, and opens up the read-option for the Wildcats. KU might have some extra #Motivation to “win one for the gipper,” as it were, but Bill Snyder just doesn’t lose to KU. K-State 31, Kansas 26.