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Sunflower Showdown Preview: Kansas Jayhawks Edition

The Kansas Jayhawks will take on their in-state rival Kansas State Wildcats in what will be the final matchup in David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium as we all know it. This is perhaps the most anticipated Sunflower Showdown matchup in over a decade, fueled by the fires of rumors surrounding the Jayhawks stoked by Wildcat beat writers this week that has only made this matchup all the more juiced. Rivalry week is upon us, and it's getting heated here in the state of Kansas. The two teams have the same overall records, but the Wildcats, due to the recent rule changes in the Big 12 allowing them a path to the title game, have a must-win game on their hands. Let's break it down.

Broadcast Info:

Date: Saturday, November 18th, 2023

Time: 7:00 pm EST

Where: David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas


Calling: Jeff Levering and Mark Helfrich

Radio: Jayhawk Sports Radio Network 810AM/105.9FM (Kansas), WHB-AM 1240AM/97.5FM (Kansas State)

Betting Line

Kansas State -9.5

Over/Under: 57.5

Tale of the Tape: From a Kansas Jayhawk Perspective

The Kansas Jayhawks are looking to get a football win over Kansas State for the first time since 2008. Years of struggle have been frustrating for the Jayhawk fanbase, not just with the Wildcats but with football in general. It has only been in these last couple of years that the Jayhawks have worked their way back into relevancy. Under head coach Lance Leipold, the Jayhawks are now competitors and look like they'll be in competition for the top of the Big 12 for a long time. The opportunity to break the losing streak is more there than ever, and with everything going on in regard to Jalon Daniels, Lance Leipold, and Kansas State beat writers and fans spreading rumors and disinformation, there's now a fire lit under this Jayhawk program. See here for more on that. The Jayhawks will be playing with a chip on their shoulder, but will it be enough to get their first win over the Wildcats in 15 years?

Offensively, the Jayhawks stack up interestingly against Kansas State. The Wildcats rank 31st in run defense in FBS, with 119 yards allowed/game and 3.89 yards/rush allowed. Kansas's rushing offense ranks 17th in FBS, with 199 yards/game and 5.17 yards/rush. This being said we have seen running backs such as Ollie Gordon II of Oklahoma State and Tahj Brooks of Texas Tech have great success rushing against this Kansas State front, and while those are two of the best backs in the Big 12, Devin Neal is right there with them in the conversation. Pair Neal with Daniel Hishaw, and you have one of the best-rushing tandems in the country. We could see the Jayhawks really hammer the run if it gets going and the experienced Kansas offensive line can create holes, however, we could also see the passing game find success for Kansas as well. The Kansas State secondary is one of the weaker units in the conference, allowing 237 yards/game and 11.07 yards/completion, placing 87th in FBS. While Kansas isn't necessarily known for their passing game, quarterback Jason Bean can still sling it if he's confident, and has shown really good play against some good secondaries such as Iowa State's. Bean was questionable for this week but is projected to start, so we may see a Kansas airshow this weekend if things go well. In the end, though, balance, possession, and trickeration have been what has made Kansas successful in their wins, and expect to see Andy Kotelnicki throw the book at the Wildcats.

Defensively, the name of the game is stacking the box so that the running back tandem of Treshaun Ward and DJ Giddens can't get going. They slowed down Tahj Brooks over time in the loss against Texas Tech last week, and if they can keep up that performance and contain the run, forcing Will Howard to throw the ball will prove to be an easier task to manage. Getting pressure on Howard will also be a key aspect, as Howard has shown to be finicky with his decision-making when faced with being hurried. Going up against this Kansas secondary that can hawk balls out of the air, the Wildcats may be in for big trouble. Expect Austin Booker, Gage Keys, Cobee Bryant, and Kenny Logan Jr., to go to work here. Kansas has to contain the run first though, a thing they've struggled with all season.

Briefly talking about Kansas State, they've struggled on the road this season. Losses to Texas, Oklahoma State, and Missouri have all shown that, and while Kansas, at least by record and resume, will be the easier of those 5 teams to play, this is still a rivalry game with a lot at stake and a lot of chips on the table. Kansas State has to come out firing, if they get punched in the mouth they may not be able to get back up, and Kansas has done a great job at starting big games strong. See the Oklahoma matchup, and while Oklahoma did work their way back into that one, they still lost, and Kansas State, to be frank, is not better than Oklahoma as can be seen by the polls and by general metrics. They will need to play their best game in order to win this, getting the run game going and sniffing out any trickeration will be big. Shaking Bean's confidence as well, but overall, this game will come down to who can out-physical the other and who can maintain their possessions. That comes with a great run game and a balanced attack, something that Kansas has shown they can do against good defenses. They just need to make those possessions fruitful and get the Wildcat offense off the field ASAP on every drive.

Conclusion and Final Score Prediction

Once again, Kansas will be playing with a HUGE chip on their shoulder, as will Kansas State, so this will be a tight game from start to finish. The spread lies and this game will come down to who possesses the ball last and who can possess it with the best efficiency. The Jayhawks showed they can do a great job when they are motivated and don't come out flat, if they can get the ball rolling sooner rather than later and control the tempo of the game, this is theirs to lose frankly. Kansas State is a great program that is a few bad breaks away from being a CFP contender, however this year, so is Kansas. They are a 4th and 3rd down conversion away from winning against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech this year, respectively, and played Texas very well until late in the 3rd quarter with a completely unprepared Jason Bean. Not only are they better than a lot of people give them credit for, but they're also motivated and will be fully intent on putting the Wildcats in a chokehold from start to finish. Kansas State is not prepared for what awaits them, and it will show. Given their road struggles as well, Kansas State having the edge makes less and less sense. Again, it will be tight, but Kansas takes this one and sends the old Booth off with a win.

Final Score Prediction: Kansas 35-Kansas State 31


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