Game 9: Kansas State at Kansas – Preview and Prediction

Opponent: Kansas State

Opponent’s Record: 5-2 (2-2 in the Big 12)

Location: David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas

Game time: Saturday, November 2, 2019 at 2:30 PM

TV channel: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 810 WHB

Line: Kansas State -5.5

Both Kansas and Kansas State enter Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown confident and coming off major conference wins. The Wildcats stunned the playoff hopeful Sooners with a rushing attack that countered Oklahoma’s aggressive linebacking corps. On the flip side, the Jayhawks exploded for yet another 500 yard offensive performance against Texas Tech. A wild ending (Les Miles teams seem to have that happen to them) gave the Jayhawks their third win of the season.

When Kansas State has the ball

The Wildcats entered last week around 65th in SP+ on offense, and jumped all the way to 47th following the Oklahoma game. This was by far their best offensive performance of the season, but also showed what they are capable of when they are executing at the highest level. Offensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton (in conjunction with QB coach Colin Klein) called a perfect game last Saturday. They took advantage of Oklahoma’s aggressive linebackers and gashed them with delays, draws, and counters. With an experienced front line, Kansas State’s offense looked a lot like Snyder’s teams with Klein running the offense. Sklyar Thompson and K-State’s skill position players are unlikely to blow the top off of a defense, but they will execute at a high level and force your defense into uncomfortable situations. 

Kansas has to play disciplined football to slow down the Wildcats. They have to stay contained and not bite on some of the counters and delays K-State will likely call. This is a Gavin Potter game. If the true freshman continues his upward trajectory and brings guys to the ground this could be a good day for Kansas’ defense. I expect DJ Eliot to stack the box, leave his corners on islands and force Skylar Thompson to beat the Jayhawks with his arm.

When Kansas has the ball

Kansas has started each of the last two weeks slow before exploding for massive yardage. Brent Dearmon will certainly want to start off faster against a K-State team that is elite at managing the clock. Kansas seems to find their rhythm in the late second, early third quarter which is when it feels like they are able to attack the defenses vertically. One of the reasons KU has seen more openness over the top is teams are stacking their defenses towards Pooka. Texas Tech was able to stifle Pooka for the most part, but they paid for it by sucking their safeties in and allowing Stephon Robinson, Andrew Parchment and Kwame Lassiter to run behind them

K-State’s defense is similar to their offense in that their talent resides up front. Their secondary is okay but nothing special. Their defensive line, on the other hand, has been game wrecking. Wyatt Hubert was an absolute monster against Oklahoma, and preseason All-Big 12 honoree Reggie Walker has lived up to his hype. I expect K-State to lean on their defensive line and throw less resources at Kansas’ run game. I think the key to this game is to continue to stretch K-State horizontally. Not allowing K-State’s ends to wreck the edge will be important for the Jayhawk’s game plan on Saturday. Hakeem Adiniji will need to be on his A game.

Special Teams

Usually on these previews, I don’t write about special teams. Kansas State is 11th and KU is 94th in FEI Special Teams ranking. This should make Jayhawks fans sweat. They’ve had 4 kicks blocked over the last two weeks. Against Texas Tech, the Red Raiders stacked the left hand side of the line and were able to get through twice. This seems like a weak spot on KU’s special teams and coaches are seeing it on film and taking advantage of it. Something that has popped into my mind recently, however, is a fake field goal scenario. I know Les Miles isn’t intentionally letting guys through the left side, but Miles has used fakes like this one against Florida before. Watch how the Gators stack the left side, rush on through and are caught completely off guard. Something to think about on Saturday.

Prediction

This one is tough. I am nervous, excited, and worried for Saturday’s game. What an awesome feeling for Kansas football fans. I think, if nothing else, this game will be exciting. Sagarin has the Jayhawks losing by 12 and SP+ has the Wildcats by 9. I think I am going to buck these two guys and roll with the Hawks.

KU 38 (+5.5), Kansas State 35

Season Record: 6-2 (4-4 ATS)

Last Week’s Prediction: Kansas 38 Texas Tech 31 (Actual Kansas 37 Texas Tech 34)