This week, all eyes are on Manhattan, Kansas for the Sunflower Showdown. This game will help clarify the muddled Big 12 North race.
Chase McCarthy will analyze key positions and matchups and predictions of the game.
Quarterback: Todd Reesing vs. Grant Gregory
Grant Gregory is an amazing story. He gets a sixth year of eligibility after backing up Matt Grothe at South Florida for three years and then comes in and plays very well against Iowa State. He has 203 rushing yards and 665 yards passing for the year.
Todd Reesing has become a Jayhawk legend. He will leave KU with the career passing yards record and go down as one of the best quarterbacks at Kansas, even though he did get benched last week.
I have to go with experience here.
Running Back: Jake Sharp vs. Daniel Thomas
One of these players is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing. If you are thinking Jake Sharp, you are wrong.
Daniel Thomas has been another junior college success for Bill Snyder. He is the Wildcats' best offensive weapon because it's easier to get him the ball than Brandon Banks since he is also the quarterback in the Wildcat formation. He gives the Wildcats the best chance to win every Saturday.
Sharp has been battling injury and has been nonexistent since the UTEP game. Coach Mark Mangino has said that Sharp is battling injury for the rest of the season, but I doubt a healthy Jake Sharp is better than Daniel Thomas.
Edge: Kansas State
Wide Receiver: Dezmon Briscoe vs. Brandon Banks
To me, this is like saying whether you prefer KFC or Taco Bell as your best fast food. It's hard to say which one I like better.
Both are amazing athletes. Brandon Banks has five kickoff returns for a touchdown and has 524 yards receiving. Dezmon Briscoe has 841 yards receiving, which has him tied with Missouri's Danario Alexander for top receiving yards in the Big 12.
Both are huge parts in each team's offense, so I really can't choose who is better. I will call this one a push
Kansas State is ranked 72nd in sacks allowed, while Kansas is ranked 88th. Both teams do a mediocre to poor job protecting the quarterback. However, Kansas' defense is ranked 11th in sacks, while K-State is ranked 58th. I think the pass rush of Kansas will prove to be too much for the Wildcats' offensive line in the end.
Both teams are pretty even on the defensive side. Kansas State plays better against the pass but gave up 60 more yards passing than their average against the Sooners. Expect Reesing to throw for at least 300 yards.
Kansas also averages only 99 yards on the ground; expect that to be more with Keithen Valentine and Thomas running the ball.
Neither team has an advantage here.
Kansas State's special teams are led by Brandon Banks. He is ninth in the nation in kickoff return average and first in kickoff return touchdowns. Kansas State is fourth in the nation in kickoff return yards.
Kansas does not have a single threat to return the ball for a touchdown, ranking 10th in the conference and 99th nationally in kickoff return yards.
Kansas kicker Jacob Branstetter has kicked the ball for a touchback 16 percent of the time. For KU to be successful in this game, they must kick the ball out of the end zone 100 percent of the time.
Edge: Kansas State
X-factor: Bill Snyder and home field advantage
Bill Snyder hasn't lost a game in his stadium since 2005. Granted, he retired in 2005, but still the statistic is true. Kansas hasn't beaten Snyder in Manhattan since 1989, Snyder's first season. The last time Kansas even came close to winning in Manhattan with Snyder at the helm was 1993 in a 10-9 loss.
Bill obviously doesn't have the talent that he used to have, but his coaching has gotten his Wildcats to this point. It might play a big factor in Saturday's game.
Kansas is coming into this game struggling to get something positive going for their team. It's very possible for this team to finish 5-7 after starting the year 5-0.
Kansas State is playing very well now and seems to have found something that works for them that wasn't present when they played close to UMass and lost to Louisiana-Lafayette.
This is a huge rivalry game for the two teams because not only is it bragging rights until next season, but it will also have a huge effect on the team that loses and may keep that team out of a bowl game.
In the end, Thomas runs for 165 yards and two touchdowns, Banks runs back a punt return for a touchdown, and the Wildcats hold off a late rally by the Jayhawks to win.
Official Prediction: KSU 35-27
At least basketball season has started...
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