The Sunflower Showdown this Saturday should be the best contest we've seen between these two clubs in the past three or four years.
This particular ball game could have massive repercussions for both teams, but Kansas State probably has a big edge right now.
Bill Snyder has his team playing better than they have in the past three years and is looking to earn his team their sixth (counting two FBS victories) this weekend against Kansas, to whom they've lost three straight.
Kansas is far more talented, but right now it's pretty obvious that Kansas State may be the better-prepared of the two for the contest. This being said, there are a few things the Jayhawks can do to turn the tide.
Get the passing game back on track...
Sure, this one is obvious, as a general lack of offense has been the death of KU in the past two weeks. However, it will have some extra meaning on Saturday.
Kansas State's 234 yards per game allowed through the air isn't completely awful, and is still better than the 240 that Kansas allows. However, Kansas State has allowed 20 passing touchdowns through nine games and generates less than two sacks per game.
I hope Reesing is feeling better this week because the Wildcats look pretty stingy against the run (107 yards allowed per game and only seven touchdowns allowed through nine games ), which isn't exactly the Jayhawks' forte anyway. If the passing game still isn't working, KU may be out of this one early.
Play the wide receivers aggressively...
Please don't put Chris Harris on Brandon Banks. Grant Gregory is no Peyton Manning, Harris has actually played much better of late, and Beshears is still learning, true. However, Banks will torch the much-slower Harris like a flaming marshmallow and make Gregory look like Manning.
It's risky, but I at least give Beshears the early shot at banks, and if he's not up to the task at all, maybe give Daymond Patterson a try as well.
Most importantly, though, Kansas' secondary gets taken out of plays far too easily, especially Harris. If he, Beshears, Patterson, or whoever can't play tighter and break loose of blocks much faster, Daniel Thomas will own the edges all day long.
Play disciplined football...
Yeah, this bit is a little overdone as well, I know. However, this game has the potential to be absolutely full of turnovers. It's important that KU gives its struggling offense all the chances it can get and reward the defense with a break or two as well.
Both teams give up nearly two fumbles per game, but the real edge here comes with passing. Kansas rarely comes up with interceptions (seven in eight games), while Kansas State, who plays much more conservatively, rarely throws them (six in nine games). Conversely, despite not managing a lot of pressure, the Wildcats have still picked 11 passes off this season, and Todd Reesing tosses nearly one a game.
I won't say winning the turnover battle will win the game, because that's just a little too cliche for me. You have to admit, though, playing disciplined football would be a good start.
Speaking of playing disciplined football, capitalizing on Kansas State's 64 penalty yards per game isn't a bad idea either. Also, while 50 penalty yards a contest isn't too bad on Kansas' part, that's still 50 free yards being given away.
Manhattan will be far more hostile than any other place Kansas has played to this point, I can assure you, so becoming victim to unnecessary penalties and repeated third-and-long situations is not in KU's best interest either.
If a few of these things go right for Mark Mangino and company, Kansas may just find a way to put their season back on the right track.
If not, things wouldn't get any easier for the Jayhawks as they scrounge for that elusive sixth win.
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