K-State meets KU today in the 112th playing of the Sunflower Showdown. With a win, the Wildcats would stretch to six their winning streak in this series, and set up a de facto Big 12 co-championship game next weekend with Baylor.
KU enters this game with nothing to play for but pride, but with an interim coach fighting for a permanent job and a group of seniors that has never beaten K-State, that's enough incentive. Every objective measure favors K-State, some significantly, but a rivalry game combined with some of K-State's recent performances is enough cause for concern.
Players to Watch
Passing: Jake Waters, 188-295-5, 2,569 yards, 8.7 yards/attempt, 63.7%, 14 TDs, 256.9 yards/game
Rushing: Charles Jones, 102 carries, 434 yards, 4.3 yards/carry, 11 TDs, 43.4 yards/game
Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 70 receptions, 1,074 yards, 15.3 yards/reception, 6 TDs, 107.4 yards/game
Passing: Michael Cummings, 121-217-4, 1,576 yards, 7.3 yards/attempt, 55.8%, 7 TDs, 197.0 yards/game
Rushing: 145 carries, 603 yards, 4.2 yards/carry, 5 TDs, 54.8 yards/game
Receiving: Jimmay Mundine, 43 receptions, 564 yards, 13.1 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 56.4 yards/game
No Tyler Lockett among the finalists for the Biletnikoff Award. Tempo-free statistics haven't made any inroads with college football's trophy presenters.
KU's numbers are pedestrian, as you'd expect for an offense with the rankings you'll see below. Keep in mind that a third of these numbers were compiled while Charlie Weis was still the head coach. The Jayhawks have played marginally better since Weis was fired. Mundine is a legitimate threat as a tight end/wide receiver.
K-State Advanced Stats
Success Rate: 44.7% (41st)
Rushing S&P: 59th
Passing S&P: 34th
Standard Downs: 58th
Passing Downs: 20th
Drive Rating: 30th
Success Rate: 42.8% (83rd)
Rushing S&P: 17th
Passing S&P: 39th
Standard Downs: 26th
Passing Downs: 31st
Drive Rating: 24th
KU Advanced Stats
Success Rate: 35.6% (120th)
Rushing S&P: 115th
Passing S&P: 87th
Standard Downs: 111th
Passing Downs: 95th
Drive Rating: 121st
Success Rate: 39.3% (48th)
Rushing S&P: 42nd
Passing S&P: 33rd
Standard Downs: 23rd
Passing Downs: 78th
Drive Rating: 94th
K-State will be playing without defensive lineman Travis Britz in this one, but Will Geary and Valentino Coleman have both had a lot of playing time this year. If KU's rushing games goes anywhere today, the Wildcats are in trouble.
Keep an eye also on how quickly K-State can get KU's offense off the field. The Jayhawks are terrible at staying on schedule (120th nationally in Success Rate), which is the one thing K-State's bend-but-don't-break defense usually gives up. And if K-State gets KU off schedule, the Wildcats relative strength on Passing Downs matches up with another KU offensive weakness.
So will big plays save that school down the river? Unlikely. K-State is seventh nationally in IsoPPP, while KU languishes at 88th. If K-State's defense puts forth a disciplined, focused effort today, it's difficult to see KU topping 14 offensive points.
Blowout right? That would require your own offense to score points, and K-State hasn't done that since the day after Halloween, when the Wildcats put 48 on Oklahoma State. The Wildcats managed only 20 points against TCU and settled for four field goals (three on red-zone drives) against West Virginia in a 26-point effort.
KU's defense is having some trouble of its own, as you may have heard about. Giving up a single-game record for individual rushing yards will do that. But K-State has neither Oklahoma's offensive line nor Samaje Perine.
KU does a decent job keeping teams off schedule (48th in Success Rate), but is prone to the big play (110th in IsoPPP). But keeping K-State off schedule may not be any great advantage for the Jayhawks. K-State's offense is better on Passing Downs (20th nationally) and KU's defensive weakness is getting off the field (78th nationally on Passing Downs). And if K-State is able to matriculate the ball down the field, the Wildcats are facing a defense that's 94th nationally in drive rating.
Oh, and K-State has Tyler Lockett. Did we mention that yet?
Bill Connelly's F/+ picks predict a 45 to -7 finish in this one (I don't think that's actually possible, but it would be cool), if that tells you anything about the K-State defense/KU offense matchup. The line on this game is an absurd four touchdowns (K-State -28), so the Wildcats may have to hold KU to negative points to cover that spread. I don't expect that to happen, but I do expect K-State will win its sixth consecutive Sunflower Showdown.
K-State 34, KU 13