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Kicking the Tires: That School Down the River

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K-State and KU will play today for the 112th time in the Sunflower Showdown. The Wildcats need a win to have a chance at a Big 12 championship next weekend in Waco.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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

K-State

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

KU

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

Overall

F/+: 21st

S&P+: 25th

Offense

S&P: 34th

Success Rate: 44.7% (41st)

IsoPPP: 41st

Rushing S&P: 59th

Passing S&P: 34th

Standard Downs: 58th

Passing Downs: 20th

Drive Rating: 30th

Defense

S&P: 29th

Success Rate: 42.8% (83rd)

IsoPPP: 7th

Rushing S&P: 17th

Passing S&P: 39th

Standard Downs: 26th

Passing Downs: 31st

Drive Rating: 24th

KU Advanced Stats

Overall

F/+: 101st

S&P+: 101st

Offense

S&P: 117th

Success Rate: 35.6% (120th)

IsoPPP: 88th

Rushing S&P: 115th

Passing S&P: 87th

Standard Downs: 111th

Passing Downs: 95th

Drive Rating: 121st

Defense

S&P: 70th

Success Rate: 39.3% (48th)

IsoPPP: 110th

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?

Prediction

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