The Sunflower Showdown has rarely been the final game of the regular season for both teams. For much of the last 120 years, Kansas concluded its season against Missouri; early in its football history, Kansas State traditionally finished the year against Emporia State and then more often than not ended seasons against Nebraska or Colorado.
1918 season saw the schools conclude the season in a 13-7 Kansas win, K-State’s only loss in a 4-1 season truncated thanks to World War I. In 1932, the teams battled with second place in the Big Six on the line in their final game, with Kansas prevailing 19-0. In 1978, the teams met to close the season with the Wildcats posting a 36-20 win. And finally, in 2013, K-State won 31-10 to send Kansas home for the winter before beating Michigan by nearly the same margin in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
And that’s it. Only four times has the regular season for both teams ended with a Sunflower Showdown. (Kansas was K-State’s final opponent in 1945, but Kansas had one more game left on the schedule.)
But there was one other late-season game between these two teams which was of enormous significance which many people have forgotten about in that context. In 2014, the 12th-ranked Wildcats hosted the hapless Jayhawks in the season’s penultimate game. With a win over TCU in their pocket and the Big 12 locked in a three-way tie between the Cats, Frogs, and Baylor Bears all 6-1, K-State needed a win to hang on to their chance at a Big 12 championship even as TCU and Baylor jockeyed for position in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. They got it, spanking the Jayhawks 51-13, but a 38-27 loss to Baylor the following week left the Bears and Frogs tied for first place rather than the Frogs and Wildcats.
And here we are again, with Kansas standing between K-State and a shot to play for the Big 12 title... and also an almost-certain Sugar Bowl bid regardless of next week’s efforts.
The 12th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 Big 12) host the Kansas Jayhawks (6-5, 3-5) om Senior Night.
Kansas leads the series 64-51-5, because as believers in the rule of law we recognize the Big Eight’s authority to order the 1980 forfeit even if K-State itself no longer does. The Wildcats, however, lead the Governor’s Cup series 33-19-1, have a 26-7 lead since football became relevant in Manhattan in 1989, and have won the last 13 meetings.
This is only the second time in the history of the series that the two teams have met having both already achieved bowl eligibility, the first being the epic 1995 clash between 6-1 #12 K-State and 7-0 #6 Kansas. The Cats won that one 41-7.
Chris Klieman has, of course, never lost to Kansas; Lance Leipold has yet to defeat Kansas State. Klieman won his 100th career game last week against West Virginia, and is 100-32 all-time and 28-19 at K-State; Leipold is 154-54 as a head coach, 45-48 as a Division I coach, and 8-15 at Kansas.
Saturday, November 26, 7:00pm CT at Bill Snyder Family Stadium (50,000) in Manhattan, Kansas.
Prepare yourselves. Game time temperature is expected to be around 45°, sliding to the low 40s by game’s end and with a 50% chance of rain throughout the window. It won’t be pleasant.
Oh, it’s sold out. Come on. On the secondary market, you’re not getting in the door for less than $120, with the average at about $190 and capping out at $400. At this writing, even the secondary market has fewer than 500 tickets up for sale, and a lot of those belong to folks who’ll show up for the game anyway if they don’t move. There won’t be many empty seats on the TV screen.
K-State opened at -11.5; DraftKings now has the line at -12 with a 62.5 over, implying a 37-25 win for the good guys. Oddshark’s projection is a bit more favorable to the visitors, projecting a 36-29 win for K-State. The money line is at -450 for K-State, +360 for Kansas.
FOX, and your evening will be ruined by Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman, with Brando probably bellyaching on air about how Chris Klieman doesn’t tell him all his secrets.
As always, Wyatt Thompson, Stan Weber, and Matt Walters will be on hand on the K-State Sports Network as well as via satellite on SiriusXM 134 or 199, and on the SiriusXM app at 953.
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