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Kansas State at Kansas: A meaningful Sunflower Showdown

The Wildcats and Jayhawks square off in the most anticipated matchup in Lawrence since at least 2006.

Baylor v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The Sunflower Showdown has gone the way of the Kansas State Wildcats for so long now that it’s hard to remember the last time the Kansas Jayhawks were actually competitive in this game, especially in Lawrence.

Sure there was 2018 in Manhattan, when K-State was mired in their last non-covid season without a bowl appearance. That was Bill Snyder’s last Sunflower Showdown, and the Wildcats still prevailed in Manhattan after David Beatty had been axed prior in the week. The last one before that was 2009, during KU’s “History Awaits” season (that we’re still waiting on), when the 5-3 Jayhawks travelled to Manhattan in Snyder’s return to the sidelines, and The Wizard exercised his magic in ending KU’s 3-game win streak.

Which leads us to the Ron Prince era. Yes, most of us have forgotten it, but that three-year stretch resulted in three-straight wins for Mark Mangino and those pesky Hawks. 2008 was a blowout in Lawrence that most of us anticipated. 2007 was a competitive game in Manhattan, but part of KU’s best football season in program history.

But the 2006 game was expected to be a great one. K-State was 7-4 and coming off a massive upset of then-No. 4 Texas in Manhattan. KU was just 5-5, but feeling hot and ready to repeat their streak-ending win in Lawrence in 2004. But stud K-State freshman QB Josh Freeman threw three interceptions and lost three fumbles, including one at the goal line, and the Hawks prevailed 39-20.

The last time these two teams were both ranked in a major poll was 1995, when No. 14 K-State rocked No. 6 KU in Manhattan 41-7. As best I can tell, the two squads have never faced off as ranked opponents in Lawrence, making this game a first in this very long series.

Lance Liepold has himself a good squad. They are 7-3, and have on their resume a very nice upset win over then-No. 6 Oklahoma just a few weeks ago. But injuries have started to affect the KU offense, and it’s possible that true freshman Cole Ballard will be the starter for the Hawks this evening. But this is still easily the most talented and well-coached squad in Lawrence since 2008.

But K-State is still K-State, and Chris Klieman and the Wildcats are still in the hunt for a Big 12 title game berth. The Wildcats have also had some injuries on the defensive side, and true freshman Austin Romaine will start again in the middle of the defense. But Will Howard is still at QB, and K-State still has far more Kansans on the roster for whom this game just means more.

K-State should win this game. But it’s going to be a tough game, and the Hawks are not going to go quietly this time. If the Wildcats aren’t all-in tonight, this could be the one that ends the streak.

We’ve got a 6:00pm CT kickoff from KSU Stadium East Memorial Stadium in Lawrence being aired on FS1 with Alex Faust (Play-by-Play) and Petros Papadakis (Analyst) on the call. You should also be able to watch the game live online at, if you already have the correct cable/streaming package.

If you don’t have FS1, or can’t access the stream, the game can be heard across the 32-station K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play), former K-State quarterback Stan Weber (analyst), and Matt Walters (sidelines) calling the action. The game will also be on SiriusXM Satellite Radio Ch. 132 or 200, and available online at Live stats are also available at, and social media updates (@KStateFB) will also be a part of the coverage.

Go Cats!