The gridiron version of the Sunflower Showdown kicks off today in Lawrence. The game is set for 2:30 PM and can be seen on FS1. For more game-specific details, check out AMS’s How to Watch post.
TB kicked the tires on Kansas, and believe it or not, set aside his naysaying long enough to actually pick Kansas State this time. Drew Schneider weighed on the Wildcats’ newfound confidence on offense, noting that Malik Knowles’ return automatically opens up a huge set of possibilities.
This year’s game has some hype to it. Both teams are coming off wins, and Kansas State is just one win from bowl eligibility this season, while the Jayhawks still have their work cut out for them although bowl eligibility is still mathematically possible. Indeed, Kansas has already won three games this season including a Big 12 contest, and it’s possible more wins are still in the offing. This is near-uncharted territory for the current roster (Benton Smith, Lawrence Journal-World)
Both coaches are aware that the game is important beyond just wins and losses, however. Chris Klieman’s only previous FBS experience came as a Kansas graduate assistant back in 1997, and Les Miles knows about this rivalry thanks to his time at Oklahoma State (Associated Press, via USA Today).
The Sunflower Showdown is a longstanding in-state rivalry, and that’s generally enough to fuel interest in the contest. But the winning team generally gets a big in-state recruiting boost out of the game. Kansas State’s recent dominance of the series is reflected in the fact that the Wildcats have 57 Kansas high school players on the roster to just 28 from Kansas. Four of the Wildcat captains (Trey Dishon, Wyatt Hubert, Dalton Schoen, and Denzel Goolsby) are also from Kansas, while the Jayhawks have just one in-state captain in hometown player Bryce Torneden (Hayden Barber, Wichita Eagle).
Klieman downplayed this angle, however, choosing to give every game equal importance, including the upset win over Oklahoma.
It’s still a body of work. I don’t like to look at one game. That was obviously a big game and a big win, but it’s still about your overall body of work.
Finally, for those Kansas State fans actually in Lawrence for the game, here’s a guide to the town from a couple of Kansas alums now living in the Little Apple (Hailey Dixon and Sean Collins; Manhattan Mercury).
Oh, and one last note. Lee Corso picked Kansas to win this game, which would suggest a resounding Kansas State victory.
Go Cats! Keep the Governor’s Cup in Manhattan for another decade!
(This is your early game open thread too!)