Kansas @ #8 Kansas State
- Game Time: 11:00
- TV: FX
- Sirius Channel: 138
- The Spread: Kansas State -24.5
The Lowdown: The Jayhawks have gotten off to a rather slow start under Charlie Weis falling to Rice, Northern Illinois, and TCU. If there's any good news in those three losses, it's that Kansas has been competitive in each. A completed pass here, a tackle made there, and Kansas' could be sitting in an entirely different position than they are currently.
On the other sideline, things couldn't have started much better for Kansas State. A blowout of now 4-1 Miami and a victory over Oklahoma in Norman has many thinking a second Big 12 title for Bill Snyder is there for the taking.
Coming into the season, the deepest and most talented position on the KU roster was at running back and through four games, it's hard to argue otherwise. Tony Pierson and junior college transfer Taylor Cox provided a solid one-two punch through the first three games. When Cox went down against Northern Illinois, James Sims stepped right in after serving a three game suspension to begin and led KU with 93 yards rushing on 18 carries.
The Kansas running game has been a life raft of sorts for the offense since quarterback Dayne Crist hasn't exactly lit the world on fire through the first third of the season. The Notre Dame transfer is completing just 48.1% of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Crist doesn't even rank in the top ten quarterbacks in the Big 12 in passing efficiency which isn't a good thing considering the Big 12 only has ten teams.
It goes without saying, if Kansas hopes to have a chance in the season's remaining eight games, Crist needs to start playing like the way Weis thought he would when he convinced him Lawrence was the place he needed to finish his career.
Colin Klein, meanwhile, has entered the Heisman conversation in many people's mind after KSU's fast start. Klein's success isn't always measured in his stats alone, but even so, he currently sits seventh in the Big 12 ini rushing averaging 73.5 yards per game on the ground. He's also averaging another 191 yards through the air while completing 70% of his passes.
Running back John Hubert has also been a pleasant surprise averaging 108 yard per game and maybe more importantly, he has helped take some of the load of Klein in the running game. You may remember Hubert gashing OU's defense in the fourth quarter securing the Wildcats victory in Norman. He may not be big at only 5'7", but you can bet Kansas will be aware of what's he capable of Saturday in Manhattan.
Defensively, things haven't been all bad for the Jayhawks. Kansas has forced 13 turnovers on the season and that is one very big reason why KU has been competitive in its first four games. The Jayhawks are currently ranked ninth in the country in turnover margin and lead the Big 12 in that category.
Kansas State's defense has yielded just 15.5 points per game which is impressive considering the competition. They held Miami and Oklahoma to just 13 and 19 points, respectively. They've done it behind Arthur Brown who leads the team with 36 tackles and a pass rush that has yielded 10 sacks on the season (KSU finished with 22 all of last year in 13 games).
Kansas, Keys to the Game: The obvious key to the game is slowing down Collin Klein. When he goes, Kansas State goes. So how do they go about slowing down Klein exactly?
They could start by converting a few third downs. What happens when you convert a third down? Klein and the rest of the K-State offense stand on the sidelines. The Jayhawks currently rank 10th in the Big 12 converting just 25% (14 of 56) of their third downs. That's a full 12 percentage points worse than anyone else in the league.
It start with Crist who Weis said this week has a much clearer head after their talk on Sunday night. Let's hope so because the Jayhawks could use him. Kansas went with full contact practices during their bye week, quarterbacks included, which allowed Crist to get plenty of work at game speed knowing he was going to get knocked around in the pocket if he didn't get rid of the ball. We'll find out if it paid any dividends on Saturday.
Kansas State, Keys to the Game: Get off to a fast start. Kansas isn't a team exactly brimming with confidence at the moment. If the Wildcats get off to a hot start, frustration likely will set in for KU as memories of the past two games with Kansas State set in (K-State has won the last two meetings - both played in Lawrence - by a combined score of 118 to 28).
The second key to the game is turnovers. Kansas has lived off turnovers early in the season. That's good news for KSU because they rarely give the ball away. The Wildcats have only turned the ball over three in four games and assuming that trend continues, they'll be in fine shape Saturday afternoon.
The Prediction: Kansas State is a team that is going to make you beat it because they rarely ever beat themselves. Unfortunately for Kansas, they're a team that needs some help at the moment. Too bad for them, K-State isn't likely to be in a giving mood in Manhattan.
This is a game that will be closer than the past two seasons and may even look like a competitive game for a while (something that hasn't been the case recently). Kansas State is simply to experienced and to sound overall to let this one slip away. Wildcats win going away. Kansas State 38 Kansas 17 .