The worse team doesn’t always lose. That’s why they play the games. That’s why people pay to watch them play the games. And that’s why they put them on television.
Also, it’s impossible for both teams to lose, which makes for suspenseful contests, even when neither team brings an abundance of talent to the field.
Which brings us to the Sunflower Showdown, a rivalry desperately in need of a less stale nickname.
Kansas and Kansas State lost by a combined score of 103-20 in their most recent games, but with the rivalry at hand, those outcomes already have been flushed, and it’s time to treat this one with the importance of a bowl game, even if it’s of the porcelain variety.
Baylor’s merciful 55-7 domination of Kansas eight days ago triggered predictable fears from many loyal supporters that the Jayhawks would lose out, go 0-8 in the Big 12, 2-10 overall.
I don’t see it that way. Turner Gill’s first Big 12 team doesn’t have a 2-10 feel to it. It feels more like a 4-8 bunch, despite its disorganized, undisciplined, lackluster performance on offense, defense and special teams in Waco.
Never judge a team based on its worst performance. Such a dud supplies a coach with so much ammunition to teach and motivate a captive audience. Gill and his staff were able to turn the tape from an embarrassing 6-3 loss to Division I-AA North Dakota State into a 28-25 victory against Georgia Tech. (NDSU, by the way, is 1-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference with losses to Northern Iowa and Western Illinois.)
KU needs two more victories to reach four. No reason to believe one of those won’t come Thursday night against Kansas State at Memorial Stadium.
K-State, having been humiliated by Nebraska, 48-13, on national TV on Thursday, won’t have as much rest or as many days to prepare as Kansas. Bill Snyder doesn’t need as much time as most coaches to create clever game plans, so maybe that won’t be a huge factor here, but there are other things weighing against Kansas State. It’s a road game for the Wildcats and not just any road game. The enemy crowd will be juiced because Thursday night’s a hopping one in Lawrence on a normal week. Toss in the national-TV allure and the rivalry history, and the KU students should generate serious volume.
Plus, K-State doesn’t have the passing game to exploit KU’s non-existent pass rush. The Jayhawks’ defense is far worse retreating into pass coverage than when attacking a running game. See the Georgia Tech outcome.
Even before Nebraska made the Wildcats look as if they were playing in cement shoes, the K-State linebackers and defensive backs looked slow. They won’t look so swift trying to keep up with KU sprinters Daymond Patterson and D.J. Beshears.
Kansas has nobody who resembles either K-State defensive end Brandon Harold or running back Daniel Thomas — both all-conference-caliber players — but it takes more than one star on each side of the ball to take a talent-challenged roster exposed by Nebraska to a Big 12 road victory in a hostile environment.
Look for suspense, but don’t get so greedy as to look for style points. Do look for the team with more turnovers to lose.
Kansas 17, Kansas State 16.