When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Kansas State rush defense
For the first time this season, the Jayhawks figure to have their three-headed monster of Tony Pierson, Taylor Cox and James Sims at their disposal for an entire game. Considering the fact that they have made up KU’s best unit this season, that’s a great sign for the Jayhawks, who have averaged 179 rushing yards per game and scored seven TDs on the ground. K-State’s run D is stiff, having given up just 92 yards per game and three TDs through the first four games of the season, and should provide the Jayhawks with their toughest test of the season so far. This match-up will go a long way toward determining how competitive KU can be in this one. Edge: Push.
Kansas pass offense vs. Kansas State pass defense
The Kansas State secondary is not only fast and talented but also extremely experienced. Cornerbacks Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone are seniors and as good in run support as they are in coverage, and hard-hitting junior safety Ty Zimmerman is the leader of it all. Combine that with a KU passing game that has struggled mightily through the first four games of the season, and you’re looking at a clear advantage for the Wildcats. But it’s not just the experience and ability to blanket opposing receivers that make the KSU pass defense so dangerous. The guys up front absolutely harass opposing QBs, which often leads to bad decisions, errant throws and easy plays for the Wildcats. KSU has given up just three passing TDs in four games. Edge: K-State.
When Kansas State has the ball
Kansas State rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
The Jayhawks rank dead last in the Big 12 in rush defense, and the Wildcats are one of the best rushing teams in the country. Led by powerhouse quarterback Collin Klein (289 yards and five TDs on 63 carries) and strong and elusive tailback John Hubert (426, 4, 66), KSU has as tough a 1-2 punch as there is in the league. The Wildcats are averaging 242 rushing yards per game and have scored 13 TDs on the ground. Perhaps the most dangerous stat K-State owns is its 5.6 yards-per-carry average. As for the Jayhawks, KU gives up an average of 4.7 yards per carry and also has surrendered 186 yards per game to South Dakota State, Rice, TCU and Northern Illinois. Edge: K-State.
Kansas State pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
The Wildcats are not known for their ability to pass the ball — KSU averages just 190 yards per game through the air and has thrown just 80 passes all season — but they certainly possess enough weapons to make the passing game dangerous. Klein is known more as a rusher, but when opposing teams stack the box and try to take that away, he’s able to hit receivers Tramaine Thompson, Chris Harper and Tyler Lockett over the top for big gains that can blow games open. Those three players each have double-digit receptions, and Thompson leads the team with three touchdown receptions. KU has given up just five TD passes in four games and also has snagged six interceptions. Edge: Push.
This one is quite possibly the most lopsided advantage for an opponent the Jayhawks have seen this season. Not only are the Wildcats rock-solid in their kicking game, with place kicker Anthony Cantele having missed just one kick all season and punter Ryan Doerr having won Big 12 special teams player of the week honors, but they also possess two of the most dangerous return men in the Big 12 in Thompson and Lockett. While K-State’s special-teams units represent everything you would expect from a Bill Snyder-coached team, the Jayhawks have struggled in special teams so far this season. Punter Ron Doherty has been solid in that area, but he’s struggled with place-kicking duties, and the Jayhawks also have had difficulty both kicking off and covering kicks. True freshman Tre’ Parmalee breathed some life into KU’s struggling return game during KU’s loss at Northern Illinois, but there’s still a way to go for this unit to be considered sound. Edge: K-State.