Getting to know: Kansas State football
For the first time since 2009, the University of Kansas football team enters the Sunflower Showdown with a record equal to or better than Kansas State.
Coming into Saturday’s clash between in-state rivals in Manhattan, both KU and K-State boast identical clips with a 3-6 overall record, including 1-5 in conference play. The Wildcats have won the last nine meetings with the Jayhawks, posting an average margin of victory of 24.4 points per contest over that span.
“I have so much respect for (Snyder), he does such a terrific job,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “They have battled in every single game, they have just come up on the other end of it. Those things could go the other way in a heartbeat.”
The Jayhawks have appeared to close the gap as of late, dropping the previous two meetings with the Wildcats by two scores in each outing. Last season, K-State pulled away late in a 10-point win over Kansas in Lawrence.
Kansas travels to Kansas State at 11 a.m. Saturday.
BREAKING DOWN KANSAS STATE:
Quarterback — It remains uncertain who will be under center for the Wildcats this weekend. Skylar Thompson sustained an injury in the first quarter of last week’s loss at TCU. Alex Delton, who is dealing with a nagging leg injury, finished the game for K-State. Thompson has thrown for 995 yards this season, while Delton has 428 passing yards in 2018.
Running backs — Junior running back Alex Barnes is leading the Big 12 in rushing with 918 yards on the ground. Barnes, who has 174 carries this season, is also pacing the conference with nine rushing touchdowns. Barnes hasn’t been used much in the passing game, catching 15 passes on the year. In fact, Kansas State has run the ball on over 62 percent of its offensive snaps this season.
Receivers — Due to their commitment to the run game, the Wildcats don’t boast exceptional numbers in the passing attack. Still, junior Isaiah Zuber has 41 receptions for 496 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Dalton Schoen has netted 24 catches for 380 yards and two touchdowns. Zuber is seven catches shy of tying for ninth in school history for a career.
Offensive line — Senior Dalton Risner anchors the offensive line at the right tackle spot and is on his way to being a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Risner has started 47 games in his career, which is the third-most by a K-State lineman since 1989. Junior Tyler Mitchell is the right guard, while senior Abdul Beecham is the left guard. Junior Adam Holtorf is the team’s starting center, and junior Scott Frantz is the left tackle.
Defensive line — Juniors Reggie Walker and Kyle Ball are the two starting defensive ends for the Wildcats. Walker ranks sixth in the Big 12 in sacks and is tied for 10th in tackles for loss. Junior Trey Dishon, who has started all 34 games in his career, racked up four stops against TCU last week. Jordan Mittie, who is the son of K-State women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie, is also slated to start at defensive tackle.
Linebackers — A number of athletic players make up the linebacker unit for the Wildcats. Junior Da’Quan Patton ranks second on the team in tackles, recording at least four stops in every game this year. Sullivan did not play against TCU, but made five stops at West Virginia. Sam Sizelove made his four starts in 2018.
Secondary — Senior Duke Shelley, the team’s top corner, has not played in the last two games with a right leg injury. Sophomore AJ Parker holds down the other cornerback spot, while sophomore Waler Neil Jr. is the team’s nickelback. Junior Denzel Goolsby is the team’s starting strong safety, while senior Kendall Adams is the free safety.
SPECIAL TEAMS — The special teams unit, a staple for Kansas State in years past, has been struggling this season. Junior Isaiah Zuber has handled returning duties for the Wildcats, fumbling a punt return against TCU. Sophomore kicker Blake Lynch missed an extra point in the fourth quarter of a 14-13 loss to the Horned Frogs.
FUN FACT — Bill Snyder hasn’t lost to Kansas in Manhattan since his first season in 1989. A win on Saturday would give Snyder his 23rd win over the Jayhawks in the last 27 meetings when he is on the sidelines. The 23 wins would be the most by all active head coach over any one opponent.
VEGAS SAYS… According to Bovada, Kansas State is a 10.5-point favorite over Kansas as of Friday afternoon. During this nine-game win streak in the Sunflower Showdown, the Wildcats have won all but one game by more than 10 points. Yet it doesn’t appear either team is built to run away with this one, regardless of who wins. I’ll take the points, despite what recent history would suggest.
Prediction: Kansas State 24, Kansas 21
Record against spread: 6-3