It was an interesting comment, and one that could ultimately explain a recent stretch by KU’s defense.
Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson recorded 127 yards and three scores on the ground via 17 attempts during a 38-10 win over Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown two weeks ago. After the game, many Kansas players were asked what went wrong on the defensive side of the ball.
“We weren’t necessarily expecting him to run as much,” senior Bryce Torneden said of Thompson. “We thought we had guys in the right place, but that’s a great player and obviously he showed that.”
What is interesting about Torneden’s statement is the fact that Thompson had 34 total rushing attempts in the three previous games. Yet with an extra week to prepare, the Jayhawks hope to be more equipped to handle a mobile quarterback in their road tilt with Oklahoma State this weekend.
After all, OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders ranks eighth in the Big 12 in rushing with an average of 65.3 yards per game. He’s second among quarterbacks, trailing only Oklahoma signal caller Jalen Hurts.
“We already know running QBs want to get out of the pocket,” senior safety Mike Lee said. “If we keep them in the pocket, the game will go how we want it to go.”
But containing Sanders from making plays with his feet might be easier said than done, particularly with how much the Jayhawks have struggled to slow down mobile quarterbacks as of late. Over the last three games, KU has surrendered season-high rushing performances to three different quarterbacks.
Thompson posted his best performance of the year in terms of yards and attempts. He accounted for 37.1% of the Wildcats’ 342 rushing yards on 28.3% of the attempts. For comparison, KU has allowed 2,118 rushing yards on the year and 18% of that production has come from opposing signal callers.
“It was surprising for us, but it was just minor mistakes by us,” linebacker Kyron Johnson said. “It was basically me not tackling and not keeping him in the pocket. We just got all messed up.”
Texas Tech quarterback Jett Duffey notched a season-best 40 yards on six attempts, many of which came against a three-man rush on third down, during a 37-34 loss to Kansas on Oct. 26. Duffey has only had one other game this season where he recorded more than 24 rushing yards.
One week earlier, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger piled up 91 of his team’s 239 rushing yards on 14 attempts. The performance, which was 21 yards more than his previous season-best showing, helped the Longhorns secure a 50-48 home win over the Jayhawks.
In total, 32.5% of the rushing yards produced against KU's defense over the last three games have come via quarterbacks. And scrambling quarterbacks have an impact on the passing game, too.
“We just learned to never give up on a play,” cornerback Kyle Mayberry said. “Even when you play the first route good, be prepared for the scramble drill.”
Not all quarterback runs are created equal, meaning there is not a specific pattern by KU’s defense over the last month. The Wildcats utilized designed quarterback runs via option plays, including three of Thompson’s four runs on the opening drive.
On 3rd-and-2, Thompson netted a long run on a speed option to the right. Thompson took off once Torneden moved toward the running back. Thompson then capped the drive off with a touchdown run after faking the handoff and getting to the edge.
Against Texas Tech, a majority of quarterback runs occurred when Duffey couldn't find an open receiver. He showcased the ability to pick up a first down with his feet rather than force things, though KU could have done a better job keeping Duffey from getting outside.
The Longhorns called Ehlinger’s number on the first two plays on designed runs to set the tone. While Kansas State’s success can mostly be attributed to blocking and play design, Ehlinger was simply too tough to bring down and got a bulk of his yardage by breaking tackles.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, they might be facing their toughest test yet when it comes to mobile quarterbacks. Sanders, who is a redshirt freshman, has 588 yards on 126 rushing attempts through nine games. Sanders has had double-digit rushing attempts in all but two of his games during his first year as a starter.
Sanders has been as advertised for the Cowboys. Coming out of high school, ESPN ranked him as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 national class. He will be a different type of runner compared to what the Jayhawks have faced the last three games.
“It is just another quarterback that we have to keep in the pocket and keep an eye on,” Johnson said.
At the very least, though, KU’s defense should be more prepared entering this week’s matchup against another mobile quarterback.
Coming off a bye week, not many people are expecting Kansas football to compete this weekend.
If that sounds familiar, that is because it just happened in October. The Jayhawks promoted Brent Dearmon to offensive coordinator during the bye week before they were ultimately a 22-point underdog at Texas. Kansas ended up falling, 50-48, on a last-second field goal.
There are no changes on the coaching staff last week, but KU is still counted out ahead of its road tilt with Oklahoma State. According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, the Jayhawks are an 18-point underdog as of Monday afternoon.
Kansas has actually performed well in these situations during Les Miles’ first year at the helm. According to Odds Shark, KU is 3-0 when it is given 15-or-more points as an underdog, which took place against Boston College, Oklahoma and Texas. The Jayhawks have covered just once in the remaining six games.
None of that means KU (3-6, 1-5 Big 12) will cover the spread this weekend, of course. Oklahoma State has won back-to-back games against TCU and Iowa State entering this week’s matchup. The Cowboys (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) are also coming off a bye week.
Oklahoma State is 7-2 against the spread this season, including a 5-2 clip as a favorite. OSU has been a double-digit favorite three times, all of which took place in nonconference play. The Cowboys covered the spread in all three outings as well.
On paper, it is not a favorable matchup for the Jayhawks. KU’s defense has struggled to stop the run all season, and this figures to be the team’s toughest test yet. OSU running back Chuba Hubbard leads the FBS in rushing yards with 1,604 and ranks second in rushing touchdowns with 18.
Kansas, meanwhile, has allowed an average of 235.33 rushing yards per game. Kent State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Massachusetts are the only teams giving up more yards on the ground this season.
It will be interesting to see if the extra week gave the Jayhawks a solid game plan to slow down the Cowboys’ rushing attack. Given the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, though, that could be easier said than done. I’m not ready to commit to a pick this week, but I’d probably lay the points at this moment.
Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. Boone Pickens Stadium.
All lines are presented by FanDuel’s Sportsbook. Sign up today on FanDuel using this special promotion.
Rest of Big 12 spreads for Week 12
TCU (-3) at Texas Tech
Texas at Iowa State (-7)
West Virginia at Kansas State (-14.5)
Oklahoma (-10) at Baylor
Best bet: Baylor (-2.5) at TCU
Baylor still doesn’t seem to be getting the respect it deserves, and this line seems too low. TCU’s quarterback situation is up in the air after freshman Max Duggan and backup signal caller Mike Collins both got hurt. The Bears might not be winning Big 12 games by a lot, but I’m taking any number that is less than a field goal.
Long shot: Illinois (+14.5) at Michigan State
Two touchdowns and the hook is simply too much faith in Michigan State, and the line actually opened at 11.5 points somehow. The Spartans have given up 28 or more points in four consecutive games and are without their leading tackler. Illinois is tied for the FBS lead with five defensive scores.
Over of the week: USC at Arizona State (57.5)
USC is coming off a 56-24 loss to Oregon, falling to 5-4 on the year. Arizona State, meanwhile, is now 5-3 after dropping back-to-back road games to Utah and UCLA. ASU doesn’t have a great offense, but USC has dealt with a number of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. The Trojans are also averaging 30.4 points and 432.7 yards per game.
Under of the week: Arkansas vs. Western Kentucky (52)
Former Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey is now the starter at Western Kentucky, so perhaps the Razorbacks will have an idea what to do on the defensive side of the ball? The Hilltoppers, meanwhile, are 24th in total defense in the country. Oh, and redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones, who is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is expected to start at quarterback for Arkansas.
Fade the noise: Bet Miami (-6.5) vs. Louisville
The easy move would be to take Louisville, as I’m sure most people will do this week. The Hurricanes are coming off a win over Florida State in Tallahassee, while the Cardinals are fresh off a bye week. More of the money appears to be on Louisville, but trusting Miami’s defense seems like the play here.
NFL action: Cincinnati Bengals (+10.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens
Once again, I’m recommending to bet against my favorite team. Last week’s win over New England was a lot of fun, but this is such an easy bet. The Bengals are coming off a bye week and have a new quarterback under center. Cincinnati has also played multiple teams close, and even covered an 11-point spread in Baltimore just a few weeks ago.
KU sports staff picks against the spread
All of these lines are presented by FanDuel’s Sportsbook. Sign up today on FanDuel using this special promotion.
Kansas State at Texas (-6.5)
Matt Tait: Texas
Benton Smith: Kansas State
Braden Shaw: Kansas State
Shane Jackson: Texas
UAB at Southern Miss (-4.5)
Matt Tait: Southern Miss
Benton Smith: Southern Miss
Braden Shaw: Southern Miss
Shane Jackson: UAB
Iowa at Wisconsin (-9.5)
Matt Tait: Wisconsin
Benton Smith: Wisconsin
Braden Shaw: Wisconsin
Shane Jackson: Iowa
LSU at Alabama (-6)
Matt Tait: Alabama
Benton Smith: LSU
Braden Shaw: Alabama
Shane Jackson: LSU
Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5) at Tennessee Titans
Matt Tait: Titans
Benton Smith: Chiefs
Braden Shaw: Chiefs
Shane Jackson: Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-6)
Matt Tait: Seahawks
Benton Smith: 49ers
Braden Shaw: Seahawks
Shane Jackson: Seahawks
Shane Jackson: 33-27 (3-3 in Week 10)
Benton Smith: 29-31 (3-3 in Week 10)
Matt Tait: 27-33 (2-4 in Week 10)
Braden Shaw: 22-38 (2-4 in Week 10)
This year’s Sunflower Showdown has a different feel to it than previous years.
Last season, there was some conversation about how Kansas was closing the gap in this rivalry with Kansas State. But that was fake, and had more to do with the Wildcats not playing well than the Jayhawks exceeding expectations.
This time around, both teams are heading into this week’s matchup with some momentum. Kansas State (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) has won two games in a row, including an impressive win over Oklahoma in Manhattan last weekend. KU (3-5, 1-4) is coming off a 37-34 victory over Texas Tech and suffered a 50-48 loss to Texas the week before that.
It is safe to say the hype for this game is not fake, and it is rightfully the most highly-anticipated Sunflower Showdown in over a decade. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
As of Friday afternoon, Kansas State was favored by 5.5 points on FanDuel’s Sportsbook. According to Odds Shark, the Jayhawks will be less than a 10-point underdog against the Wildcats for the first time since 2010. KU, which was just a three-point underdog under Turner Gill, was handed a 59-7 drubbing back then.
Will the Jayhawks not only cover but find a way to end a double-digit losing skid in this rivalry? Let’s take a closer look at the Wildcats to find out:
BREAKING DOWN KANSAS STATE:
Quarterback — Junior Skylar Thompson is now the starter for the Wildcats after splitting signal caller duties in 2017 and 2018. Thompson is more effective on the run, as he scored four rushing touchdowns against Oklahoma last weekend. That could be a problem for the Jayhawks, who let Texas Tech quarterback Jet Duffey break free against a number of three-man rushes on third down last weekend.
Running backs — The Wildcats will try to lean on the ground game and control the clock this weekend. K-State enters this week ranked fifth nationally in time of possession at 34:45. Senior running back James Gilbert has 558 yards and five scores on 100 attempts. Jordon Brown, who sustained a left leg injury against OU, is also expected to play against Kansas.
Receivers — Dalton Schoen, who is from Blue Valley Northwest, is coming off a five-catch performance against Oklahoma. He ranks eighth in program history with an average of 16.82 yards per catch. Redshirt freshman Malik Knowles has 15 catches for 224 yards for two scores this season.
Offensive line — The five starters along the offensive line have combined for 129 starts at Kansas State with a majority of those coming from left tackle Scott Frantz (45), right guard Tyler Mitchell (37) center Adam Holtorf (32). Frantz, who is from Free State, has made 45 consecutive starts for the Wildcats.
Defensive line — Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley has done a good job under pressure over the last two weeks, but Kansas State’s defensive line will be his toughest test yet. Reggie Walker and Wyatt Hubert are the two defensive ends. Walker has 16 career sacks, and Hubert recorded 4.5 sacks as a freshman last year. Defensive tackle Trey Dishon has started 42 consecutive games and Jordan Mittie has held down the other tackle position for K-State.
Linebackers — The Wildcats have excelled in terms of getting off the field on third down, ranking second in the nation in third down defense in all of college football. Junior Elijah Sulivan is manning the middle linebacker spot. Senior Da’Quan Patton is slated to start at weak-side linebacker.
Secondary — Kansas State ranks fifth nationally in passing yards allowed with an average of 187.1 yards per game. Juniors AJ Parker and Walter Neil Jr. are holding down the two cornerback spots. Senior Denzel Goolsby is listed at free safety, while redshirt freshman Wayne Jones is starting at strong safety.
SPECIAL TEAMS — The Wildcats have the advantage in special teams. Kicker Blake Lynch has a career field goal percentage of 88.5% (23-for-26), which ranks first in school history. Kansas State punter Devin Anctil has averaged 46.3 yards on his 31 punts this season, a mark that currently stands as the school record and ranks ninth in the country
FUN FACT — This year’s edition of the Sunflower Showdown marks the 12th time in series history, but the first since 1986, that both programs have new head coach in the same season.
VEGAS SAYS… This line has settled in as KU being 5.5-point underdogs, according to FanDuel’s Sportsbook. For my money, this game is really going to come down to which team can dictate the style of play.
I hate to make it so simple, because football is not this easy. But the Jayhawks can’t afford to start off slow, as has been the case for much of the season. The Wildcats will just run the ball and control the clock, meaning KU’s offense might not get enough opportunities to erase a double-digit deficit like it did last week.
That being said, K-State’s defense isn’t as good as the total numbers might indicate. Kansas should be able to have success on offense this weekend. I have a hard time believing Kansas will come out flat in this one. The Jayhawks could turn this into a shootout if they get out to an early lead, which would favor their style of play. If that happens, KU should cover and ultimately win this one outright.
Prediction: Kansas 38, Kansas State 31
This year’s record ATS: 5-3
Overall record ATS: 12-7
A Sunflower Showdown worth talking about?
This has been a one-sided rivalry for the last decade on the football field, but that could all change this weekend at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. For the first time since 2009, KU is less than a 10-point underdog against Kansas State.
The Jayhawks are just a 5.5-point underdog as of Friday afternoon via FanDuel's Sportsbook.
As a result, this week's over/under prop bets are more optimistic than they might have been in previous years. That doesn't necessarily mean KU is going to win this game, but it does make specific matchups more interesting this weekend.
Sports editor Matt Tait still leads this series, but Twitter voters and myself are tied for second after I went 4-1 in last week's prop bets. Here is look at the overall season standings heading into the Sunflower Showdown:
Matt Tait: 22-17-1 (3-2 in Week 9)
Twitter: 20-19-1 (3-2 in Week 9)
Shane Jackson: 20-19-1 (4-1 in Week 9)
To hear our picks for this rivalry matchup, just check out this week's over/under podcast. Have your voice heard by participating in the polls that I posted on Twitter before kickoff, which is slated for 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
I have also posted the polls in this blog to keep it in one place.
Best bet: Memphis (-6) vs. SMU
It is not often that an undefeated team is getting six points this late in the season, but it is probably the right call. Memphis is 23rd in total yards per game with 470.6 yards per contest, while ranking 10th in the country with an average of 39.5 points per game. SMU has been pretty fortunate over the last few weeks, so I’m banking on that luck running out here.
Long shot: Maryland (+21) vs. Michigan
These two teams are going in different directions. Maryland is 1-5 over its last six games, while Michigan is coming off a 45-14 win over Notre Dame. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Wolverines are a little flat in this one, and Maryland is able to stay within three touchdowns thanks to a few players coming back from injuries.
Under of the week: Total points for Army at Air Force (45.5)
Not much to say here because it has become so obvious to bet the under in games between service academies. Since the 2005 season the under has gone 33-9-1 in such occasions. Follow the trend, bet the under on 45.5 total points for this game.
Over of the week: Total points for Nebraska at Purdue (58)
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez says he is ready to go, and that’s all I needed to hear to bet the over on the total score. Purdue receiver Rondale Moore might also come back this week, which would provide a big boost to a depleted roster.
Underdog to trust: Miami (+3) at Florida State
Miami is coming off a 16-12 win against Pittsburgh, so can this team do it two weeks in a row? This defense is good enough to get the job done, as the Hurricanes are giving up just 19.4 points and 301.2 yards per game. Florida State, meanwhile, is allowing 29 points and 444.2 yards per game. Give me Miami to win this thing outright.
Sunflower Showdown action: Over 24 points for Kansas (Line via FanDuel)
My pick for this game is below, but this might be the easiest bet of the week. It is hard to imagine KU’s offense, with Brent Dearmon calling the plays, not scoring at least 24 points. I’ve wrote this week about how the total numbers for Kansas State’s defense might be misleading, so I fully expect Kansas to move the ball this weekend.
KU sports staff picks against the spread
Kansas vs. Kansas State (-5)
Matt Tait: Kansas
Benton Smith: Kansas State
Braden Shaw: Kansas
Shane Jackson: Kansas
TCU at Oklahoma State (-3)
Matt Tait: TCU
Benton Smith: Oklahoma State
Braden Shaw: TCU
Shane Jackson: TCU
Boston College at Syracuse (-3)
Matt Tait: Syracuse
Benton Smith: Syracuse
Braden Shaw: Syracuse
Shane Jackson: Boston College
Georgia (-6) at Florida
Matt Tait: Georgia
Benton Smith: Georgia
Braden Shaw: Florida
Shane Jackson: Florida
Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Tait: Vikings
Benton Smith: Vikings
Braden Shaw: Chiefs
Shane Jackson: Chiefs
New England Patriots (-3.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Matt Tait: Ravens
Benton Smith: Patriots
Braden Shaw: Ravens
Shane Jackson: Ravens
Shane Jackson: 30-24 (3-3 in Week 9)
Benton Smith: 26-28 (3-3 in Week 9)
Matt Tait: 25-29 (3-3 in Week 9)
Braden Shaw: 20-34 (3-3 in Week 9)
There was a lot to like about Carter Stanley’s first touchdown strike in KU’s 37-34 win over Texas Tech last weekend.
Stanley linked up with receiver Stephon Robinson for a 48-yard touchdown late in the first half to help pull the Jayhawks within a field goal.
Robinson made a tough catch, and was off to the races after snagging the ball in stride.
Perhaps the most impressive part of that sequence was Stanley’s ability to make that throw with a Texas Tech player charging at him.
Stanley wasn’t bothered by the blitz, though, delivering what was arguably his best ball to that point in what turned out to be a strong performance.
Stanley was eventually named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for his impressive showing against the Red Raiders.
That particular play illustrated what has made Stanley so effective in this offense over the last two games since Brent Dearmon was promoted to offensive coordinator. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of pressure opposing defenses throw at Stanley, he’s always locked in on his reads in this RPO (run-pass option) offense.
Stanley tossed 310 yards and four scores in a 50-48 loss to Texas, which threw a lot of different blitzes at the senior signal caller. Texas Tech also pressured Stanley in a game where he finished with 415 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
But Stanley has a grasp of this offense, which helps him stare down blitzing linebackers to make tough throws. It is something that other Big 12 coaches have taken note of, too.
“He knows where he's going with the football, the pressure doesn't get there because he knows how to get the ball out,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman told reporters during his weekly availability. “He sees coverages really well. He sees matchups really well. I think he throws the deep ball extremely well.”
For the purpose of this blog, I went back and charted every drop back by Stanley during the Texas Tech game and broke it down into number of pass rushers on a given play. The Texas game was not included for this blog, but it still shows how well Stanley has handled the different types of pressure as of late.
Stanley went 26-for-37 for 415 yards and three passing touchdowns against the Red Raiders last week. Texas Tech used a three-man rush on 13 of his pass attempts, while sending four players on 12 different occasions. TTU also sent five players after Stanley on five different pass plays, while using six-or-more pass rushers on seven different snaps.
With that, let’s take a closer look at how Stanley performed against all the different types of pressure in the win over Texas Tech:
Stanley vs. 3-man rush
- Stat line: 9-for-13, 175 yards, 1 TD
In terms of yards per attempt, Stanley was at his best when facing a three-man rush.
Stanley threw for over 13 yards per attempt when Texas Tech pressured with its three-man front. For comparison, Stanley is averaging 7.9 yards per attempt this season and has an average of 6.8 yards per attempt in his career.
Many of the long passes came on these occasions, which allowed Stanley to set his feet and launch the ball down the field. Stanley’s first big completion of the night was a 53-yard bomb to Robinson, who was ultimately taken down at the 1-yard line.
One play later, Stanley scored on a quarterback sneak to put the Jayhawks on the scoreboard for the first time after falling into a 17-point deficit to start the game.
Stanley vs. 4-man rush
- Stat line: 12-for-12, 144 yards, 1 TD
Stanley was lethal against a four-man rush, completing all 12 of his pass attempts in those situations.
The first touchdown of the night, which was a 48-yard strike to Robinson late in the first half, was against a four-man rush. However, the linebacker went at Stanley on a delayed blitz after running back Pooka Williams ran out into the flat.
It is actually something the Red Raiders employed multiple times in those situations, and Stanley always read it perfectly. Earlier in that drive, in fact, Stanley picked up the first down on a 11-yard scamper on 2nd-and-5 when the Texas Tech linebacker came charging toward him.
Stanley vs. 5+ blitzers
- Stat line: 5-for-12, 96 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Based off the numbers, Stanley wasn’t as good when Texas Tech utilized a pass rush of five-or-more defenders.
But three of those blitzes took place in the first quarter alone, when Stanley completed just one pass for no gain. After a slow start, KU’s entire offense played much better over the final three quarters.
Stanley’s 65-yard touchdown to Robinson in the third quarter came against a five-man rush by Texas Tech’s defense. He also faced several blitzes against the Longhorns, and seemingly always delivered.
Toughest test yet
All of this is to say that Stanley will need to have similar success against the blitz this weekend.
Kansas State recorded two sacks and five tackles-for-loss in a win over Oklahoma last weekend. The Wildcats have 35 stops behind the line of scrimmage to go along with 10 sacks so far this season.
So the Wildcats have the players to wreak havoc in what figures to be a highly-anticipated Sunflower Showdown. It is up to Stanley and the rest of the KU offense to ensure that doesn’t happen if the team wants to end 10-game losing skid in this series.
It is no secret that this year’s Sunflower Showdown has a little bit more juice to it than previous years, and that’s a credit to how both teams have played as of late.
Kansas (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) is coming off its first conference win under Les Miles, which was a 37-34 victory over Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Kansas State (5-2, 2-2) just upset then-No. 5 Oklahoma this past weekend.
Both teams have really been playing better since the bye week in Week 7, however. The Wildcats have won two games in a row, while the Jayhawks nearly knocked off Texas in their first game with Brent Dearmon as the offensive coordinator.
All of that is to say that this year’s rivalry matchup figures to be the best one in a decade. K-State has won 10 games in a row in this series, though KU has seemingly closed the gap recently. Last season, Kansas suffered a 21-17 loss to Kansas State in Manhattan.
So to get a better idea about how both teams stack up ahead of this week’s matchup, let’s take a look at some notable numbers for both the Jayhawks and the Wildcats entering the 2019 version of the Sunflower Showdown. (All stats via http://cfbstats.com)
Yards per play comparison
- KU offense: 6.33 (5th in Big 12) | KSU defense: 6.39 (8th)
- KU defense: 6.06 (7th in Big 12) | KSU offense: 5.64 (9th)
On the surface, Kansas State figures to be the best defense that Kansas has faced since Dearmon took over play calling duties. The Wildcats are allowing 369 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the Big 12 through seven games.
But that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. K-State is giving up an average of 6.39 yards per play, which is only better than two teams in the conference. Those teams are, as you probably guessed, Texas and Texas Tech. So this actually will be the toughest defense that KU has faced since the bye week, just not as much of a test as the total numbers might indicate.
The Wildcats’ defense has only played 404 total plays, which is the fewest number of defensive snaps in the Big 12. TCU is second with 441 total plays, while every other Big 12 team has played 502 or more defensive snaps at this point in the season.
It is a long way of saying that the Jayhawks should be able to have success on offense for the third week in a row.
K-State's ground game vs. KU’s run defense
- KSU run game: 199.43 yards per game (5th in Big 12)
- KU run defense: 222.00 yards per game (10th)
The Wildcats want to run the ball and control the clock, which is a big reason why their defense hasn’t been on the field as much.
K-State is averaging 43 rushing attempts per game, which trails only Oklahoma State and TCU in the Big 12. The Wildcats are picking up 4.64 yards per carry, a number that actually ranks eighth in the conference.
KU’s defense, meanwhile, has struggled to defend opposing ground games this season. The Jayhawks are allowing 45.50 carries per contest, which is the most in the league. KU’s defense is giving up 4.88 yards per carry, good for ninth in the Big 12.
Red zone comparison
- KU’s red zone defense: 82.50% conversion rate (No. 1 in Big 12)
- K-State’s red zone offense: 94.12% conversion rate (No. 3)
It could all come down to the red zone on Saturday.
While KU’s defense has struggled to get stops, it has managed to step up in the red zone this season. The Jayhawks have only allowed 33 total scores (25 touchdowns) on 40 red zone trips. That 82.50% conversion rate by KU’s defense ranks 59th in the nation.
In comparison, Kansas State has typically scored when it gets in the red zone this year. The Wildcats have scored on all but two of their 34 trips as an offense, which includes 24 touchdowns. TCU and Iowa State are the only Big 12 teams that have a better scoring rate than K-State.
This year’s Sunflower Showdown has a different feel to it, and the early betting line helps give us an idea why.
As of Monday afternoon, Kansas was considered a five-point underdog on FanDuel’s Sportsbook. The line has really bounced around between 4.5-6 points, from what I have seen at multiple sportsbooks. Even a casual bettor would understand that there is something different about that line.
The betting line hasn’t given Kansas this much respect in the Sunflower Showdown in nearly 10 years. According to Odds Shark, the Jayhawks should be less than a 10-point underdog against the Wildcats for the first time since 2010. KU, which was just a three-point underdog under Turner Gill, was handed a 59-7 drubbing back then.
Since then, Kansas has been an underdog by 20-or-more points in five of the eight meetings with Kansas State. Last season, KU was a 10-point underdog before a 21-17 loss to K-State in Manhattan. The Jayhawks have actually covered the spread in three consecutive games against the Wildcats.
None of that matters for this week’s rivalry matchup, though it certainly shows why KU fans might feel more confident than in previous years.
Ending a 10-game losing skid in this series will still be a tough task for the Jayhawks. Kansas State is coming off a 48-41 win over Oklahoma, which earned the team a No. 22 ranking in this week’s AP Poll. The Wildcats (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) have won two games in a row since their bye week.
KU has also been much better since the bye week, which was when the team promoted Brent Dearmon to offensive coordinator. The Jayhawks (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) nearly knocked off Texas and are coming off a 37-34 win over Texas Tech. Kansas has covered the spread in each of its last three games.
It is still too early in the week for me to commit to a pick in this game, but this is certainly a winnable game for Kansas. The Wildcats are actually allowing 6.39 yards per play, which is 110th in the nation. For comparison, Texas is giving up 6.42 yards per play and ranks 112th in the country.
So the Jayhawks should be able to move the ball this week, as has been the case since Dearmon took over play calling duties.
The key for Kansas will be avoiding a slow start like the 17-0 deficit it faced against Texas Tech this past weekend. Kansas State wants to get out to an early lead and then control the clock. Only four teams in all of college football have a better average time of possession than K-State.
All of that is obviously easier said than done, but it could ultimately decide if the Jayhawks can notch their second win in a row.
Rest of Big 12 spreads for Week 10
West Virginia at Baylor (-17.5)
My pick: West Virginia covers
TCU at Oklahoma State (-3.5)
My pick: TCU covers
Kansas has had a hard time maintaining momentum this season.
Following the win over Indiana State in the season opener, KU suffered a 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina in Week 2. The Jayhawks then scored 48 points in a lopsided road win over Boston College before falling to West Virginia in the Big 12 opener.
Now, the Jayhawks are coming off a 50-48 road loss to Texas, but it was still an impressive feat. They were considered three-touchdown underdogs in that game, which ultimately came down to the final play. It was a strong debut by Brent Dearmon, who was promoted to offensive coordinator during the bye week.
But now the pressure is on. KU (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) is expected to compete in a homecoming tilt with Texas Tech, and anything short of that would be a disappointment. The Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3) are favored by six points, though the line has been all the way down to three points in some places this week.
KU has performed well when counted out, but hasn’t had that same level of success when the betting line is this low. Will that trend continue or will the Jayhawks have a shot at their first conference win of the year? Let’s get to know the Red Raiders to see how this game might play out.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH:
Quarterback — Jett Duffey has recorded a pair of 350-yard passing performances since being named Texas Tech’s starter prior to the Oklahoma State game. It marks the first time a Red Raider quarterback has thrown for at least 350 yards in consecutive Big 12 games since Patrick Mahomes did so against both Texas and Oklahoma State in 2016.
Running backs — Redshirt freshman SaRodorick Thompson ran for a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against Baylor. Thompson has led the Red Raiders in rushing in five games, and has a team-high 469 yards and seven touchdowns.
Receivers — Junior T.J. Vasher, who is 6-foot-6, has hauled in 16 receiving touchdowns in his career, which is six shy of entering the Texas Tech career record book. He is the leading receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns for the Red Raiders. Vasher has a reception in 23 straight games. Redshirt freshman Erik Ezukanama netted seven catches against Iowa State.
Offensive line — Senior left tackle Terence Steele leads the team with 42 career starts, and has even filled in at both tackle positions and right guard this season. Left guard Madison Akamnonu has started all seven games at left guard, while Dawson Deaton has started all seven contests at center.
Defensive line — Junior defensive end Eli Howard has been in on a sack in three of four Big 12 games. The Red Raiders have employed both Nick McCann and Jaylon Hutchings at nose tackle this season. Senior defensive tackle Broderick Washington leads the defensive line in tackles.
Linebackers — Senior Jordyn Brooks enters this weekend among the national leaders in several defensive categories, ranking fourth in tackles for a loss per game (1.9), sixth in total tackles per game (11.1) and 10th in solo tackles per game (6.1). Riko Jeffers, who is third on the team in tackles with 38, is the other starting linebacker.
Secondary — The move from cornerback back to safety has paid off for senior Douglas Coleman III, who leads the FBS with six interceptions this season, all of which have come in the past five games. Zech McPherson, who is a Penn State transfer, has started all seven games at corner and ranks fourth on the team in tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Redshirt freshman Trey Wolff is the first Red Raider kicker dating back to 2000 that was successful on his first seven career field goal attempts. Punter Austin McNamara leads all FBS freshmen in punting average at 44.8 yards per punt.
FUN FACT — Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson were both on staff with Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot at Tulsa in 2006. Wells was the tight ends coach, Patterson was the team’s defensive coordinator and Eliot was serving as linebackers coach for Tulsa.
VEGAS SAYS… This line got all the way down to three points earlier this week, but it has slowly climbed back up in Texas Tech’s favor. As of Saturday morning, the Red Raiders were favored by six points via FanDuel’s Sportsbook.
This is a tough game to predict, because Kansas hasn’t performed well in these situations this season. Kansas is 3-0 against the spread this season as a three-touchdown underdog or more, which includes last week’s narrow loss at Texas. When the line is two touchdowns or less, however, KU is actually 0-4 ATS.
I’m choosing to believe that the Brent Dearmon factor is a real thing, and will help KU maintain momentum. I took this line when it was down to three points in this week’s Pick 6, and I’m more than happy to do it with three more points. I think Kansas wins this game outright.
Prediction: Kansas 38, Texas Tech 35
This year’s record ATS: 4-3
Overall record ATS: 11-7