A longstanding in state rivalry resumes tonight in Lawrence as Bill Sndyer brings his Kansas State Wildcat team to town to face a struggling Kansas Jayhawk squad. Turner Gill has had a bye week to prepare for this one and with that comes some hope from the Kansas fanbase that their might be a light at the end of the tunnel that is tonight's game.
Realistically this game is actually one of the more favorable matchups on the remaining schedule for the Jayhawks. Kansas has shown the tendency to struggle defending a spread attack in sideline to sideline pursuit. Kansas has struggled to contain some of the more mobile dual threat quarterbacks on the schedule to date. Where Kansas has done well is in defending the run.
Kansas State for all intents and purposes relies on the run. The Wildcats rank 26th in the nation in terms of their ground attack while reaching the opposite end of the spectrum with the 107th ranked passing attack. Daniel Thomas ran wild through three weeks of the season and is viewed as one of the top runners in the nation. A solid offensive line and a consistently solid gameplan by Bill Snyder only adds to the effectiveness of the Wildcat running game. What Kansas State doesn't have is a particularly potent weapon at quarterback.
But again, that's where the strength of the Kansas defense lies. The Jayhawks contained one of the best option attacks in the nation against Georgia Tech and while they didn't completely shut it down by any means, they were able to limit it enough to get a win. No Kansas isn't great against the run, but they are serviceable and the same linebackers that struggle to cover in space are strong in run support.
What it amounts to is strength against strength in one matchup and the mediocrity of the Kansas State defense vs. the sometimes good, sometimes abysmal Kansas offense. The game opened with the Wildcats as a 4.5 point favorite and simply because of the matchup that seems about right. Kansas State should most certainly be favored, but Kansas does have a fighter's chance.
At the end of the day Bill Snyder is still 14-4 against Kansas and headed into this game most would argue that the Wildcats have the better more consistent team, but there is a little bit of a anticipation building that this one might be a fairly even contest.
A strong start is critical for both sides, probably even more so for Kansas. The overall series sits at 65-37-5 in favor of the Jayhawks. Over the last 20 years the Wildcats hold a solid 14-6 advantage, but the Jayhawks have won four out of the last six.
Tonight Turner Gill get's his introduction to the rivalry. It's an opportunity for him to build up some of the lost goodwill among Kansas fans and add a little more optimism to the future. On the Kansas State sideline, Bill Snyder is looking to move his once proud program back in the right direction for a second season in a row.
This game is important to both sides, it's important to the building and/or rebuilding of both programs and at kickoff tonight the state of Kansas will be watching.