The 2022 Sunflower Showdown is going to have a different feel to it, for a lot of different reasons. The game will kick at 7:00 PM, the first night game in the series since K-State’s blowout win at Kansas in 2010 on a Thursday night. The Jayhawks are above .500, the first time they are playing this game with a winning record since 2009 when Kansas entered the game 5-3, but were in the middle of what would turn into a seven-game losing streak. And the biggest note of all, the Wildcats can punch their ticket to the Big 12 Championship if they just beat the Jayhawks, something they have done every year since 2009.
Chris Klieman has controlled his first three games taking on the Jayhawks, winning each game by an average of 31.3 points. The only game he has coached in Manhattan ended in a 55-14 victory and Phillip Brooks returned two punts for touchdowns in the game.
For Kansas coach Lance Leipold, there is no doubt that he has helped fully turn things around in Lawrence, the Jayhawks are going to their first bowl game since 2008 and have been competitive in a handful of games this season. But after starting 5-0, Kansas is 1-5 in their last six, with the lone win coming against a beat-up Oklahoma State squad.
The Jayhawk offense has carried the team this season, whether it is Jalon Daniels or Jason Bean at quarterback the team has found ways to score. Entering week 12, the Jayhawks were 14th in points per drive throughout all of college football. Lawrence native and running back Devin Neal has been the biggest driver on offense, rushing for over 1,000 yards this season.
The defense has been a totally different story for Kansas, at least compared to their offense this season. It continues to be the same defensive script that has been written over the last decade plus. The Jayhawks are giving up 3.03 points per drive to opponents, which ranks 120th in college football. One thing that has helped Kansas stay in games with their defense is the number of turnovers they force. 11 interceptions paired with eight fumble recoveries.
The Wildcats are one of the nation’s best when it comes to forcing turnovers and avoiding them. K-State ranks fourth in the country in turnover margin, with 21 turnovers forced (15 interceptions leads the Big 12) and only eight turnovers offensively.
Saturday’s game will come down in a similar fashion as the win against West Virginia for K-State, if the Wildcats play the game like they have all season, they should take control and not have much to worry about.