Kansas-Kansas St. Preview
While the buzz surrounding the Big 12 has focused on the posturing between TCU and Baylor for a potential College Football Playoff spot, Kansas State still has a chance to win at least a share of the conference.
No. 11 Kansas State will be heavily favored to keep those hopes alive with a win Saturday against visiting Kansas in the schools' 112th meeting.
The Wildcats (8-2, 6-1) are tied with No. 5 Baylor and No. 6 TCU for first place after their 26-20 win at West Virginia last Thursday. Though their overall record all but eliminates them from potentially reaching the four-team playoff, they can claim at least part of the conference championship by defeating Kansas (3-8, 1-7) and winning at Baylor next week.
Kansas State would win it outright with two victories and at least one loss from TCU in its final two games.
The Horned Frogs gave the Wildcats their only conference loss, but that's a non-factor, at least in the eyes of the Big 12. The head-to-head tiebreaker only matters in the case of bowl selection, while the conference would officially declare co-champions in the event of a tie. Kansas State shared the 2012 title with Oklahoma when both finished with one loss in league play, though the Wildcats defeated the Sooners.
Jake Waters was 22 of 34 for 400 yards against West Virginia, the sixth-most in school history. He found Tyler Lockett 10 times for 196 yards, and Lockett also returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown.
Lockett, who is second in the Big 12 with 107.4 receiving yards per game, was held to 43 yards on three receptions in last season's 31-10 win at Kansas. Waters was 10 of 21 for 160 yards with two TDs and an interception, though Kansas State capitalized on the Jayhawks' six turnovers.
Kansas leads the series 64-42-5, but the Wildcats have won five in a row and are 18-4 under coach Bill Snyder. Kansas State has won 24 of 25 at home against unranked schools while the Jayhawks have dropped 11 in a row on the road against ranked teams since a 30-24 win over No. 24 Kansas State on Oct. 6, 2007.
"You have to look at every game like it is a championship game regardless of what their record is or what our record is," Lockett said. "It does not matter what your record is or what your offense or defense is like before this game because everything changes. It is just one of those deals in which it is hard to scout because you are going to get something different than what you saw on film."
Kansas State ran for one yard on 29 carries against West Virginia, its second straight poor performance after 19 rushes for 34 yards in the Nov. 8 loss at TCU. The Wildcats averaged 182.8 rushing yards in the previous five conference games.
Snyder's team was also penalized 10 times for 102 yards, its most since being penalized 162 yards in a win over Missouri State on Sept. 15, 2007.
"It was frustrating," Snyder said. "I think they did do what they had to do to win the ball game. They're pleased about that and I certainly don't want to take that away from them. We didn't have the discipline that we've come to count on so much."
The running game figures to face little resistance against Kansas, which gave up an FBS-record 427 yards and five TDs to freshman Samaje Perine in a 44-7 loss at then-No. 23 Oklahoma last Saturday. The Jayhawks, 105th nationally with opponents averaging 211.1 rushing yards, have lost 29 consecutive road games since beating UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009.
Defensive lineman Keon Stowers suggested the team already moved on from surrendering Perine's record-breaking performance.
"I've already forgotten it," Stowers said. "That's one of the first things (interim) coach (Clint) Bowen said to us; put this game behind us already. If we keep thinking about it, that's going to carry over to next week."
Kansas' offense, which seemed to show signs of progress by averaging 466.0 yards in splitting its previous two games against Iowa State and TCU, had only 103 yards - its fewest since recording 46 in a loss at Texas on Oct. 29, 2011.