#21 Kansas State will take a short trip over to #25 Kansas for an all-ranked Sunflower Showdown this Saturday (11/18/23). Get Kansas vs. Kansas State odds, picks and predictions below, as our best bet is Kansas State -9.5.
Kansas State vs. Kansas Prediction
With so many classic rivalries in jeopardy due to conference realignment across the country, there’s one that’s here to stay- the Sunflower Showdown, fought between Kansas and Kansas State. It’s happened every year since 1911, making it the fifth-longest annual series in college football, and with Bedlam set to take a pause, this one will be moving up the list. Kansas owns an all-time edge of 64-51-5, but KSU is on an absolute tear- the Wildcats have won every edition since 2009, for a 14-game winning streak, the longest in the history of this rivalry.
The Jayhawks had high hopes that this could be the year to snap the streak. Last year, they took the jump from two wins to six, and with an elite head coach/quarterback duo of Lance Leipold and Jalon Daniels, they had reasonable hope that the ascendancy would continue into this season. With the game set to be played in Lawrence, the stars seemed to be aligning, but unfortunately, the injury bug bit Daniels once more, and he won’t be playing.
They’ll be facing a ranked KSU team for the fourth time in five seasons, as the Wildcats are still clinging onto a bit of hope to defend their Big 12 title from a season ago. Texas is atop the conference with a 6-1 record, but the second spot in the championship game is up for grabs, and KSU is one of a whopping four schools with two losses in conference play, so both remaining games are absolutely vital for this team.
Kansas is actually also 7-3, but unlike KSU, their losses are all in-conference, effectively eliminating them from contention. A loss to Texas Tech was really the final nail in the coffin, as the Jayhawks got pretty much nothing out of the quarterback position after Jason Bean exited with a head injury. Freshman Cole Ballard completed nine of 20 pass attempts for 124 yards and a pick in relief of Bean, so it’s great news for the Jayhawks that the more experienced QB is trending towards playing on Saturday.
It’s easy to lament what could have been- a healthy Kansas likely would have been one of the teams vying for a Big 12 title- but we still have a great rivalry matchup on our hands. These are two very strong offenses, with or without Daniels, as the Jayhawks do a great job of running the football as well, and Bean has gotten enough reps over the past couple of seasons that he’s become a very capable backup.
That being said, KSU should roll in this one. The Wildcats are 10th in the whole country in EPA per play, with a much better defense than we’re used to seeing from Big 12 schools. Bean has played well, but Daniels is the kind of dynamic, explosive playmaker needed to level the playing field when the overall gap is this broad, and without him on the field, we have to take KSU to cover, especially with that hook on the significant number of 10.
Kansas State vs. Kansas Prediction: Kansas State -9.5
Kansas State vs. Kansas Best Odds
Kansas State is a 9.5 point favorite on the road, or a hefty -350 on the moneyline compared to +260 for the Jayhawks. With the total set at 57.5, both sides are -110 to hit.
Kansas State vs. Kansas Key Matchups
With Jalon Daniels out, Kansas will absolutely need to establish the run, and against a terrible Kansas run defense, Kansas State will look to do the same as they attempt to control this game on the road.
Kansas Rushing Offense vs. Kansas State Run Defense
Although the air game has actually graded well for Kansas, without Daniels, their best bet in front of a raucous home crowd will be to establish themselves on the ground and shorten the game. Devin Neal has been fantastic for the Jayhawks, he’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry and is just a few runs away from reaching the milestone of 1,000 on the season. He’s scored 10 times, just a couple scores ahead of Daniel Hinshaw Jr., who has scored eight times, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry himself. They’ve all done this running behind a great offensive line, ranked eighth in PFF’s run blocking grades, anchored by star left tackle Dominick Puni.
They’ll be running into a fearsome KSU run defense, which ranks 19th in EPA per play, compared to 20th for the Kansas offense. It’s not much of a star-studded unit, rather a cohesive, disciplined group, but edge rusher Khalid Duke and linebacker Austin Moore have each garnered an average depth of tackle under two yards on rushing snaps.
Kansas State Rushing Offense vs. Kansas Run Defense
The KSU ground attack ranks 17th in the country in EPA per play, and frankly, should have an absolute field day against a Kansas run defense sitting in 125th in the same metric. The Wildcats have a great stable of runners as well, led by DJ Giddens, who is averaging an even 6.0 yards per carry. He’s accumulated seven rushing scores, as has starting quarterback Will Howard, who actually owns the team’s longest rush of the season- a 70 yard scamper. Lastly, Treshaun Ward has been a great alternate back with an average of 5.0 yards per carry himself.
Unfortunately, the Kansas defense doesn’t have much of a counter for those runners, or a KSU offensive line that ranks 10th in PFF’s run blocking grades. The edge duo of Austin Booker and Hayden Hatcher have been excellent, but they haven’t really had any help from the rest of the Jayhawks’ defense.