Know Your Opponent: The most important Sunflower Showdown in years

Bringing down the KU ball carrier, then-freshman safety VJ Payne and then-junior linebacker Austin Moore stop KU's forward motion. K-State beat KU 47-27 Nov. 26, 2022. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: Corrected schools’ ranking to the most recent CFP rankings.

No. 21 K-State 7-3 (5-2)

The Wildcats near the end of the season playing at their best. Quarterback Will Howard’s regained stability under center was a pivotal point for the recovery. Alongside Howard, the defense continues to show out, scoring two touchdowns against Baylor in the 59-25 win. The two units thrived in recent weeks after nearly completing the 20-point comeback against Texas. With just two games remaining and a chance at the Big 12 Championship game, everyone must perform against two strong opponents. 

No. 25 Kansas 7-3 (4-3)

The Jayhawks are in one of their best seasons in recent memory. Still, the season could have been so much more. With the loss of quarterback Jalon Daniels, Jason Bean stepped in and performed, but it hasn’t been the same. With Bean possibly hurt, Kansas may lean on third-stringer freshman Cole Ballard. Nevertheless, the team is still in a positive place. The rushing attack continues to excel as running back Devin Neal leads the backfield while the defense shows improvement.

Matchup to Watch: K-State defense vs. Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw Jr.

The Wildcats’ sound rushing defense took a major hit against Baylor. Rising star linebacker Jake Clifton left the game and was declared out for the season by head coach Chris Klieman. This leaves linebackers Austin Moore and Desmond Purnell to pick up the slack and help those who will replace the snaps Clifton leaves behind.

For the Jayhawks, the rushing attack of running backs Neal and Daniel Hishaw Jr. propelled them to their current status. The two combined for over 1,500 rushing yards on the season, with Neal about to reach 1,000 yards. With a dynamic one-two duo, the Jayhawks keep the offense steady despite injuries at the quarterback position. 

Each unit has their own challenges to climb, but the battle will be pivotal to the game. The Wildcats’ defense found ways to stop the run, but still allowed big plays to go by. Averaging over six yards per carry, Neal may be the toughest runner outside of Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon II in the Big 12. If K-State can contain him, it’ll give the secondary more breathing room to either attack an injured Bean or true freshman Ballard.

Key Players


Running back DJ Giddens

Linebacker Austin Moore


Running back Devin Neal

Cornerback Cobee Bryant

Prediction: K-State 31-26