October 5, 2007

Five Keys to Victory: Kansas at K-State

Kansas State safety Gary Chandler may be in his first season as a Wildcat, but the Wichita native fully understands the importance of K-State's game Saturday with the Kansas Jayhawks. "They're big-time games. It's the Super Bowl of Kansas," Chandler said.

And this game, more than most, is indeed big. Kansas enters with a 4-0 record. K-State comes in at 3-1, but ranked 24th in the nation by The Associated Press. Not since 1995, when KU was ranked sixth in the nation and K-State 14th (the Wildcats won 41-7) has the Sunflower Showdown been this important.

When: Saturday, Oct. 6
Kickoff: 11 a.m. (CDT)
Location: Manhattan
Venue: Snyder Family Stadium (50,000)

KU is confident after flattening four non-conference opponents at home. K-State is rolling in the wake of its impressive 41-21 victory at No. 7 Texas last Saturday.

"It's a huge game for KU. It's our first Big 12 game, and we're playing against a Top 25 team at their place," said KU offensive guard Adrian Mayes, a native of Manhattan. "They just came off a big win, so it's a big game for both teams."

Much has been made of KU's soft non-conference schedule. College football stats cruncher Jeff Sagarin currently ranks KU's strength of schedule at 171 in all of college football, and the highest ranked of the Jayhawks' four non-conference foes is Central Michigan at 92 in Sagarin's ratings.

K-State coach Ron Prince isn't buying into it.

"We're going to need to play our best and play aggressively and if we do that then I like our chances at winning the game," Prince said. "But this team here has more of a complete team in all three areas than we have faced in any team to this point."

K-State, meanwhile, has played Auburn close on the road and beaten No. 7 Texas in Austin. KU players, of course, are quick to dismiss the schedule talk.

"I do not think there is a comparison at all," KU running back Brandon McAnderson said. "I can not really worry about comparing our teams and our experiences, but I can prepare myself and watch their games. I feel like we are confident in each other and we have a swagger about ourselves, and we are looking forward to the challenge."

And while Kansas coach Mark Mangino has tried to compare its non-conference schedule to the ones Bill Snyder put together at K-State, there's no escaping this reality. K-State often struggled in its first conference road game following a friendly non-conference slate.

Oh, and Kansas has won just two conference road games in mark Mangino's five seasons in Lawrence.

"(Kansas State) is a good football team and we feel like we are a good football team too," Mangino said. "We're ready to go over and play extremely well in Manhattan. They're playing very well and we're playing well. It's going to be a great game for the state of Kansas."

It could get rowdy at The Bill, which could make for a very interesting day for the Jayhawks.


It's a simple thought. Don't turn the ball over and don't get penalized. Those two factors were crucial in the Wildcats' big victory at Texas. The Cats won the turnover battle 4-0 and were assessed just three penalties in the entire game.

Turnovers were enormous in last year's 39-20 victory by the Jayhawks. K-State quarterback Josh Freeman accounted for all six (three fumbles and three interceptions).

"It was last year. I'm not really worried about it. I couldn't care less about it," Freeman said. "I just want to go out and win this one."

There's another vital intangible for the Wildcats: The crowd at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

If the Wildcats keep the fans in the game, then it will make it difficult for Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing to run KU's no-huddle, spread offense.

"We haven't talked about it much. I know it will be a hostile environment because it is a huge rivalry," Reesing said. "They just came off a big win so they will have a packed house. We are not going to worry too much about playing in front of noise. If you let noise affect you it will, but if you don't worry about it, it won't be a problem."

KU tight end Derek Fine certainly respects the K-State home-field advantage.

"It is awesome. Anywhere you go in the Big 12 is going to be fun. K-State is a lot of fun to go play at, just like Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas are," Fine said. Anywhere you go, it is going to be loud and exciting to play."

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