Heavy underdog role a measuring stick

By Andrew Curtis

As Saturday’s 110th edition of the battle for Sunflower state supremacy between the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats gets closer, let’s take a realistic approach.

With the Governor’s Cup on the line, KU will travel to the west to take on its rival and the nation’s 7th ranked team, K-State, in Manhattan. We all know how the last two meetings in Lawrence went. Calling them bloodbaths would be an understatement.

The good news is, Turner Gill is gone. The bad news is, Bill Snyder is still roaming the sidelines at Kansas State.

Snyder is the architect of arguably the greatest turnaround in college football history. K-State, which only made one bowl game in its history prior to Snyder’s arrival, might have been the worst Division 1 program of all-time before he took over.

The fact of the matter is, Bill Snyder owns KU on the gridiron. He sports a 16-4 record against KU in his two stints at Kansas State. There’s nothing the legendary coach loves to do more than beat Kansas, and with no mercy.

There’s a new man in charge at KU looking to make the rivalry much more competitive than it has been over the better part of the past two decades. His name is Charlie Weis.

Weis made the in-state rivalry a top priority when taking the job in Lawrence. He has stressed to his players that Kansas has been better than K-State in the past, which is in indisputable fact. If you take Snyder’s 20 years out of the equation, KU leads the series 61-19-5.

There is no easier way to motivate a football team than by pointing out head-to-head historical dominance over a rival, followed by shoving the beatdowns of recent history down their throat.

At his introductory press conference, Coach Weis preached that Kansas needs to model itself after the purple-clad machine that is K-State football. The two programs couldn’t have been headed in more opposite directions after 2011, with the Wildcats finishing 10-2 and KU an abysmal 2-10.

Now, can the veteran coach practice what he’s been preaching?

With longtime arch-enemy Missouri gone from the conference, KU’s number 1 priority needs to be beating Kansas State.

That starts with this Saturday, where KU enters as a 23.5 point underdog. Both teams are coming off a bye week, which makes matters even more difficult for Kansas, giving Snyder an extra week to prepare.

The good news is that Kansas has nothing to lose. KU is merely a couple plays away from being 3-1. Instead, they are 1-3 and still searching for a signature win and an identity.

Nobody expects Kansas to win this game, but not getting embarrassed would be considered progress. Despite being the most-improved unit on the team, facing dual-threat quarterback and Heisman hopeful Collin Klein is a daunting task for the KU defense.

That’s why this Saturday presents a great measuring stick opportunity for where KU is as a team and how much they have improved in Weis’ first season at the helm.

A final result of 38-17 Kansas State, or something along those lines, would be a good sign moving forward.

With that being said, I’d be shocked if Kansas kept this game close, even for a half. All I’m asking for is to not be humiliated.

Kansas State will be the best team Kansas has played to date in 2012. If the Jayhawks can give the Wildcats more of a fight than the past two years, then it’s a tremendous building block moving forward.