The seventh-ranked Kansas State Wildcats put their perfect record on the line, as they play host to intrastate rival, the Kansas Jayhawks, on Saturday afternoon.
Kansas opened the season with a 31-17 win over South Dakota State, but since then it has disappointed with three straight losses, culminating in a 30-23 defeat at Northern Illinois. Dating back to last season, the Jayhawks have now lost 13 straight games against FBS opponents.
"I'm really disappointed," head coach Charlie Weis said following his team's loss to NIU. "For the second time this year, (we had) a two score lead in the second half and (we) can't get over that hurdle. You don't make enough plays on offense, you don't make enough plays on defense and that's how the game ends up."
After winning its first three games against Missouri State (51-9), Miami- Florida (52-13), and North Texas (35-21), Kansas State had perhaps its biggest win in school history in its last game, coming from behind to defeat No. 6 Oklahoma, 24-19. It was the highest-ranked opponent the Wildcats have ever defeated in a true road game, and it resulted in a bump from No. 15 to No. 7 in just one week.
"We knew it would be a battle and it was exactly that," quarterback Collin Klein said of his team's matchup with Oklahoma. "We credit everyone for hanging together. The defense got big stops and turnovers. Again we were able to do enough to win."
Kansas has a firm grasp on the all-time series with the Wildcats, 65-39-5, although K-State has won the matchup the last three years.
The Jayhawks offense has been largely underwhelming in the early going this season in scoring just 21 ppg, although they have shown good balance between the run game (178.5 ypg) and the pass game (191.5 ypg).
The biggest reason for the offensive struggles is the play of quarterback Dayne Crist, who has completed roughly 50 percent of his passes (65-of-129) for 763 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. If Crist's issues continue, Weis could turn to Christian Matthews, but he has attempted just one pass this season.
Tony Pierson (309 yards) and Taylor Cox (266 yards) have split the majority of the carries at running back, and both average more than 5.3 yards per carry with a pair of touchdowns. James Sims (18 carries, 91 yards) also has two rushing scores.
Daymond Patterson (147 yards) leads the team with 17 catches. No other receiver has double-digit receptions.
The Kansas defense has played much better than the offense, giving up 23 ppg while forcing 13 turnovers. Its plus-1.5 turnover margin ranks ninth in the country and is the top mark in the Big 12.
Bradley McDougald and Tyler Patmon each have a pair of interceptions, and McDougald leads the team with 34 tackles, three for a loss, and two forced fumbles.
Kansas State has one of the more high-powered offenses in the conference, putting up 40.5 ppg while converting 56 percent of its third-down opportunities (25-of-45).
The catalyst is undoubtedly Klein. Coming off a 40-touchdown season a year ago, the signal-caller is off to another fast start with five passing and five rushing touchdowns to go along with 1,047 yards of total offense. His 70 percent completion rate is also on pace to be the best of his career.
As a run-first team, John Hubert is the lead back behind Klein, amassing 426 yards and four touchdowns on 66 carries. Daniel Sams doesn't get many opportunities (10 carries), but he has made the most of them with 127 yards and three scores.
Tramaine Thompson is Klein's go-to guy in the passing game, hauling in 16 balls for 260 yards and three touchdowns, although Chris Harper (11 receptions, 138 yards, TD) and Tyler Lockett (10 receptions, 108 yards) are also in the mix.
A stout defense has been a great compliment to the high-scoring offense, as K- State allows just 15.5 ppg. It has tightened up in the red zone, surrendering touchdowns on just 6-of-16 visits there.
Arthur Brown makes plays all over the field with a team-high 36 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, two pass break-ups, and a fumble recovery. Adam Davis is one of the Big 12's best pass rushers, having logged three sacks and three forced fumbles to this point.