AMES, Iowa -- The Iowa State-Kansas game on Saturday is by far the least exciting matchup in the Big 12 this season.
Try telling that to coaches Paul Rhoads and David Beaty, though.
Rhoads has never won a league opener in six tries with the Cyclones (1-2). If Rhoads can't break that streak against the Jayhawks, he might not get another chance to do so.
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Beaty is already 0-3 at Kansas. On paper, the Cyclones represent his best chance to avoid finishing 0-12 as a rookie head coach.
Iowa State had a bye week following a heartbreaking double-overtime loss at Toledo, which had the most votes of any team that didn't earn a spot in this week's Top 25.
The Jayhawks are coming off their best game, a 27-14 loss at Rutgers. But the odds-makers weren't impressed, installing Kansas as roughly a 16-point underdog against the Cyclones.
"Listen, I hate losing. I do not like it at all. However, I understand that everything is a process," Beaty said. "Part of the process is learning to stay positive in the eyes of adversity."
Here are some of the key factors to ponder as Kansas and Iowa State -- a combined 1-17 in the Big 12 last year and 1-5 overall this year -- get set to open league play:
IMPACTFUL MEETINGS: The last two matchups between these programs have been meaningless in the standings but meaningful for each team. Iowa State snapped a seven-game losing streak in 2013 with a 34-0 blowout win on an ice-covered field in Ames. Kansas returned the favor last year in Lawrence with a stunning 34-14 upset that snapped a four-game losing streak against the Cyclones and ranked among the worst losses Iowa State has ever suffered.
KE'OFF? Running back Ke'aun Kinner has been the most productive back for Kansas. But his first crack at a Power Five defense didn't go so well. Kinner, who had 157 yards against South Dakota State and 113 versus Memphis, ran for just 25 yards on 16 attempts against Rutgers. "I'm not sure if we played near as good up front as we had in the past weeks," Beaty said.
HE'S EARNED IT: Rhoads used the time off to reward one of the program's most surprising players with a scholarship. Walk-on wide receiver/running back Trever Ryen, who ran track at Northern Iowa before transferring to Iowa State, has emerged as a key weapon for the Cyclones, with an 81-yard punt return for a score against his former school and a 53-yard catch in a 31-17 loss to Iowa. The scholarship offer came just in time for Ryen, who said he was about to apply for student loans. "I never thought it would be coming this fast," Ryen said.
RHOADS-BEATY CONNECTION: Beaty not only worked for Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino when both were at Kansas, he interviewed to be Rhoads' first wide receivers coach back in 2009. Beaty didn't get the job, but he did make a strong impression on Rhoads. "Have the utmost respect for him," Rhoads said. "He's neck deep in it now and loving every second of what he's doing."
BAD BAKER'S DOZEN: Iowa State's winless streak in conference openers actually stretches back to 2002. The Cyclones last win in their first Big 12 game came against the Jayhawks, who were whipped in Ames 45-3 13 years ago.