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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Shortly after Charlie Weis was hired as the coach at Kansas, he sat in his office overlooking Memorial Stadium and asked a couple of people huddled around his desk a simple question.
"Why has Kansas State had so much success and Kansas has not?" he said.
It was hard to tell whether the question was earnest or rhetorical. After all, the Wildcats were coming off a Cotton Bowl appearance and the Jayhawks had just fired Turner Gill, and there was little disputing that Kansas State was the state's alpha program when it came to football.
Fast-forward two years and Weis is still trying to come up with answers. But he may have at least identified why the Wildcats have routinely beaten up on the neighbors to the east.
"I've learned that they have done a better job of magnifying the importance of the game," Weis said. "Let's forget about the game itself. Let's talk about the attitude that's permeated from the top on down, the significance of the game, and it's for several reasons.
Like the split among the state's fans, often within the same household.
"You're not playing just for your football team and your student body," Weis said. "It's for all those people who go into work on Monday and have an opportunity to take shots, and most of the time we've been receiving the shots. It would be really nice to walk into work on Monday, for most people, and be able to fire shots instead of taking them."
Kansas State (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) has won four straight in the series, and is 16-4 in the series since 1993. Bill Snyder is 17-4 against the Jayhawks (3-8, 1-7), including 7-3 in Lawrence.
In fact, Snyder has put such emphasis on the rivalry that the Governor's Cup awarded to the winner each year stands on its own pedestal immediately through the doors of the Vanier Football Complex, rather than crowding into the trophy cases with the rest of the Wildcats' baubles.
"You get to play 12 games, and if you are fortunate enough, you get to play 13 games a year," Snyder said. "The players invest so much — 340 days a year — it is just hard for me to fathom that the players wouldn't have great motivation every time that you have the opportunity to play."
Especially the one day a year that it's against Kansas.
"If you can't get up for a rivalry game, you've got problems," said Kansas State wide receiver Curry Sexton, a native of Abilene, Kan. "In a game like this, nobody should need to fire you up. I know the in-state guys, and even the guys from out of state, share the same feeling we do. Everybody will be up for this game and we will not need any added motivation."
So with motivation accounted for, here are five other things to keep in mind as the Wildcats try to improve their bowl destination on Saturday and the Jayhawks try to finish with a win:
QBS A-PLENTY: Kansas State has been shuffling Jake Waters and Daniel Sams all season, but the Jayhawks have two quarterbacks who could play, too. Montell Cozart, a freshman, is expected to get the nod over junior transfer Jake Heaps, the starter earlier in the year. But it was Heaps who finished out last week's blowout loss to Iowa State.
SIMS CITY: One of the rare bright spots for the Kansas offense this season has been running back James Sims, who's already run for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns. He's the first player in school history with 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
PUTTING UP POINTS: Kansas didn't seem to have a problem moving the ball out of its territory against Iowa State. It was once the Jayhawks crossed midfield that things went haywire. "We were moving the ball well," Jayhawks offensive lineman Gavin Howard said, "but we seemed to stall every time. That's something we've struggled with all season."
OPEN LOCK-ETT: Kansas state wide receiver Tyler Lockett had a school-record 278 yards receiving and 440 all-purpose yards last week against Oklahoma, the fifth-most in FBS history. "Coach said there was going to be a lot of one-on-ones out there," Lockett said. "When that happens, the person with the best technique is going to win."
BOUNCE BACK: The Wildcats will be trying to bounce back from a loss to Oklahoma while Kansas is trying to do the same after losing to the Cyclones. "We feel we've made a lot of progress," Wildcats cornerback Dante Barnett said. "We just had a little bump in the road last week."