Manhattan, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Sunflower State rivals will meet up at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the 11th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats play host to the Kansas Jayhawks in Big 12 Conference action.
Kansas has endured a difficult season at just 3-8 overall and 1-7 in Big 12 play. After winning its only league game of the season versus Iowa State on Nov. 8 (34-14), the Jayhawks have dropped two straight games to TCU (34-30) and Oklahoma (44-7).
Kansas State was on the fast track to a Big 12 title prior to a Nov. 8 loss to TCU (41-20), but it remained in the race following a 26-20 road victory over West Virginia on Nov. 20 to pull to 8-2 overall. The Wildcats are 6-1 in the league with this matchup and a Dec. 6 bout with Baylor still left, and they are tied with Baylor and TCU for first place.
The Jayhawks lead the all-time series with the Wildcats by a comfortable 65-41-5 margin, although Kansas State has claimed five straight meetings.
After scoring 30 points or more in each of its previous two games, Kansas went back to its struggling ways on the offensive side of the ball last week with just seven points and a meager 103 yards. The unit has not fit in well with the rest of the high-scoring Big 12 with just 18.3 ppg and 335.7 ypg.
Despite his struggles last week (8-of-22, 84 yards, INT), Michael Cummings has given the Jayhawks a boost under center this season since taking over for Montell Cozart as the starter, completing 55.8 percent of his passes for 1,576 yards with more touchdowns (seven) than interceptions (four).
Jimmy Mundine (564 yards, three TDs) and Nick Harwell (429 yards, four TDs) are Cummings' top targets out wide with 43 and 41 receptions, respectively. Nigel King is a big-play threat with 525 yards on just 29 catches.
The rushing attack picks up a lowly 3.1 yards per carry, with Corey Avery (603 yards, five TDs), De'Andre Mann (380 yards) and Tony Pierson (318 yards, two TDs) earning the most work.
While the defense is often put in vulnerable positions thanks to its underachieving offense, it has still not lived up to its end of the bargain by allowing 31.6 ppg and 448.5 ypg. The unit reached new lows last week in letting Oklahoma's Samaje Perine set an FBS single-game rushing record with 427 yards.
Ben Heeney is one of the nation's most active tacklers with 121 stops to go with 11.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles. Michael Reynolds (13.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks), Jake Love (9.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and JaCorey Shepherd (three INTs) are also in the midst of strong seasons.
Kansas State's offense has been an efficient group this season with 35.2 ppg and 420.4 ypg, and it was led in last week's win by a career-best performance from its signal caller.
Jake Waters completed 22-of-34 passes for a career-high 400 yards with a touchdown and an interception in leading the Wildcats to victory last week.
"The receivers did a good job getting open," Waters said. "We had a ton of open receivers and we just went out there and made plays. I felt good throwing the football."
The showing only added to a stellar campaign for Waters, as he completes greater than 63 percent of his passes for 2,569 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions to go with great rushing totals (419 yards, seven TDs).
Waters' best friend in the passing game is Tyler Lockett, who's racked up 1,074 yards and six touchdowns on 70 receptions. He's registered double-digit receptions and exactly 196 yards in back-to-back games.
Curry Sexton takes advantage of plenty of one-on-one opportunities playing opposite Lockett, hauling in 58 receptions for 799 yards and four scores.
Even with Waters doing plenty of damage on the ground, the rushing attack as a whole hasn't been great (141.7 ypg). Charles Jones (102 carries, 434 yards, 11 TDs) and DeMarcus Robinson (93 carries, 346 yards, four TDs) split reps at tailback.
Just as impressive as the Wildcats' offense is the play of their defense, which yields only 355.4 ypg and a Big 12-best 21.0 ppg.
The ball-hawking defense has 12 interceptions, with Dante Barnett, Randall Evans, Morgan Burns and Travis Green all recording more than one. Jonathan Truman has a team-best 95 tackles, which are 34 more than any other player, and Ryan Mueller (7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and Jordan Willis (6.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) have gotten pressure in the opponents' backfield.