There once was a basketball coach whose team played McPherson High who was asked if he thought his team got up more for the Bullpups than the other teams because it was supposed to be a rivalry game.
“What rivalry?” he responded. “You have to win some games against them before it’s a rivalry.”
That’s exactly how I feel about the so-called football “rivalry” between Kansas and Kansas State, which will be revisited on Saturday in Lawrence, even though most of the fans in attendance will be wearing purple since KU fans abandoned the Jayhawks after they lost their first game of the season to an NCAA sub-division school.
There hasn’t been a rivalry since Ron Prince left Manhattan. Prince did not defeat KU in any of his three attempts against Mark Mangino’s Jayhawks, which now seem eons ago.
However since the venerable Bill Snyder returned to the Little Apple, it’s been all Wildcats, mostly by embarrassing margins if your a Jayhawk fan.
Nothing figures to change on Saturday. Kansas State might be 1-6 in the Big 12 and 4-6 overall — it would have been 3-7 had Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads not had a brain cramp that led to his dismissal — but the only similarity between the programs is that they both reside in the Sunflower State.
I don’t foresee much difference between this week and last week for the Jayhawks. After raising their hopes two weeks ago with a near-miss against nationally ranked TCU, losing 23-17 (and having the ball with 6 minutes to go with a chance to win), the Jayhawks dropped an Empire State Building-sized egg. Their performance against West Virginia had to rate among the Top 10 Jayhawk stink bombs of all time. After their defense forced a 3-and-out to start the game, KU hit on a big pass from Ryan Willis to Tre' Parmalee, who promptly fumbled the ball away. After West Virginia scored virtually unabated, Willis threw a pick-six and the embarrassment was on.
Kansas State could be the Big 12’s most confounding team as the Wildcats are just a play here or there away from being 7-3. They have played most of the Big 12’s Big 4 close, except for the Oklahoma debacle.
I just can’t put my finger on why the Wildcats aren’t winning. They’re not as good defensively as they’ve been in the past, and offensively they seem to gain a lot of yards, but have some inopportune misfires. I still believe they’ll win out and earn one of the lower-tiered bowls, though maybe because their fan base travels so well they might get a better slot than expected. You know Snyder desperately wants to make a bowl because that gives him more practices to prepare for next year.
As for Kansas, I feel sorry for coach David Beaty. He’s hamstrung by the past transgressions of Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, both of whom simply destroyed the program with their recruiting mistakes. How Beaty is ever going to attract quality players to a school that has sunk lower than Kansas State’s once dark days in the 1960s and 1970s is beyond me. I guess his pitch is, “if you come here, you’ll be part of the best college basketball atmosphere in the country.”
I don’t look for Saturday’s game to be remotely close as the Jayhawks' offensive and defensive lines are NCAA Division II level. Kansas State has much more to play for since a bowl game is on the line. Kansas is playing to avoid a winless season, but c’mon, did anybody really expect the Jayhawks to win this year anyway? Once they lost their first game to South Dakota State, the countdown to 0-12 was on.
Maybe the weather conditions will be the great equalizer. If the game is played in wind, rain, ice or snow, you never know what will happen.
Chances are, though, the final margin will be whatever Snyder wants it to be. My guess is it will be Kansas State 48, Kansas 7.