"From the Pressbox" Showdown Preview

By: By ANDY LEFKOWITZ, STATS Editor
By: By ANDY LEFKOWITZ, STATS Editor

Kansas vs. (24) Kansas St.

Kansas State coach Ron Prince may be pleased that his team is ranked for the first time during his tenure, but he is more concerned about where they'll be at the end of the year.

The 24th-ranked Wildcats welcome undefeated Kansas to Manhattan on Saturday in the 105th Sunflower Showdown.

A dominating performance last week in a stunning 41-21 upset of then-No. 7 Texas moved the Wildcats (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) back into the Top 25 for the first time since September 2004, when Bill Snyder was coach. Kansas State scored three special teams touchdowns, including an 85-yard kickoff return by James Johnson and an 89-yard punt return by Jordy Nelson.

The upset also snapped a 46-game road losing streak against Top 10 opponents, but Prince said it's too early in the season to be impressed by rankings.

"As the coach, I really only care about the ranking at the end of the year," he said. "I'm more interested in being able to put ourselves in a position to win championships. I do appreciate what we're saying here, and I'm not trying to be evasive on this issue.

"I just think that in week five or six this is not the time to be impressed with being ranked."

Nelson caught 12 passes for 116 yards against the Longhorns, actually decreasing his season average to 124.2 yards per game - second in the Big 12. The senior also ranks sixth on Kansas State's all-time list with 126 receptions, and needs 12 more to surpass Aaron Lockett for third.

After managing just 13 points in a season-opening loss to then-No. 18 Auburn, Kansas State has averaged 43.5 points during its three-game winning streak.

The Wildcats will face a team that has the best defense in the country to go along with a high-powered offense.

The Jayhawks (4-0, 0-0) are averaging more than 53 points per game, and have given up a total of just 23 points all season - an average of 5.8 per contest.

"They're a very disciplined, hard-nosed defense," Prince said of Kansas "They're very well coordinated. You can see that they have a plan, they're very well coached. You can see by looking at their players that they've got a recruiting plan and they've been at it here for a number of years."

Kansas is 0-7 all-time against their in-state rivals when the Wildcats are ranked, and has managed a total of 40 points while losing its last five visits to Manhattan. But the Jayhawks are coming off a bye week, and are off to their best start since 1995 when they opened 7-0.

"I think a lot of people are ready to see how good we really are." Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing said. "They want us to go out there and prove ourselves. That is what we want to do as a team. We are ready to go out there and prove that we have a good team and that we can compete with the best teams there are. I think we are going to come out this week ready to play."

Coach Mark Mangino's team wrapped up non-conference play on Sept. 22 with a 55-3 rout of Florida International. Reesing passed for 368 yards as Kansas racked up a season-high 615 yards of total offense, and Aqib Talib set a school record with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Kansas has dropped three straight conference openers and eight of its last nine.


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