Since Lance Leipold joined Kansas football, he’s helped the program reach one achievement after another. From getting the team to bowl eligibility for the first time in 14 years to selling out home games on a regular basis, he’s changed this program for the better in a short amount of time.
He’s also helped end a handful of bad losing streaks this team has endured for years, some for decades.
Prior to Leipold, Kansas had never beaten Texas in Austin, suffering nine straight losses dating back to 1997, until the Jayhawks beat the Longhorns in a thrilling overtime matchup in 2021. The win also snapped an embarrassing losing streak of 56 straight road Big 12 games.
Until September 2022, KU had never won in Morgantown, West Virginia, going winless in six straight tries dating back to 1941.
Then, just a few weeks ago, Leipold coached the Jayhawks to their first win over Oklahoma in 26 years. The Sooners had beaten KU in 18 straight matchups going back to 1997.
The win snapped a 44-game losing streak (since 2010) to Associated Press-ranked opponents. It was also KU’s first win against a ranked conference opponent at home since 2005 – breaking an 18-year drought.
Under Leipold, Kansas has broken just about every bad losing streak this program has faced – except one. One that has been long overdue.
The Jayhawks head into another annual Sunflower Showdown with Kansas State this weekend – a showdown that has (too) long been in favor of the Wildcats.
K-State has won the last 14 years straight, going back to when Mark Mangino was still coaching on the KU sidelines. To make matters worse, the average margin of victory has been 41-15.
Granted, KSU has had some really good teams over these 14 years, and nearly all of them were truly just a better, more talented team with the better coach. But that’s not the case this year. This isn’t the lopsided matchup it’s been in years past.
KU is 7-3 this season, just as K-State is. In the College Football Playoff rankings, KSU sits at No. 21 while KU sits at No. 25. And had the Jayhawks not lost quarterback Jason Bean to injury last week against Texas Tech in the first quarter, KU may very likely be the higher ranked team with the better record.
Records and rankings aside, this is a KU team that can beat this K-State team. Assuming Jason Bean can play, they have a capable quarterback and offense capable of putting points to match or beat the Wildcats.
While KSU is also normally the team with the better running game, that’s not the case this year. The Jayhawks have an experienced, talented offensive line and the best running back on the field in Lawrence-native Devin Neal.
This season, Neal has rushed for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, KSU’s top rusher DJ Giddens has carried the ball for 859 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging 6 yards per carry.
While Bean doesn’t quite match up to the rushing totals and touchdowns compared to KSU’s Will Howard, they both average 4.6 yards per carry, and Bean has the speed to hurt opposing defenses with his legs just as Howard does.
KU has the better receiving corps with the talents of wide receivers Quentin Skinner, Lawrence Arnold, and Luke Grimm – along with the excellent pass-catching skills of tight ends Mason Fairchild, Trevor Kardell, and Jared Casey.
The Jayhawks also have one of their best defensive teams in more than a decade with a stellar backfield consisting of Cobee Bryant, Mello Dotson, and Kenny Logan Jr.
It’s also senior night for players like Bean, Logan, Mike Novitsky, and others who have helped turn around this program into what it is today. They’ll be especially fired up for this game and will want to go out on a high note in their last home game in a Kansas uniform.
Most importantly, KU has a competent coaching staff on the sideline that has won big games and beat tougher opponents against greater odds than the one they’ll face in this year’s K-State team.
An in-state rivalry such as this one shouldn’t be this one-sided over this long of period of time. It’s time for KU to put an end to it and end the long-overdue losing streak to Kansas State.