November 07, 2014

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) It would be easy to write off Kansas vs. Iowa State as merely a pillow fight between Big 12 cellar-dwellers, a meaningless matchup of teams mired in losing seasons.

Turns out that there could be plenty on line Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads is finding his seat a little warmer these days, despite close ties to the area and taking the program to three bowl games. Iowa State (2-6, 0-5) won just three times last season, and Rhoads could need a victory to calm things down.

The Jayhawks (2-6, 0-5) have already fired coach Charlie Weis. Interim coach Clint Bowen is being considered for the full-time job, but the Lawrence native and Kansas alum may need to win at least one game - and the Cyclones are his best bet - to give him a good shot at it.

''We're definitely excited to be back home,'' Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine said, ''and definitely excited for an opportunity against a team that we think we have good odds against.''

There is no other game in the Football Bowl Subdivision this week matching two teams that are winless in their respective conferences. No other power conference features a matchup that involves two teams with two wins or fewer this season.

Not that any of it matters much to coaches and players at Iowa State and Kansas.

''I know that Kansas is a lot better team than people give them credit for,'' Cyclones linebacker Luke Knott said. ''A win is huge. Mathematically, we're not out of going to a bowl game. If we win out, we'll still go to a bowl game. We need this win.''

Well, that part is true. The winner will need just three more wins in its final three games to squeak into a bowl game, and the loser will be guaranteed missing out again this season.

But neither team has an easy schedule upcoming, which means this could be the last good chance Kansas and Iowa State have to stake claim to a Big 12 victory.

''We need to have the right attitude,'' Cyclones defensive lineman Cory Morrissey said. ''Everybody has Iowa State circled and we can't let that happen.''

Here are five story lines to watch as Iowa State and Kansas meet:

MANGINO RETURNS: Cyclones offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will be back in town. He was the head coach during the Jayhawks' most prosperous period, leading them to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory during the 2007 season. He was fired two seasons later amid accusations that he was mistreating players. ''He's a professional and it's our next opponent and I don't think it has any bearing,'' Rhoads said. ''This is our next game, our ninth game, and a game we're looking forward to preparing for.''

MORE ON MANGINO: Bowen was actually an assistant coach on Mangino's staff, spending eight years with him. ''The guy, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He did a lot of things for me personally to help my career, to help me develop as a coach,'' Bowen said. ''We worked hard and developed a good program.''

HEALTHY RICHARDSON: Cyclones quarterback Sam Richardson hurt his shoulder late in last week's blowout loss to Oklahoma. There's been some speculation that he won't play, but Rhoads said that isn't the case. ''I don't know if redeem is the right choice of words,'' said Rhoads when asked about his quarterback's poor play last week, ''but nobody was more displeased with how than offense played, how the team played, than Sam was. He'll be chomping through preparation.''

SPEAKING OF QUARTERBACKS: Michael Cummings, who took over for Montell Cozart at Kansas, played one of his best games last week against Baylor. He threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns without a pick, though the Jayhawks still lost 60-14. ''Iowa State is a pretty disciplined defense, much like all those in the Big 12,'' he said. ''We have to execute at a high level.''

INJURY WOES: Cyclones linebacker Jevohn Miller, who led the team in tackles, tore up his knee on the second play against Oklahoma and is out for the season. Sophomore Kane Seeley is expected to start, backed up by freshman Alton Meeks. Neither has much experience.

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