This Saturday marks the end of the line for several Kansas football seniors and Memorial Stadium as we have known it.
When the clock shows all zeroes on Saturday evening, following the latest edition of the Sunflower Showdown against No. 23 Kansas State, the KU football roster and the venue itself will look a lot different the next time Kansas plays a game in its home stadium.
Those topics, in and of themselves, were enough to keep KU coach Lance Leipold plenty busy during Monday’s regular weekly press conference.
But then there’s that whole question about KU’s quarterback and who exactly it will be when the Jayhawks and Wildcats kick it off at 6 p.m. Saturday night on FS1.
Leipold did not fully commit to an answer, but he did provide some clarity. And, if you’re a Kansas fan, it was probably what you wanted to hear.
Starting quarterback Jason Bean did not practice on Sunday night — KU’s first practice of K-State week — but he appears to have made enough progress from the head injury that knocked him out of last week’s loss against Texas Tech to give Leipold the feeling that he’s trending in the right direction.
Of Bean’s status for the week, Leipold said simply that he was “very optimistic that he’ll be playing on Saturday.”
Based on the way the rest of the answers to the QB question went, it does not appear that injured junior Jalon Daniels, who entered the season as the starter, is even in the mix to be considered this week.
Leipold was asked about two QBs specifically and mentioned two others by name. None of them were Daniels.
If Bean can’t go, freshman walk-on Cole Ballard would be in line to make his first career start. When asked who would back up Ballard if that were to happen, Leipold mentioned that it could be third-year sophomore Ben Easters or Mikey Pauley, a redshirt freshman who transferred to KU after a year at Nebraska last season.
As always, you have to consider the possibility of gamesmanship being a part of these answers. But if Leipold is to be taken at his word, it certainly seems like Bean could be the guy under center for the Jayhawks on Saturday.
Not only would that be huge for the Jayhawks as a whole, but it would be a great moment for Bean, who would be playing his final home game as a Jayhawk and getting a chance to compete and enjoy it.
Time will tell how it all shakes out.
As of Monday night, Kansas State was a 9.5-point favorite per FanDuel, an 8-point favorite at DraftKings.
In other KU action that we’re following this week…
• Tuesday night, the top-ranked KU men’s basketball team will play No. 16 Kentucky at the United Center in Chicago in the annual Champions Classic. We’ll be there for all kinds of coverage. These blue-blood clashes never get old, and the KU-UK matchup will be the second of two mega-showdowns in Chi Town on Tuesday night. Not only will it be a big one for the Jayhawks as they try to continue their early-season roll, but it’s also big in the big picture. KU vacating wins as a result of the IARP ruling dropped the Jayhawks from first place in all-time wins to five back of Kentucky in second place. The current totals have Kentucky leading with 2,377 all-tie wins compared to KU’s 2,372 all-time wins. When these two get together, though, it’s almost worth two, because only one can pick up the win as opposed to most other nights when both can add to their win total. One bit of news for the Jayhawks: Big man Hunter Dickinson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday after averaging 19.5 points and 8 rebounds in his first official games as a Jayhawk.
• The Kansas volleyball team, which split with Iowa State in two, grueling five-set grinders last weekend in Ames, returns home for a big showdown with No. 23 Baylor on Wednesday night. We’ll be at that one, too. The Jayhawks (19-5 overall, 10-4 Big 12) dropped 3 spots in this week’s AVCA poll to No. 17, while Iowa State parlayed their win over KU into a spot in the receiving votes category. KU has four single-match dates remaining on its schedule and likely needs to win three or four of them to remain in the conversation for hosting NCAA Tournament matches when the postseason rolls around. In case you missed it, check out all of our volleyball content from Volleyball Appreciation Week last week.
• The KU women's basketball team fell at Penn State on Monday night in its first road test of the season, 91-85. Brandon Schneider’s team will get one final tune-up — on Saturday against UMKC in Kansas City — before going to the Cayman Islands to take on powerhouse programs Virginia Tech and UConn on back-to-back days next week. Based on the results of Monday night’s game, KU will need to use this weekend as a get-right game to head to paradise with a little confidence. Be sure to keep an eye out for Part III of The S’Mya Diary, which chronicles KU guard S’Mya Nichols’ freshman season with the Jayhawks with weekly entries.
• Finally, congrats to KU cross country runners Chandler Gibbens and Lona Latema, who punched their tickets to nationals last week with strong showings at their regional meets. Gibbens we’ve already written about, and we’ve heard that Latema isn’t real comfortable doing interviews. We do, however, have an idea to try to tell her story, so check back to see if that comes together. Either way, the two will run at nationals on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.
— For tickets to all KU athletic events, visit kutickets.com