MANHATTAN, Kan. — The in-state rivalry between Kansas and Kansas State may not move the needle nationally, but it’s huge to the players.
Jaylen Pickle, who’s a Kansas native, loves going up against the Jayhawks. The junior defensive tackle grew up in Cimarron, a small town 245 miles from Manhattan and 317 from Lawrence. Pickle knows all about the history of the series and didn’t pick a side until it came time for him to go to college.
Kansas State was the only Power Five program to offer Pickle a scholarship out of high school, and the former three-star prospect been rocking the purple and white ever since. To Pickle the series is more than just a game, and hits home on a personal level.
“It means a lot, obviously, being from Kansas and not getting offered there and them kind of overlooking me,” Pickle said. “They told me basically I didn’t have good enough grades and wanted me to take the ACT again for them to offer me, and I told him it was kind of pointless at that point.”
To add more fuel to the fire is the fact that Pickle personally knows the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback Jason Bean. The two have hung out together a few times, and Pickle’s teammate Malik Knowles played alongside the signal-caller in high school.
However, with Pickle and Dean in the starting lineup for Saturday’s clash, it’ll be the first time the two will be face to face at the line of scrimmage. Pickle’s been anticipating the matchup for quite some time, especially since he only tallied one stop in last year’s game. The six-foot-four, 300-pounder has also watched film on Dean and he’s planning on generating the first sack of his career this weekend.
“It’ll be fun playing against someone that you know pretty well personally,” he said. “It’s always fun to play against him (Dean), even though I didn’t play him in high school or anything.”
Over the Wildcats’ two-game win streak Pickle has stepped up his play tremendously. He tallied a season-high, four tackles, including three solo at Texas Tech, and added another against TCU. Pickle is a versatile defensive linemen, who can wreak havoc off the edge and along the interior.
Kansas State (5-3) is one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2019 and all of the players on the roster would love to clinch that sixth victory against Kansas (1-7). The Wildcats’ defense has been a big reason for the their midseason turnaround.
The unit is fourth in the Big 12 in total defense. Not to mention the Wildcats’ defense is third in the league at stopping the run. Kansas State has won 12-straight over Kansas. The last Jayhawks’ victory in the rivalry came under Mark Mangino’s leadership and there’s been a revolving door of head coaches since then.
Last year’s 41-point win was the most lopsided victory in the series since 2010. Pickle anticipates much of the same this time around, which is why Coach Chris Klieman been putting his team through an intense week of practice. The Wildcats are all dialed in to get another road victory and Pickles plans on setting the tone up front from the start.