MANHATTAN, Kan. (KAKE) - The Jayhawks and Wildcats have been playing each other in football since 1902, but this year's Sunflower Showdown has a chance to be special.

Kansas is bowl eligible for the first time in a long time with the outlook of the program better than it maybe has ever been.

K-State is back to heights they'd hoped for under Chris Klieman and the Jayhawks are the only thing standing between them and a chance to play for a Big 12 title.

This one just means a little more.

"They're playing really well. I know they've been beaten the last couple of weeks, but they're a good football team and it should be a heck of a battle here on Saturday," said K-State Head Coach Chris Klieman.

There's no love lost on the field, but the coaches have nothing but respect for each other.

"Coach Klieman and his staff have done an outstanding job this year, they have an excellent football team and a lot to play for and they've earned that right. They've got a lot of weapons, one of the best defenses in the country," said Kansas Head Coach Lance Leipold.

"Now, we're back this week got a really good KU team coming in here. I’ve got a lot of respect for coach Leipold, he does a great job," Klieman said. 

The Cats have come out on top in these one 13 times straight, but the Hawks haven't had this much talent in quite some time.

For this to really be a rivalry, you need wins on both sides.

"That we need to carry our end of the rivalry that's first and foremost, this hasn't been a real much of a rivalry," Leipold admitted. "We didn't make that a competitive game last year. So that's going to be the first and foremost thing that I’m focused on."

"I think the biggest thing is believing, you know, I don't know, their roster, but they're playing hard and they're believing," said Klieman. "They do have talented players without question, but they're playing inspired. Them getting to a bowl game I know is huge for the program, kind of a cherry on top."

For both sides, this game will be about the players who put the pads on before this current roster did.

"That's what we're trying to honor and that's who we're trying to honor is the alumni that laid the foundation for us that started this rivalry," Klieman said. "That's what you've got to kind of keep in the back of your mind to and not try to get ahead of yourself because it's those people that you're playing for."

The Jayhawks lead the Sunflower Showdown all-time 64-50, but the last time they won was in 2008, which is also the last time KU played in a bowl game.