Kansas kicks off its 2017 campaign with a plethora of new coaches, and hope for improvement in their play and on the scoreboard. Last season’s breakthrough win against Texas has pumped hope into the Jayhawks and they intend to add wins in 2017 as they open the season with a winnable game against a FCS opponent coming off a 3 win campaign.
These two teams actually have a similar profile. SEMO returns only four starters on each side of the ball, but the defensive returnees are all-conference caliber players and return to a defense that was third in the OVC. On offense they return their quarterback who led the 2016 team to last position in scoring offense in their conference.
DATE & TIME: SAT, SEP 2, 6:00 PM CT
LOCATION: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
FORECAST: Sunny and 86 degrees
TV / STREAM: ESPN 3 / Watch ESPN
Momentum and confidence are key for a team trying to rise from the bottom of the conference, and this game has the potential to provide that for them.
Offensively, Kansas has determined its starting quarterback, Bender or Stanley, but won’t announce it until they hit the field Saturday night. Steven Sims, Jr. leads the wide receiving corp and will be heavily relied upon with the dismissal of Gonzalez. Running production took a hit with another dismissal this week, but Kahlil Herbert and Taylor Martin will carry the load. The biggest offensive story line for Kansas is the play calling of Doug Meacham. It will be interesting to watch for his influence and an improvement in the offensive continuity.
Defensively, Kansas returns a stout unit led by Dorance Armstrong. Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen, and Mike Lee are solid players in the middle of the Kansas defense. The Kansas front 7 is underrated and problematic, especially at home. Look for a Armstrong to get off to a fast start against SEMO and to be difference maker all year.
While the KU offense remains difficult to predict, the defense provides a reason to believe that they will be in many games and have an opportunity to pull out some marquis wins.
Keys to the Game
Win In The Trenches – The problem for SEMO is overall talent level. While they can be salty at times on defense, they are not likely to have an answer for Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Wise. Therein lies the key for Kansas, pressure the quarterback and shut down the run with your solid front seven and you will win the game. If Armstrong is held in check, then it is possible to see a contest develop. In 2014 Kansas pulled out a win by the score of 34-28. That appears to the be the floor here which is only threatened if SEMO has time to throw.
Establish The Run – Either Bender or Stanley are capable of exploiting the SEMO (I like saying SEMO) secondary and Sims and Booker should find open space to operate. If any semblance of a running game can emerge then points will follow.
If the Jayhawks have taken a step forward like we think they have, they have to win this game and win it in convincing fashion. Thankfully, I think they will. It should be a solid start for Kansas as they serve notice that their defense is legit at home.