A win, any win, against any opponent, is not a guarantee for Kansas football. Yet, for the second week in a row the Jayhawks stand in unfamiliar territory, as the favorites. What David Beaty has done in Lawrence so far is miraculous enough. He inherited a team depleted of talent and players, literally. When he took over the program KU had just 58 scholarship players. The limit is 85.
Slowly, he has been rebuilding this program almost from the ground up.
The old adage is that teams improve the most between week one and week two. Kansas was pretty solid last week in the opener over Southeast Missouri State. So, the fans in Lawrence should be feeling fairly confident. Jayhawk fans still need to be careful and not get overconfident (is that even possible for the football team’s fans?). While Central Michigan might be a directional school, they are quite a bit better than FCS competition, playing in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). As a reminder, it was this same Central Michigan team that finished 6-7 getting waxed by Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl that also went onto Oklahoma State’s home field and beat the Cowboys.
Central Michigan might not have appeared sharp in their three-overtime win against lowly Rhode Island. In fact, they appeared pretty bad. But, just like Kansas, expect CMU to be a bit better than last week. These teams have only faced each other twice in the past (2007 and 2014) with Kansas winning both times.
Offense is supposed to be the strength of this Chippewa team, supposed being the key word. Cooper Rush, the talent QB that helped knock off Oklahoma State last season, is no longer there.
Central Michigan went from a pro-style offense last year to a spread offense this year. But, offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky does not have the quarterback sling it out, and during CMU media days Ostrowsky reiterated that running the ball was a “staple of the offense.”
Last week, It took CMU three overtimes to score a total of 30 points. You also have to factor in those three overtimes when looking at last weeks stat line of 104 offensive plays for 499 yards. But, one thing that does jump out is the six(!) interceptions the defense had against Rhode Island. Kansas QB Peyton Bender better take notice.
DATE & TIME: SAT, SEP 9 at 3:00 PM CT
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (Lawrence, KS)
FORECAST: Sunny, Mid to low 80’s
TV: Fox Sports
STREAM: Fox Sports Go
BETTING LINE: -6 KU, 58 O/U
Kansas has a chance to tie their win total from last year just two games into this season. To do so they have to clean up some fixable mistakes. The Jayhawks look to have the upper hand across the board, which seems crazy to say of a team that went 2-10 last year facing a team that went bowling. But, it is true.
Last season Kansas struggled to stop the run but had one of the better pass-rushes in the league. Against SEMO, Kansas only allowed 83 rushing yards and 170 passing yards. Yes, it was against a FCS school, but CMU also played a FCS school of comparable calibre and looked a lot worse. Kansas is also familiar with the system it wants to run on offense and defense. CMU is working out the kinks while Kansas is just tweaking the finer points.
Bender will be looking to get the ball into Steven Sims, Jr. hands as often as possible. Beaty and the coaching staff should not overlook freshman Dom Williams. He only ran 10 times last week but averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Not eye-popping, but not bad either. Beaty should work a little better to establish the ground game this week as CMU will probably look to stop the pass.
On defense, Kansas will look to turn the dogs loose. Dorance Armstrong, Jr. will be the best defensive end the CMU line will see all season. Let him wreak havoc in the backfield. Kansas only allowed SEMO to convert six of 20 third downs. It needs to keep that up if the Jayhawks want to reach bowl eligibility this season.
Keys to the Game for Kansas
Ball Security – Kansas needs to hold onto the ball when they are on offense. CMU proved that they are more than capable of taking advantage of misplaced passes. Bender needs to make sure the completions are to his teammates only.
Establish the Run on Offense- Last Saturday, Kansas let a FCS team dictate their offense. the Jayhawks need to return some balance. By establishing the run as a legitimate threat it keeps the defense from just playing the pass and relieves pressure off of Bender. CMU is vulnerable to the run and Kansas needs to take advantage.
Stop the Run on Defense – Central Michigan’s offense is predicated upon the run. Kansas needs to clamp down on the run and make CMU try to beat them through the air. Making the Chippewas one-dimensional will allow the Kansas defensive line to get after Shane Morris. Morris has only one pass for a touchdown on 141 collegiate attempts. The Kansas defensive back field swatted away seven passes last week. If Kansas can stop the run there is a pretty good chance it can shut down the pass, too.
Before the season started I thought that this game was a 50/50 for Kansas. After seeing how both teams looked after week one, my support has to go to Kansas. Is it a lock? By no means. I am not confident that Kansas will cover the spread. But, Kansas would need to regress while Central Michigan takes a big leap forward for the Chippewas to win. I might be 0-1 in my outright predictions (thanks Texas), but I am betting on Kansas to get me to .500. #Big12vstheWorld takes #MACtion down in a thriller. Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk!