Kansas rush offense vs. Southern Miss. rush defense
Southern Miss enters today’s game ranked sixth in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 51.7 yards per game and 1.6 yards per carry. This doesn’t bode well for a Kansas team that could be without starting running back Jake Sharp, who missed most of last week’s victory over Duke with an undisclosed injury. In Sharp’s absence, true freshman Toben Opurum filled in nicely last week, finishing with 120 total yards and two touchdowns, but the offense looked a bit off-beat without Sharp, who had been averaging 113.5 rushing yards per game.
Edge: Southern Miss.
Kansas pass offense vs. Southern Miss. pass defense
While Kansas’ ground game has paved the way so far this season, the team’s passing game might get the chance to stretch its legs a bit today in the possible absence of Sharp. With the exception of a couple of untimely drops early on, the receiving corps appears to be coming along nicely. Dezmon Briscoe is averaging a Big 12-best 135.5 receiving yards per game since returning from a one-game suspension, and Kerry Meier (17 catches, 194 yards) and Bradley McDougald (11 catches, 134 yards) have provided strong secondary targets. Though the Golden Eagles have played the pass well so far this season, allowing just 200 yards a game through the air, they’ll be facing by far their toughest test of the season from a Jayhawks team ranked 16th nationally in pass offense.
Southern Miss. rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
Not many teams have run the ball better than the Jayhawks this season — KU is ranked 14th nationally in rush offense — but Southern Miss. is one of the few that has. Running backs Damion Fletcher (344 yards, four touchdowns), Tory Harrison (168 yards, two touchdowns) and Desmond Johnson have combined to average 242.7 rushing yards per game this season, and the Golden Eagles opened the year with a 398-yard showing against Alcorn State. Kansas has been stout against the run, allowing just 57.7 rushing yards per game.
Edge: Southern Miss.
Southern Miss. pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
Golden Eagles quarterback Austin Davis has been solid, throwing for 600 yards and five touchdowns without an interception as Southern Miss. has focused primarily on the run game so far. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, have given up 225 yards per game in the air — seventh in the conference — but have allowed just two passing touchdowns while recording three interceptions, one of which was returned for a score last week against Duke. They’ve also logged 14 sacks, first in the Big 12 and, after just three games, nearly half of last year’s season total (29).
Kansas coach Mark Mangino said this week that he has been pleased with the field position his team has had so far this year. Punt returner Daymond Patterson has averaged 10.3 yards per return, while kick returner Briscoe — in limited opportunities — has appeared to fit in nicely to the new role. After a rough game, kicker Jacob Branstetter connected on his only field-goal attempt against the Blue Devils, from 31 yards, and was 5-of-6 in extra points, with his only miss coming on a blocked attempt.