When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. TCU rush defense
It used to be that no matter who they played or what situation they were facing, the Jayhawks got the automatic edge in the running game, both because they had a deep and talented stable of backs and an offensive line that could run against anybody. Four games into the 2013 season, it’s clear that things have changed. KU coach Charlie Weis called the running game a bit of a disappointment earlier this week and said the toughest part about struggling these past couple of games — KU gained just 53 yards on 37 carries last week against Texas Tech — was that the pound-it-on-the-ground style used to be KU’s identity. Weis changed things around on the offensive line this week, and KU knows it must match TCU’s physical front seven if it hopes to have any chance. Still, the Horned Frogs, who rank fifth in the conference in rush defense, figure to be quite a challenge. Edge: TCU.
Kansas pass offense vs. TCU pass defense
If the Jayhawks struggle to establish the run against TCU, it’s far from a given that things will be any easier through the air. TCU owns the fifth-best passing defense in the Big 12 — giving up just 221 yards per game — and features senior cornerback Jason Verrett, whom Weis said could be a first-round pick. In addition, the Horned Frogs are tied for first in the Big 12 with nine interceptions and also have recorded a conference-best 18 sacks. Add to that the fact that the Jayhawks likely will be without leading receiver Tony Pierson, who suffered a concussion during last week’s loss, and it’s clear that KU will get all it wants from a stout TCU defense that prides itself on physical play. Edge: TCU.
When TCU has the ball
TCU rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
TCU’s rushing offense ranks just ninth in the Big 12, at 128.2 yards per game, but features a quarterback, Trevone Boykin, who is as athletic and dangerous with his legs and any in the conference. In last week’s loss at Oklahoma, Boykin ran just 12 times for 18 yards, but picked up several crucial gains late when TCU needed them most to hang around. For the season, Boykin averages just 35.2 yards per game, third on the team behind the average numbers of B.J. Catalon (44.4) and James Waymon (39.8). KU’s rush defense ranks eighth in the conference, giving up 170 yards per game, and the Jayhawks have given up 100-yard games to individual rushers in two of their four games this season. Edge: TCU.
TCU pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
If there’s one clear weak spot on this TCU team, it’s the passing game. Quarterback Trevone Boykin is more of a run-first type of guy and never looks all that comfortable when asked to throw it, even though he has a strong arm and has shown good accuracy at times, especially on the run. Still, the Horned Frogs rank last in the Big 12 in pass offense (193 yards per game), and Boykin has hit on 69 of 113 pass attempts for 791 yards and four TDs. Part of those numbers come from the defenses the Horned Frogs have faced, with LSU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all keeping TCU’s attack from taking off. The KU pass defense, meanwhile, features the third-most-efficient pass defense in the league and ranks fifth in sacks, sixth in interceptions and includes the Big 12’s top two performers in passes defended per game, junior cornerbacks Dexter McDonald (2.3) and JaCorey Shepherd (2.0). Edge: Push.
Despite last week’s failed fake punt deep in KU territory, the Jayhawks remain a strong special-teams squad. Trevor Pardula ranks second in the Big 12 in punting average (47.5 yards per kick), place kicker Matthew Wyman is fifth in the conference in field goals made (4), and the KU return game ranks second in punt-return average (15.9) and fifth in kickoff-return average (21.5). TCU, meanwhile, ranks in the middle or bottom half of the Big 12 in several special-teams categories, including punting (seventh), kickoff coverage (fifth) and field goals (fifth), but also features the conference’s best kickoff return unit (30.2 yards per return) and the third best punt return crew (14.3). Edge: Kansas.