When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Rice rush defense
The Jayhawks raced out of the gate right where they left off in the running game, with James Sims leading a talented and balanced attack that nearly gained 300 yards on the ground in a season-opening victory against South Dakota. Sims is KU’s workhorse, but this year he has help, as Darrian Miller, Taylor Cox, Brandon Bourbon and Tony Pierson all are capable of carrying the load. The Owls had trouble stopping KU’s rushing attack last season, and that was without Sims, who missed the game because of a suspension. Edge: Kansas.
Kansas pass offense vs. Rice pass defense
Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps finished just 10-of-20 for 110 yards and a touchdown in the opener against South Dakota, but five of those incompletions were drops, and a couple more were throw-aways. If Heaps, who threw with great confidence and accuracy throughout the night, can get some help from his supporting cast, KU’s passing game could become much more potent. The Rice secondary features senior cornerback Phillip Gaines, who was picked as the Conference-USA preseason defensive player of the year. And both Gaines and the KU passing game will be tested in this one. Edge: Push.
When Rice has the ball
Rice rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
In their season opener against Texas A&M;, the Owls racked up 306 yards on the ground and averaged six yards per carry. Given that the Jayhawks gave up good chunks of rushing yardage to South Dakota last week and the fact that Rice returns a ton of experience up front, it’s logical to expect the Owls to have success against KU’s inexperienced defense this week. Charles Ross, Rice’s version of James Sims on the Owls’ all-time rushing lists, is a punishing runner who, at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, can drag tacklers for extra yardage even after contact. In addition, quarterback Taylor McHargue is a threat to run, too. Two weeks ago against A&M;, McHargue gained 78 yards on nine carries, while Ross went for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Edge: Rice.
Rice pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
The Owls were not intimidated by Texas A&M;’s ranking or name recognition, and a big reason for that was the confidence of McHargue, who led an offense that took it right at the Aggies to the tune of 509 yards of total offense. McHargue was far from perfect in the loss, but he did complete 62 percent of his passes and toss two touchdowns. In addition, four Rice wide receivers caught three passes or more. McHargue is not purely a pocket passer, and he’ll tuck the ball and run whenever he sees an opportunity. But he has a capable arm and great command of the Owls’ offense, which makes him dangerous in the passing game, even if opposing defenses are able to keep him from running wild. Edge: Push.
Last season, it was Rice place kicker Chris Boswell who ripped the Jayhawks’ hearts out with a last-second, game-winning field goal in Lawrence. That was just the beginning, and, for his career, Boswell has hit 11 field goals of 50 yards or more. While Rice returns its most dangerous special-teams weapon, the Jayhawks appear to have just discovered theirs. And it’s debatable which player that is. Punter and kickoff specialist Trevor Pardula had a great Week 1. Place kicker Matthew Wyman was perfect on his attempts. And return man Connor Embree helped set up the KU offense in great shape all night. Special teams are important every week, but they could be enormous in this match-up, and they appear to be either side’s for the taking. Edge: Push.