Can KU actually beat Nebraska?


Kansas defensive end Jake Laptad knocks the ball loose from Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 at Kivisto Field. The fumble was recovered by Colorado.

Kansas defensive end Jake Laptad knocks the ball loose from Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 at Kivisto Field. The fumble was recovered by Colorado. by Nick Krug

During a third-quarter daze while watching last night’s Atlanta Falcons vs. Baltimore Ravens NFL game on The NFL Network, I began thinking the unthinkable.

What if Kansas won this game on Saturday?

I know, I know. It’s virtually a lock that Nebraska, ranked No. 9 in the nation, is going to win and win big. But is it that hard to envision a scenario in which the Jayhawks pull off the upset?

I know. “Yes” seems like the obvious answer, so while I watched and wondered if the Falcons really were good enough to win the Super Bowl this year, I came up with short list of questions and answers that might help us better evaluate KU’s chances this weekend.

Take a look.

Question 1: How many turnovers would the Jayhawks need to create to have a chance?

Answer: KU coach Turner Gill said the Jayhawks must get three or more. I think he’s right. So far this season, Nebraska has fumbled an astonishing 31 times. The Huskers have lost only 11 of those fumbles, but the mere thought of that many balls bouncing around on the turf in Lincoln made me think that getting three or more turnovers might not be that tough. For the sake of the game, let’s say the Jayhawks get four. Two fumbles, one interception and one fluke takeaway on special teams.

Question 2: How many turnovers can the KU offense give up while still being OK?

Answer: None. No questions asked. When you’re playing a team as talented as Nebraska at their place, you have to be nearly perfect in every aspect of the game to have a chance. But the one area that you absolutely cannot slip up is giveaways. Let’s say Quinn Mecham stays hot, takes care of the interceptions and the KU running backs run hard with two hands on the ball at all times.

Question 3: How many points will the Jayhawks have to score to win this game?

Answer: For Iowa State last week, 32 was the magic number. For Missouri the week before, 32 would have done it there, too. 32 points also would’ve been enough for South Dakota State and for Texas. So, in the last six games — of which Nebraska has lost just one — 32 points would’ve been enough to beat the Huskers four times. Let’s say the KU defense is up to the task of slowing the NU offense down the way it was against Georgia Tech in Week 2. If that happens, 32 points could win this game.

Question 4: How many points can the Jayhawks give up without digging too deep of a hole to climb out of?

Answer: Realistically speaking, this number can’t be any higher than the number from question three, right? So it won’t be. If the Jayhawks can hold the Huskers to 30 points or fewer — forcing a few drives to end with field goals instead of touchdowns — they may have a chance to win this game.

Question 5: What do the guys in Las Vegas think about this week’s KU-NU matchup?

Answer: Oddsmakers set the opening line for this weekend’s game at Nebraska by 32. It hasn’t stayed there. As of Thursday night, the line had been bet up to NU -35 in most spots, with the over/under set at 61. When Nebraska played K-State earlier this year, the line was NU -11 and the over/under was set at 47. The Cornhuskers covered that number by themselves, winning 48-7. If NU’s favored by 35 and the over/under is set at 61, doesn’t that mean that Vegas believes KU might be able to score some points, too?

OK, so what have we learned?

Plug those hypotheticals into the computer and here’s one scenario that might come out. It’s based on nothing more than a simple analysis of few facts and figures that pertain to both teams: If KU can force (or at least get) four Nebraska turnovers, give up none of its own, score at least 32 points and hold the Huskers to 31 or less, KU will have a chance to win this game.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done. But I think this exercise shows that, despite the fact that most people think this is a guaranteed laugher for Nebraska, circumstances do exist that say Kansas could compete.

I think they will, but I don’t think they’ll win. Nebraska 45, Kansas 21.


DSommersby 7 years, 7 months ago

B E L I E V E !!!!!! We are getting this done. Rock Chalk!

truefan 7 years, 7 months ago

All you have to do is look at last year's ISU vs. NU game. ISU would have lost that game by 30+ if Nebraska hadn't turned the ball over 5 times. There is also something to be said for momentum and confidence. If we can force a turnover and then score our players will start to believe that they can win and sometimes that's all it takes.

I won't guarantee a victory, but I'm with you that stranger things have happened and it certainly is possible. That's why I watch the game, you can't call it a loss until the game is played through the 4th quarter. Last week proves that as well.

waywardJay 7 years, 7 months ago

they turned it over a madden-esque 8 times, fyi. :)

Studogg 7 years, 7 months ago

Interesting analysis, Matt. It's still probably "pie in the sky," but interesting nonetheless.

Jared Grillot 7 years, 7 months ago

"Probably"? However, doesn't mean it isn't fun to wishfully think about :)

Michael Leiker 7 years, 7 months ago

How much did Sunflower pay you to write this article??

Lone_salina_kufan 7 years, 7 months ago

I think the win last week, plus the DJ Marshall return, and Turner's return to NU, will have this team playing inspired football. We lose, but its not gonna be a blow out, which at this point, would be something to build on moving forward.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 7 months ago

As opposed to wasting time on this, the answer is "no."

bennettcl 7 years, 7 months ago

I will say one thing. Of the three games we have left, Nebraska scares me the least.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 7 months ago

Well...stranger things have happened...

Who thought that Michael Jackson would be dead and Ozzie Osborne and Keith Richards would still be performing??

Who thought the Giants and the Rangers would be in the World the same time??

Who thought the Kansas Jayhawks could score 35 points in a fourth quarter.....against anybody??

Who thought the St.Louis Rams would be tied for first place??

Hey, you won't win unless you think you can win. [I guess General George Custer didn't want it bad enough!!]

gchawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Good comparisons. We've been on the losing end of some pretty remarkable upsets in recent times, albeit basketball, sure would be nice to be on the receiving end of an equally incredible upset. Rock Chalk guys, it can be done.

Ron Prichard 7 years, 7 months ago

I saw that, too, and it cracked me up. I know what he meant, though. Actually, a pretty interesting analysis. A lot of things have to go right, but you never say never.

Ben Kliewer 7 years, 7 months ago

I love the enthusiasm. I'm as big of a Jayhawk fan as any...and I can easily get caught up and excited in my head about KU having a chance in this one... But unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that we will probably get beat by 35 points...or more. I really hope I'm wrong, waaaaay wrong. But the most likely scenario is that we lose big. If, IF we actually play inspired football (like we've shown at times to be able to do...temporarily), we'll make a respectable ball club out of ourselves for the duration of the game in Lincoln. But win? Unlikely. Again, I hope I'm way off. I would love to eat that crow. Hell, I'd go back for seconds, and polish it off with a tall, cool Budweiser.

Jared Grillot 7 years, 7 months ago

Those guys in Vegas generally don't make money by being THAT wrong... a 35 point spread is definitely not a confidence builder, but as I have said elsewhere, blind, delusional hope is more fun than the very likely reality.

Yakihawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Would you eat the moon if it was made of barbecue spare ribs?

waywardJay 7 years, 7 months ago

They could be trying to get people to put money on the Underdog..... Spotting a team that just had a 35 point quarter last week.... a 35 point "LEAD"... Should be Gambling sense.... this is an extremely hard line to cover. 5 touchdowns, when you cannot throw the football consistantly..... both teams prefer the run, and both teams have turnover issues......

If I were a gambling man, I would have put money on Kansas.

mikehawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Can KU beat Nebraska? No. But they can continue to improve, play hard, smart, and consistent football, and make them work for their win. That would be special if they could accomplish those objectives. But win? No.

panalytic 7 years, 7 months ago

Remember earlier in the year when Coach Gill thought we would play better against running teams and we beat Georgia Tech? Well, we may match up better with Nebraska than most people think. I have been saying we may surprise some people in the Nebraska game.

Nice job of Matt to at least discuss the idea of winning and Oakville was pretty funny too.

HawkNVegas 7 years, 7 months ago

Could they in an imaginary world, yep, the Jayhawk football team is #1 in all polls and undefeated and won the championship.

In reality, come Sunday we'll be discussing the reasons why it all went so horribly wrong, and we'll try to rationalize why we were beat by a better team because we all love KU so much.

No we won't win, live in reality, not fantasy, it helps your heart hurt less.

Jared Grillot 7 years, 7 months ago

It's a 35 point spread. How, exactly, could it possibly go "wrong"? Will we get beat extra-brutally? How is it "rationalizing" to say we got beat by a better team when, by pretty much every measure, they are a better team? Come Sunday, we'll be discussing how it went exactly as the entire world predicted. I have no actual expectation to win, but you seem to be a little extra-negative. It's ok. Relax. It's just fun to imagine - no one here is actually self-deluding.

Randy Bombardier 7 years, 7 months ago

I think we realistically need 5 or more turnovers. I would make Taylor Martinez beat you through the air, then man up on his likely receivers. Blitz like crazy. If we can get a few breaks it could happen.

JBurtin 7 years, 7 months ago

I can understand why most people wouldn't give us a chance in this game. It's just so much easier to be pleasantly surprised than to have hope in the first place.

As for me, I don't count us out in this game. I think that there's little question that if all season long our team had played as hard as they did in the fourth quarter of the Colorado game then this season could have gone much differently.

So why didn't they? Try as you might you'll never make freshmen play like seniors.

The win last week was certainly against lesser competition, but it was an incredibly dominating performance. That level of effort would have easily been enough to blow the doors off of the Iowa State team that just came within one play of beating Nebraska.

Nebraska still has more talent across the board but if they walk into this game over confident against an incredibly amped up and motivated group of Jayhawks they just might realize a bit too late that our boys came to play.

JBurtin 7 years, 7 months ago

If someone had asked me at the start of he fourth quarter last week if I thought we had a chance to come back and win I would have answered "no chance in hell".

waywardJay 7 years, 7 months ago

both of those games you are warning us about were losses....

BURT 7 years, 7 months ago

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KU_FanSince75 7 years, 7 months ago

Well, if South Dakota State Jackrabbits can play with Nebraska. . . . . . you gotta believe Jayhawks!

Brennan Keller 7 years, 7 months ago

Ill admit ive been down on the KU football team this year, but we need to have some faith in this team. They are playing with a will to win, and it appears as if the players might be buying into Coach Gill's coaching style. They are coming off a great win, and the players' confidence is at a team high! Maybe just maybe, this young team will give the huskers a run for their money! KU has nothing to lose in this game, and the players know that. Look for KU to give the huskers everything they have. Nebraska edges ku late in the 4th after a couple 3 and outs for the KU offense.

KU-31 nebraska-45

Ben Kliewer 7 years, 7 months ago

Two things. 1. HawkNVegas, as I made a very rational statement earlier regarding supporting our team, while at the same time facing the reality of who the better team is, I feel comfortable in making this statement. And this doesn't just go to you... We post on these message boards because we all bleed crimson and blue, I mean, right? Except for the occasional trolls (soobawls) we are "homers" and "jayhawkers" and the like. Right? So, even when facing the reality that our team blows this year, why can't we still be supportive and hopeful, even when acknowledging our team will probably lose. Why do so many posters hate on the Hawks? 2. Jayhawkinnebr, I'm sure everyone appreciates your warnings, and NU and CU leaving the Big 12 means that the worst fans in the nation will no longer be in our conference. But you just outed yourself by referring to everyone else as KU fans. Troll.

BURT 7 years, 7 months ago

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waywardJay 7 years, 7 months ago

To me, Tait asked the wrong question.

Can we ... Of course we can. That's why the game is played......

Will We beat them?

That's debatable

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