The University of Kansas football team will look to get back in the win column after dropping the conference opener.
Kansas suffered a 26-7 loss to Baylor to begin Big 12 play, and will return home for a meeting with No. 21 Oklahoma State. Last week, Oklahoma State scored just 17 points in a 41-17 home loss to Texas Tech to begin the conference slate. The Cowboys have won the previous eight meetings with the Jayhawks.
“I know they’re going to be coming in here angry, but we’re angry, too,” Kansas head coach David Beaty said. “We both have something to atone for, and we’re going to see who can get their team ready the best, and that challenge is on me and on our staff.”
Oklahoma State travels to Kansas at 11 a.m. Saturday.
BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA STATE:
Quarterback — Redshirt senior Taylor Cornelius is leading the Cowboys’ offense after Mason Rudolph went to the NFL. Cornelius threw for 728 passing yards in the first games of the season, which set a program record for most combined passing yards in a quarterback’s first two career starts. Cornelius ranks No. 8 in FBS with 1,229 passing yards and is among the top 20 in passing yards per game.
Running backs — Oklahoma State is led by one of the best running backs in the country. Junior Justice Hill has had a rushing touchdown in 10 straight games, which is one shy of tying the longest streak in Big 12 history. Hill is fourth in the nation with 8.43 yards per carry and ranks 12th with five rushing touchdowns. Last season, Hill led the conference and ranked in the top 20 in the nation with 112.8 rushing yards per contest.
Receivers — The Cowboys have multiple options in the passing game. Tyron Johnson, a redshirt junior, is second on the team with 206 receiving yards this year and ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 20.6 yards per catch. Tylan Wallace is the third underclassman in OSU history to post three straight 100-yard receiving performances.
Offensive line — Arlington Hambright (tackle) and Marcus Keyes (guard) make up the left side of the line, while Larry Williams (guard) and Teven Jenkins (tackle) are the two players holding down the right side. Johnny Wilson is the team’s center, and has started in 14 straight games for Oklahoma State. In the past eight seasons, the Cowboys have ranked in the top four nationally in total offense four times.
DEFENSE Defensive line — Jarrell Owens and Jordan Brailford will be the two defensive ends for the Cowboys. Brailford leads the Big 12 and is 15th in the FBS in sacks per game. He notched 57 total tackles last season, including 34 solo stops. Darrion Daniels and Trey Carter are slated to hold down the defensive tackle spots. Oklahoma State leads the nation with 19 total sacks, which is three more than Alabama and Clemson.
Linebackers — Calvin Bundage and Justin Phillips are listed as the team’s starters in the linebacker unit. Bundage has paced the Cowboys with 30 tackles and 21 solo stops through the early part of the season. Phillips leads the Oklahoma State defense with 18 career starts, including 16 straight games of getting the starting nod. Kenneth Edison-McGruder can also play both safety and linebacker for the Cowboys.
Secondary — For the Cowboys, A.J Green and Rodarius Williams are expected to start at cornerback. Green ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 with four interceptions last year, including a game-winning interception at Iowa State. Malcolm Rodriguez and Thabo Mwaniki are listed as the team’s starting safeties. Mwaniki, a sophomore, was the only true freshman to start a game for the Cowboys last season.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Redshirt junior kicker Matt Ammendola has made 18 of his last 19 field goal attempts, and ranks 13th among all active kickers with an 81.6 field goal percentage. Redshirt senior Zach Sinor, the team’s punter, led all FBS punters in 2016 with 62.5 percent of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
FUN FACT — Oklahoma State had earned a reputation for its ability to block kicks. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Cowboys have blocked 23 kicks. That mark is tied for first with Temple and BYU, while Rutgers ranks fourth with 20.
VEGAS SAYS… According to Bovada, Oklahoma State is a 17-point favorite over Kansas as of Friday afternoon. The Jayhawks are coming off a 19-point loss to Baylor, in which they were a 7.5-point underdog. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are looking to bounce back from a loss to Texas Tech in the conference opener. I’m willing to give up that many points, regardless of who plays at quarterback for Kansas.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Kansas 17
Record against spread: 3-1
After ending a 46-game road losing streak, the University of Kansas football team will look to record a winning streak for the first time since 2011.
Kansas (1-1) notched a 31-7 victory at Central Michigan last weekend, and returns home for the final contest before Big 12 play. Rutgers (1-1) is coming off a 52-3 loss at Ohio State, but the team did win the season opener with a 35-7 victory over Texas State.
“We’ve got a really good opponent who played one of the better opponents I’ve seen on tape in a long time,” head coach David Beaty said. “So don’t put a lot of stock into that score. That is a really good football team that they played and they hit on all cylinders Saturday. The one we’re playing is a talented football team. So we’re going to have our hands full.”
Kansas plays host to Rutgers at 11 a.m. Saturday.
BREAKING DOWN RUTGERS:
Quarterback — Artur Sitkowski became the first Rutgers true freshman to start the season opener since 2011, completing 20 of 30 passes in his first collegiate start. However, Sitkowski suffered an injury with 22 seconds left in the first half against Ohio State and his status remains uncertain for the game against Kansas, though I imagine he plays based on reports from practice.
Running backs — Raheem Blackshear has averaged 5.5 yards per carry with 331 rushing on 60 career carries for Rutgers. He paced the team with seven receptions against Texas State and leads the team with eight first downs through the first two games. Jonathan Hilliman, a transfer from Boston College, is the team’s most experienced player on the roster with 44 career games, scoring two touchdowns against Texas State in the season opener.
Receivers — Bo Melton led the team in receiving yards for the third time in his career, recording 57 yards against Texas State. He hauled in four passes in the win, which matched his total from 12 games last season. In addition, Rutgers will lean on tight end Jerome Washington, who paced the squad with 28 catches for 282 yards in 2017. Washington earned the top spot on SportsCenter Top-Ten Plays after an acrobatic catch against Nebraska last year.
BUTT CATCH! pic.twitter.com/3HyxhCPUH7— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 23, 2017
Offensive line — The Scarlet Knights have trotted out the same five players to start both games on the offensive line. Kamaal Seymour holds down the right tackle spot, while Jonah Jackson plays right guard. On the left side, Nick Krimin handles the guard position and Tariq Cole is starting at left tackle. Michael Maietti, meanwhile, is the team’s starting center.
Defensive line — Elorm Lumor is looking to become the first Scarlet Knight to record a sack in each of the first three games during a season since Marcus Thompson did so in 2013. Kevin Wilkins leads with team with 12 career tackles-for-loss, and has 77 total tackles in his career. Wilkins is one of four players on the team that has played in all 38 games since 2015.
Linebackers — Trevor Morris is the key player on this defense, as he is the league’s leading returning tackler. Last season, Morris finished second in the Big 10 and 18th nationally with 9.8 tackles per game. Deonte Roberts, meanwhile, was second on the team with 104 tackles in 2017. Roberts’ clip of 8.7 tackles per game ranked fifth in the Big 10 and 43rd nationally.
Secondary — Rutgers has plenty of experience in the secondary to support a talented linebacker unit. Blessuan Austin (26), Damon Hayes (11), Saquan Hampton (17), Kiy Hester (20) and Isaiah Wharton (38) have combined for 112 career starts in the defensive backfield. The Scarlet Knights recorded 12 interceptions in 2017, including nine in league play.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Justin Davidovicz converted his first career field goal attempt at Ohio State, in which he drilled a 41-yard kick. In addition, the Scarlet Knights finished fourth in the Big 10 and ranked 18th in the nation on kickoff return defense with a mark of 18.03.
FUN FACT — Since 2009, Rutgers has blocked 50 kicks (field goals and punts) on special teams, which is the most by any team in the NCAA during that span. The Scarlet Knights, who already have one blocked kick this season, have blocked multiple kicks every year since 2007.
VEGAS SAYS… According to Bovada, Kansas is a 2.5-point favorite as of Friday afternoon. It's only the seventh time the Jayhawks have been favored against an FBS team since 2010, according to Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports. In those previous six instances, Kansas is 3-3 straight up and 2-4 against the spread. If you were making me bet this game, I’d take Kansas, but it is very close.
Prediction: Kansas 28, Rutgers 24
Earlier this week, Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan officially made his win/loss prediction for the 2018 Kansas football team, picking the Jayhawks to finish David Beaty's fourth season with a 3-9 record. Clearly, that's not the only possibility for the Jayhawks, who, with a veteran group mixed with some new faces, could finish with more or certainly even fewer victories than the three Keegan's predicting. That's where the rest of us come in. Over the next three days we'll look at three more possible win totals for the 2018 Kansas football team, which opens the regular season at 6 p.m. Saturday night at home against Nicholls.
The case for 0 or 1 win for the University of Kansas football team during the 2018 season can be best made by using historical evidence.
Since David Beaty took over as head coach, the Jayhawks have gone 3-33 over the course of three years. In that time they have defeated just one FBS opponent and even lost to an FCS foe in Beaty’s debut.
That recent track record tells us that it will be tough to expect Kansas to beat an FBS team in 2018. Nicholls State, which is ranked No. 17 in the FCS preseason poll, is no cakewalk in the season opener, either. In fact, Nicholls State was tied with Texas A&M in the fourth quarter when the two teams met last year.
Kansas also lost every conference game in 2017 by an average of 32 points per game. The program still hasn’t won a road contest since Sept. 12, 2009, a streak that now spans 46 consecutive road losses.
All of this would indicate that it will be difficult for the Jayhawks to make a monumental leap this fall. The season opener will be tougher than expected, the Big 12 schedule will be daunting once again and any road contest will prove to be a tall task.
On paper, Kansas has an improved team with several returning starters and an exciting group of newcomers.
Yet the Jayhawks only have a favorable win probability in two games, according to S&P+ ratings, which Bill Connelly highlights in his preview for SB Nation. Per S&P+, Kansas has a 82 percent win probability in the season opener and a 53 percent win probability at Central Michigan in the second week of the season.
In addition, Kansas has just one other game with a win probability higher than 28 percent, and that is against Rutgers (44 percent) in the final game of nonconference play.
The schedule doesn’t bode well for the Jayhawks to win more than three games for the first time since 2009. Since then, they also have only won three games in just three of those years. And finding a second win isn’t even a lock for a team currently on an 11-game losing streak.
Because of all that, I find it hard to predict more than one win for the 2018 season.
It’s no secret that the Big 12 has been home to some talented signal callers over the years.
Most recently, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft. With his departure, however, the quarterback landscape has vastly change in a single season.
West Virginia senior Will Grier is the clear frontrunner of the group, and has some serious Heisman potential. After Grier, though, there is a lot of uncertainty for the league’s quarterback position. In fact, Grier is the only player returning who finished in the top six in passings yards per game in 2017.
And that was evident during the 2018 Big 12 Media Days, as five quarterbacks — two from Kansas State — and five running backs were available to answer questions.
“There are some very good (running backs),” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said during Big 12 Media Days. “I think we have two very good ones and there are other guys in the league that have good tail backs. It’s a position where I don't think you can have enough good tail backs, and obviously, anytime you have a guy that can make you miss in the league, you have to play them.”
Patterson brought junior Sewo Olonilua to speak at Media Days after a strong sophomore campaign. Olonilua had 64 carries for 330 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. Coming out of high school, Olonilua was the No. 1 ranked athlete in Texas and No. 13 overall player in the state by 247Sports.com.
But Olonilua wasn’t even one of the top-10 rushers last season, in terms of rushing yards per game. TCU junior Darius Anderson averaged 69.8 rushing yards per contest in 13 games, which ranked sixth in the Big 12.
Seven out of the top-10 rushing leaders in the conference are back for another campaign, including Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill. As a sophomore, Hill paced the league with 112.8 yards per outing on 268 attempts in 13 contests. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy believes that Hill has only scratched the surface of his potential.
“He will continue to improve,” Gundy said. “Your first year you're finding your way. Your second year you start to learn how to play the game at this level, and in your third year it's really a year if you're as talented as he is and you can relax and play. I would expect to see that from him.”
In addition, junior running backs David Montgomery of Iowa State and Rodney Anderson of Oklahoma are back after finishing in the top five among rushings leaders in the conference.
After taking over the starting job in mid-October, Anderson finished with 1,161 rushing yards last season to finish fourth in rushing yards per game with 82.9. Montgomery, meanwhile, ranked third in the Big 12 in rushing yards (1,146) and yards per game (88.2). He also led the nation in forced missed tackles (109).
“Has he exceeded my expectations? I don't think so,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “I think the greatest thing about David is who he is as a worker, what he is in terms of worker, attitude, commitment to be the best version of himself, that's never wavered. Nothing has surprised me of why he's been able to have great success and I think there are great things to come from David Montgomery.”
There are also a pair of talented backs playing in the Sunflower State. Kansas State junior Alex Barnes and Kansas junior Khalil Herbert posted top-10 campaigns last season. Barnes ran for 819 yards on 146 attempts, while Herbert toted the ball 120 times to rack up 663 yards.
As a result, Big 12 defenses might be forced to adjust this season after years of prioritizing the pass. After all, a Big 12 running back hasn’t won the Heisman Trophy since 1998 when Ricky Williams did it for Texas. Over that span, five quarterbacks have netted the award.
“There are some talented, young players,” Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “There's a handful of others who can play for anybody and with the zone coverages and teams dropping everybody out and playing the dime defenses, teams are going to be leaning on running backs more and more and you're going to see productive years from those guys.”