PREVIEW: Kansas vs. Baylor

BearsIllustrated.com takes a quick look at the Baylor Bears' next opponent; the Kansas Jayhawks.

In 2001, when Mark Mangino took over the Kansas job, there were plenty of skeptics questioning this hire. These critics were saying that as previous offensive coordinator at University of Oklahoma, Mangino had problems calling conservative games with all the talent he had. The biggest example was losing to Oklahoma State in Norman in 2001, which prevented the Sooners from playing in the national championship.

However, five years later the critics are becoming less and less of Mangino's coaching job. He has led Kansas to two bowl appearances in four years; last year winning the Fort Worth bowl 42-3 over Houston to give the Jayhawks their first bowl win in ten years. Mangino has also brought victories over Nebraska and Missouri and nearly beating the soon to be rose bowl bound Texas Longhorns which needed a 22 yd 4th down run by the great Vince Young which not only gave Texas the win, but also a 13 million dollar payday in Pasadena, California.

This new success has proven one thing to all big 12 teams; Mangino's Jayhawks are not to be overlooked. This year's team is no different than the years past. Kansas has already given #17 ranked Nebraska a scare on the road in which Kansas rallied from down 24-7 to take the game into overtime to barely lose 39-32. Kansas also led the ranked Texas A&M Aggies the entire game at home, but gave up the lead in the last minute to narrowly lose to a ranked team again.

Last week the Kansas offense returned Kerry Meier to the offense which saw a spark and scored 32 points against the Cowboys of Oklahoma St. If Meier is struggling Mangino will not hesitate to put in backup quarterback Adam Barmann, who has seen plenty of action already on the grid iron. However, if the Kansas offense is to put up big numbers, it is most likely going to come from the running back position with superstar Jon Cornish. Cornish has a good chance with Adrian Peterson's injury to lead the big 12 rushing by the end of the year. He is averaging 5.2 yards a carry this season and has been a nightmare for opposing defenses. The biggest key of the game for the Bears is to stop Cornish and to not let Kansas establish a running game early. In the wide receivers department, Kansas is led by Brian Murph who is there possession receiver, but the big plays come mainly from Dexton Fields who has four touchdowns on the season. The offense seems to be finding a better groove lately, but it will be up to the defense of Baylor to stop these weapons and give the offense a chance to go to work on the Kansas defense.

The best news for Baylor fans is that their offense is a pass first offense; which is what the Kansas defense can't seem to stop this year. They are 12 in the Big 12 in pass defense and 116 out of 117 in the nation. Shawn Bell needs to have a big day and it should be a score fest. If the offensive line can buy the time for Bell, he should be able to spot an open man, because the secondary of Kansas has had trouble in different coverages all year and defensive coordinator Bill Young has tried to keep it pretty simple this season with prevents and zone reads on the receivers all season. The rush defense is a little more adequate ranging in the middle of the pack in the conference led by a steady pass rush and good run stoppers who seem to start strong in every game.

Kansas will be playing hard and hungrier than ever to get their first big 12 win this season, but don't let the 0-3 conference record fool you. Every game has been close and Mangino is a good coach. Similar to Morriss, both coaches seem to get the best of their players no matter who the opponent is on the other side of the football. With all the intangibles such as a winless team or the other playing on their Homecoming, a game like this could come down to turnovers. If the offense (which is third in the nation for most turnovers) can hold on to the football, the Baylor Bears will have a great chance to win in front of the homecoming crowd and move to 3-1 in conference this season.

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