One look at the Baylor Bears 6-0 start and you are immediately caught by the numbers, which are enough to make your jaw drop. 414 yards passing and 300 yards rushing for a total of 714 yards and if that's not enough, they average about 65 points per game.
With that, the one time permanent cellar dweller of the Big 12 is no longer a joke. Now, Baylor (6-0, 3-0) is capturing national attention and a top five ranking, as they invade Lawrence, as a 35-point favorite, hoping to send Kansas (2-4, 0-3) to a 25th consecutive Big 12 loss. To avoid it, the Jayhawks will have to do the almost impossible, slow down the high octane Bears.
No one is giving Kansas much of a chance, but with the exception of the Texas Tech game this year and the Iowa State game last year, nobody has blown Kansas out of its home stadium. This game will put that theory to the ultimate test. Here's five things to watch, as the Jayhawks look to send shock waves through the college football world.
1. Will Ben Heeney and Tony Pierson play?
Charlie Weis listed several players as day-to-day much like last week. He always says he knows who will play long before Saturday, so it was no surprise when both sat out last week's loss to Oklahoma. On Tuesday, Weis said both were much better, but were "much better."
Take that as a sign that they will play and for Kansas to have a sustainable chance at winning, it would be nice if they did. Still, you can't take any chances, especially with Pierson, who suffered a concussion against Tech. here's hope both are feeling great and ready to go against Bears.
2. How do you slow down Baylor?
Great question and honestly, I have no clue. The Bears are the best perhaps in the nation, this side of Oregon in creating matchup problems that are more like nightmares. What KU can do is generate good pressure with their front four and then have the secondary stick with their man. When the Bears unleash Lache Seastrunk, Kansas must be fundamentally sound and stay within their assignments.
Most importantly, they must force turnovers and that's something they can do. The Jayhawks are well coached and stripping the ball and being in good positions to create turnovers. Doing so against Baylor, could make them very uncomfortable, as the Bears have scored 70 or more in four of the six contests and in one other, scored 69. Two weeks ago against Kansas State, the Wildcats frustrated Baylor by slowing the game down and making them execute to win. They also provided teams with a good recipe to have a chance to take them own.
Will he play and if so, which is very likely, how much impact will he have? Cozart only saw one series last week and wasn't given much to run. Tonight, expect Cozart to get much more run and have the full run of the Kansas playbook.
4. Can the Jayhawks control the line of scrimmage?
Kansas State kept Baylor from running them off the field, by grinding out drives and if not for late game turnovers, the Wildcats would have beaten them. For Kansas to have a chance to win, they must dominate up front and pound the ball with it's full stable of talented running backs. Combined that with creating Baylor turnovers and the ‘Hawks will be in business.
5. Home field advantage?
It's no secret, with the exception of its always dependable diehards, Kansas has one of the more apathetic fanbases you'll find, with many, but not all students only thinking about basketball and talking down on the football program and the people who are busting their butt to get better.
However, for a night, can the fans show u and make noise and make Memorial Stadium seem any bit hostile? This past week, Weis credited a rabid showing by the fans in addition to a great gameplan for Kansas State's near upset of Baylor. With a 6:00 kickoff, he pleaded for fans to show up and yell, even if it's just directed at him.
It's sad that it comes to that, because nobody wants a big win more than Weis, who no doubt is up long after many are asleep, burning the midnight oil to put his team in thebest position to get a W.
With it being a night game, perhaps the Bears might not enjoy their trip to Lawrence, where temperatures could dip into the 30s before game's end. A loud crowd could start a domino effect that could very well have Baylor on the ropes and fighting just to get out of there and get back to Texas unscathed. Granted a lot has to happen to generate that scenario, but that's why they actually play the game.
Keys To A Kansas Victory
It's simple. You generate turnovers, dominate the line of scrimmage and control time of possession with your run game and then use that to create big plays in the passing game, which must do much better than 16 yards of production. There must also be no penalties. You can't add yourself to the schedule.
On defense, do your best and look to create turnovers, as well as getting off the field on third down. Failure to do so will result in a long night. On special teams, do much better than last week, when Kansas missed two PAT's with one being blocked and returned for safety, as well as having a punt blocked for a safety.
Yes, it's a very difficult proposition, but at some point Kansas has to have something go their way. Though, it be unlikely tonight, you never know. That's why they play the games and you can be sure that the Jayhawks will do their best to turn this game into a street brawl.