There will be some interesting storylines tonight when the Kansas Jayhawks meet the Iowa State Cyclones on the Ice World of Hoth (Ames, IA). The bitterly cold weather will be front and center as the biggest storyline.
With gametime temperatures expected to be near 10 degrees before you even start talking about wind chills, both teams will have their wills tested, as this kind of cold is usually reserved for the middle of winter, long after college football season is done.
The conditions will test the Kansas offense, which will be led by true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, who led the Jayhawks to a 31-19 win over West Virginia in his first career start. Kansas aided him by rushing for over 300 yards as a team, thanks to new formations that were spread based, much like what is seen by many teams in the Big 12, most notably Baylor. The idea was to stretch the field from sideline to sideline, allowing the Kansas running backs to gash the defense. Senior tailback James Sims did just that, rushing for 211 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
If the Jayhawks can replicate that kind of effort, they may be able to win their second consecutive Big 12 game after snapping a 27 game league losing streak. A win would also give them their first road win since beating UTEP in the second week of the 2009 season and it'd be the first league road win since a 35-33 win at Iowa State in 2008. Here are five things to watch for tonight on the frozen tundra of Jack Trice Stadium.
1. The Cold
There are cold weather games in the Big 12 and in college football, but not too often are single digit temperatures and below zero wind chills factors in games. Those are usually reserved for late season and playoff games in the NFL. However, these are kids that will be pumped to play under the lights and in the cold. Still, how will it hamper execution? Whoever can negotiate that will be in good shape.
2. Does the weather quite the atmosphere?
Yes, it's Ames, Iowa, where they grow and harvest winter, but will the combination of a very cold night and a late kick tae much of the bite out of the sellout crowd at Jack Trice Stadium? If so, the game becomes almost like a neutral environment for Kansas and offensive execution becomes easier, at least, theoretically.
3. Does the offense build off last week?
Speaking of the offense, do they pick up where they left off after last week's emotional win at home? If they can produce at the same level, they could very well win a game that would set up a huge finale next week against Kansas State, where the chance to finish the season 5-7 would be a realistic possibility. That would be a huge boost heading into the offseason and be proof of big time improvement off of last year. It'd be a far cry from where things were a few weeks ago.
4. Which Iowa State team shows up?
Paul Rhoads is one of the best and most passionate coaches in the league. Yes, his team is 1-9, but his teams always play hard and will buckle up their chin straps and bring it to you. Still, they've had so many bad breaks and heartbreak that you wonder if they could collapse and implode, similar to what Kansas did against them in last year's home finale.
That night, the Jayhawks were just emotionally beaten after several close calls that always went against them and the Cyclones put them out of their misery, beating them 51-23 after then freshman Sam Richardson came off the bench to spark Iowa State. Still, it'd be foolish to think that a Paul Rhoads coached team will bring nothing less than their maximum effort against Kansas, despite having victory snatched away in the final seconds a couple of times this season, most notably, at home against Texas and TCU
5. James Sims
If you are a Kansas fan or just a college football fan, you can't not love you some James Sims. The senior tailback plays every game like it's the BCS Championship game and leaves it all out on the field. For a kid who's seen a lot of bad at Kansas, you root for him to finish his career with some good. Last week was great, but two more wins would be greater for man who really deserved better days at Kansas. It would have been nice to see him get to play in a bowl game. It would still be nice to see him finish the year with a three game winning streak and have those wins come against quality Big 12 teams, especially next week's Senior Day opponent…