Looking down, you’ll notice that four of the five matchups focus on Kansas’s defense against Toledo’s offense. That’s because the Jayhawks likely won’t struggle to put up yards or points against a Toledo defense that is allowing 52 points per game.
Instead, Kansas’s chances to win focus on its ability to stop Toledo’s offense, and in particular, the Rockets’ passing game that put up huge numbers against Central Michigan last week, but not so great ones against Purdue.
The matchups for this week are:
1) Chris Harris, cornerback, vs. Stephen Williams, wide receivers
Okay, so we picked the Harris matchup against Central Michigan as well, but with Aqib Talib on one side, it means Harris will see plenty of action. He’s performed admirably, especially for a true freshman, showing nice hips and coverage skills along with the attitude to come up and tackle well. The KU coaches aren’t doing him any favors either, keeping Talib on one side of the field and Harris on the other, without rotating Talib to follow the other team’s top wide receiver. That means Harris will see time against Williams, a 6-foot-5 wideout with decent speed, at least for part of the game. Williams had a big game last week and is averaging 21.5 yards per catch. Expect Williams to test Harris at least once, and probably early.
After a monster finish to 2006, Brorsen has yet to record a sack in 2007. He’s a good positional player with excellent technique who has a knack for being around the ball. Brorsen hasn’t been playing as much in pass-rushing situations, but Toledo’s tendency to throw the ball on any down means he’ll have to get to the quarterback. That could prove to be a problem. John Greco is a two-time All-MAC candidate at offensive tackle and is considered by some to be an All-America candidate. Greco is massive at 6-5 325, and protects the back side of quarterback Aaron Opelt well. If Brorsen can’t get to Opelt, it means he’ll have more time to scour the field for his talented receiving corps.
Resby has been a booming success for the Jayhawks so far. The statistics are unspectacular, with five tackles and a recovered fumble in two games, but Resby brings speed, cover skills and hitting ability to a secondary that sorely lacked those last year. He’ll have his hands full on Saturday, from run support on back Jalen Parmele to covering inside receivers. But possibly no responsibility will be as big as when he will match up with Hopkins, a big (6-5 255) and talented tight end who snatched 54 catches and seven touchdowns last year.
4) Joe Mortensen, linebacker vs. Jalen Parmele, running back
Parmele has ideal running back numbers. He runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and he weighs more than 220 pounds. He would be a handful for most defenses, both by stretching the field and by breaking tackles. That’s where Mortensen comes in. Mortensen is having a big year, leading Kansas in tackles with 17 and tackles for loss with 5.5. With Parmele’s ability, Mortensen must show the speed to make plays along the sideline while also stepping up and delivering a blow to Parmele when he runs between the tackles. Mortensen has the ability, and he’ll have help. But he can’t have an off day.
5) Raimond Pendleton, punt returner, vs. Brett Kern, punter
Pendleton has emerged as the surprise of the early season for Kansas, returning one punt for a touchdown and averaging 18.6 yards per return. That could present a challenge for Kern, who is averaging more than 50 yards per punt. Unfortunately, as part of that, he can also overkick his coverage. Kern will need to place his punts well or risk Pendleton setting up his blocks for a big return. In a game that could get out of hand with a big play, Pendleton represents the potential dagger.
Kansas has the edge in most of the major matchups, and is better in some of the important places, like in the trenches, where they can use a steady dose of power running to wear down the Rockets. It won’t be as bloody as the Central Michigan game, but it will be close.
Kansas 45 Toledo 21