Kansas Game Preview

UCLA goes on the road again, this time against Kansas, and the game has some similar factors as last week's Alabama game...

NOTEWORTHY FACTORS:

-- The weather is supposed to be hot, humid and rainy. Much like the weather expected in Alabama last week.

-- The last time UCLA opened a season with two road games was in 1986.

-- Kansas Head Coach is on the hot seat. Coming to Kansas in 1997, he had a reputation for being imaginative offensively, but hasn't had the talent to pull it off. He's 19-27 in five years. They went 4-7 a year ago.

-- With a 4-7 record last year, Kansas returns only about 9 starters from last year's team. All the returning starters are seniors, so the othe 12 starters are juniors and younger, which makes for a young, inexperienced team.

-- Kansas opened the season with a 24-10 victory over Division I-AA Southwest Missouri State.

-- Memorial Stadium holds 50,250, so UCLA should expect Kansas to have such a home-field advantage as they faced against Alabama. Memorial has artificial turf, but it's considered the good, latest type of artificial turf that gives and doesn't cause injury.

-- The UCLA coaches and Kansas coaches are well connected, having coached together and been friends for many years. Kansas' Offensive Coordinator Tom Hayes was an assistant under UCLA Head Coach Terry Donahue from 1980 to 1988. Hayes most recently spent the last five years with the Washington Redskins as their secondary coach.

-- Terry Donahue's last game as UCLA's head coach was against Kansasin the 1995 Aloha Bowl. Kansas won, 51-30.

-- The game will be played at 9:30 in the morning west coast time and 11:30 central time. UCLA has practiced at in the morning all week to help acclimate.

-- The 20 points UCLA scored against Alabama is the fewest in a victory since Bob Toledo became coach in 1996. That's a span of 59 games.

-- UCLA's biggest challenge against Kansas could be the possibility of a letdown. After beating Alabama in an emotional game in Tuscaloosa, and this game sandwiched between that and it's Pac-10 and home opener against Arizona State next week, UCLA will be challenged to get up for this game mentally.

-- The Kansas game is remarkably similar to the Alabama game in many respects: On the road; hot, humid, rainy weather; an opponent who runs a similar offense, and many coaching changes (five new coaches) for the opponent in the off-season.

KANSAS'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE

Quite simply, Kansas doesn't have the horses to hold up against the talent of UCLA's defense. The strength of UCLA's defense is its deep and talented defensive line. On the other side of the ball, Kansas had a pretty poor offensive line last season and tried to patch some holes by going the JUCO route. Four of the nine JC players that Kansas signed last year were offensive linemen. They return three starters on the line, but plug in two new starters, which isn't a great sign for a line that wasn't a strength last year.

Kansas's strength is their wide receivers. They return eight relatively experienced guys, the best probably being senior Harrison Hill, who caught 47 passes last year. Last week, a small scatback, Derrick Mills, caught a long touchdown pass. Roger Ross, a talented JC transfer receiver, suffered an ankle sprain last week but is expected to play.

Starting quarterback sophomore Zach Dyer (pictured at right) threw for 231 yards last week, but also tossed two interceptions. He'll start the game, according to Allen, but sophomore Mario Kinsey might get a big chunk of time. Kinsey had to sit out last week's game, suspended for alleging stealing a student's purse. Neither quarterback is really a standout talent. Kansas will more than likely try to rely some on Kinsey's added factor of being a run threat to try to open things up. But with a suspect line and inexperience at quarterback, you can expect UCLA to be blitzing more this week than last, and really trying to put pressure on the quarterback.

Kansas's running game was weak in their opening game, gaining only 102 yards and averaging 2.8 yards a carry. The team gets back its starting tailback in Reggie Duncan, who also was suspended for the purse-snatching incident last week. But even with his return, Kansas's running game should find it tough sledding against UCLA's front seven. UCLA will probably move its strongside linebacker up to the defensive line like it did last week against Alabama to try to completely shut down Kansas on the ground.

Expect Kansas to try to use surprise to gain yardage against UCLA, like misdirections, options, quick-hitting passes, and even a trick play or two, to try to offset UCLA's clear advantage in the trenches and give Dyer or Kinsey time to operate.

Advantage: Overwhelmingly UCLA. Expect UCLA to create havoc for Kansas's offense. Even though UCLA could be primed for a letdown, don't forget that this is a defensive unit with a big chip on its shoulder. It's looking for an opponent it can hang on the wall as a trophy, and this could be the game.

UCLA'S DEFENSE V. KANSAS'S OFFENSE

The most talent on the Jayhawk team is probably on its defensive side. The defense is led by senior nose tackle Nate Dwyer, who made second-team All-Big 12 last season.

The line could be the Kansas's defense best unit, with some experience to go along with Dwyer. Also, one of the best players on the team is middle linebacker Marcus Rogers, who led the team in tackles. So, up the middle, the Jayhawks are strong.

But on the sides, it's a little dicey. Kansas didn't do very well at containing runs to the outside last year, and they have to fill holes at outside linebacker and defensive back. Again, Kansas tried to plug holes in the off-season by bringing in some JC players. A young player who has some talent is sophomore outside linebacker Glenn Robinson (pictured at left).

Last year, though, overall, the defense was better at defending the pass than the run. But the problem is Kansas has some questions at defensive back this year. Senior Andrew Davison is good, but he's breaking in new guys around him at the other DB spots.

UCLA will probably have a pretty balanced attack on Saturday. With UCLA believing they can run pretty easily against Kansas, it's just too compelling for them not to want to take advantage of their running game if it's pretty evident that DeShaun Foster (pictured at right) can gain easy yards. But Coach Toledo knows that it's vital he get quarterback Cory Paus in good form for the Pac-10 opener next week and will more than likely air it out more than he did in the Alabama game.

Advantage: Not a hard call here either. UCLA has far too much talent for Kansas's defense to stay with them. The big question will be whether the UCLA offense can mount and sustain some good drives, rather than just scoring by big plays. It was a weakness last year, depending pretty heavily on the Freddie-Mitchell-big-play. Without Mitchell, UCLA needs to be able to sustain long drives, eat up clock, and convert it into touchdowns, not field goals. With UCLA putting up its lowest scoring total in a win in 6 years, the big question going into this game will be if UCLA's offense can score like it's been know to do in the last several years, but can it score through good, sustained drives.

PREDICTION:

The letdown factor and the weather will take some points off the board for UCLA. But it simply isn't going to be enough to allow Kansas to be in this game. Last week, a Division two-A school stayed with the Jayhawks for a good chunk of the game. UCLA is a different breed of animal and just has too many thoroughbreds for Kansas to overcome. They could stay in it for a while, making up for the difference in talent with some imagination on offense, but it won't last long.

UCLA 37

Kansas 13


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