Kansas is 1-0 heading into Saturday's game at Rice (4:30 Pacific on the CBS Sports Network if you're at all interested.... the actual CBS Network will be a little busy televising some other game.)
My alma mater was also 1-0 after their first game last year.... and proceeded to lose 11 in a row. That losing streak began.... with a loss to Rice in week two. The Owls scored ten 4th quarter points, including a last-second field goal, to take it 25-24, and start KU spinning to 1-11.
You've already seen Rice highlights this season, although that may not have been the reason you watched those highlights. They opened the season at Texas A&M, and held Johnny Football to no stats in the first half... of course, that was the half he was suspended. Then he made the universal symbol for “straight cash, homey.” Anyway, they had last week off and this is their home opener.
Misleading stat of the week, courtesy the KU media guide: “By holding the (South Dakota) Coyotes to 67 yards passing (in game one), Kansas is second in the country in total pass defense behind defending National Champion Alabama.” I mean.... yeah, I guess. But a) Alabama did not play an FBS team and b) it's only one freaking game! The team that is most impressive on that list is Washington State, who, in two games- at Auburn and at USC- has allowed 153 passing yards. They're third on that “total pass defense list”, and obviously tops for any team that's played two games. But hey, whatever puts KU on a list that makes them second only to Alabama, if only for a week.
This game is cool for KU history because they're playing the same team at the same site of their first-ever bowl win- they beat Rice in the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl, 33-7. It was also just their second bowl appearance ever (lost the '47 Orange Bowl to Georgia Tech). The KU quarterback that day was John Hadl, who is currently associate athletic director for the Jayhawks. Hadl had a good career as QB in the AFL in the 60's, he was the most notable San Diego Charger towear number 21 till this guy. Hadl threw Lance Alworth all those passes. Alworth was the first AFL player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wouldn't you say the guy who threw him the ball should be there too? Anyway, Hadl's in the Kansas Hall of Fame (of course) and the AFL Hall of Fame, which, uh, isn't in an actual building.
Anyway, back to this weekend- Rice put up 306 yards rushing against Texas A&M, while KU allowed 219 against South Dakota. Look, I take any numbers put up against a lower-division team with a grain of salt (as you should too). So I think Rice rolls over the KU defense on the run. The Owls also had 509 total yards of total offense, so that means 203 yards passing. This also means that Rice's passing offense is lousy. After Manziel came in the game in the 3rd quarter, the Aggies got up to a 17-point lead. Rice yanked their starting QB, and the backup finally completed a pass longer than five yards in the third quarter- it was seven. Well, unless you count the 18 yard INT return that set up the Aggies TD to go up 38-21. So clearly, the KU defense needs to focus on the run and hope that the DB's drink up the passing game.
On the offensive side of the ball, KU needs to hope that Jake Heaps has those first-game-as-a-transfer jitters out of the way and maybe his receivers won't be shocked that they now have a QB that can actually deliver them the ball accurately and on-time in a game situation, that's the only way I can explain the KU players seemingly dropping everything that hit them in the numbers last week. (Were you aware last week was the first time a KU wide receiver caught a touchdown since October of 2011? Yikes.) Heaps finished with 110 yards passing, that puts KU 115th in the country and 10th in the Big 12 (remember, there are actually only 10 teams in the Big 12). Although, sonofagun, that means KU is in fact tied with Alabama in this stat- the Crimson Tide only had 110 yards passing in their only game as well! (PS, there are only 123 teams in D-1 football.)
So, to conclude: Rice should probably win the game, but this KU team has to be better than last year- hell, according to the stats, they're about as good as Alabama.
photo courtesy: KUAthletics.com