Know the Big 12 Foe: BYU heads to face Kansas in conference opener

When BYU makes its Big 12 conference debut on Saturday, the Cougars will face a Kansas team with incredibly high expectations.

No longer are the Jayhawks the laughingstock of Big 12 Football, but rather an upstart program with their most talent roster in decades. Indeed, head coach Lance Leipold and his squad are out to prove that Kansas is more than just a basketball school.

What else is there to know about the Jayhawks? Here are some quick observations and facts about Kansas prior to the showdown with BYU.

A dangerous quarterback

The Kansas offense has been heavily praised as one of the Big 12’s top unit early in the 2023 season. Led by quarterback and Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Jalon Daniels, Jayhawk fans believe that this offense has the potential to be truly historic. Through three games, Daniels has a passer rating of 169.0 while averaging 10.2 yards per attempt. A true duel threat quarterback, Daniels ran for 419 yards and seven touchdowns last season, making him arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon the Cougars will face this year.

Not just a one trick pony

Despite Daniels’ greatness, Kansas’ offense has shown it is plenty diverse. Kansas is bolstered by Preseason All-Big 12 First Team running back Devin Neal. Last season Neal ran for 1,090 yards and 9 touchdowns. Through 3 games this year Neal is averaging 103 yards per game and is on pace for another monster season.

The Jayhawks also return their top 4 receiving threats from last season all of who combined for 2,222 yards in 2022. This chemistry between Daniels and his receivers has led to Daniels throwing for 575 yards this season thus far with a 75% completion percentage. Also impressive is that 11 different players have receptions on the season showcasing the depth of the Kansas receiver and tight end rooms.

An improved Kansas offensive line has also contributed in a large way as Kansas is averaging over 216 yards a game as a team on the season. Through 3 games they have allowed 4 sacks and helped the Kansas Offense to being ranked 17th in the nation with an average of 500.3 yards per game.

Defensive improvements

Kansas has appeared to have made massive improvements defensively this season. In 2022 the Kansas defense gave up an average of 35.46 point per game to opponents including a combined 200 points in their final 4 games. This season teams have only been able to muster an average of 272 yards per game. The Jayhawks defense has also held its first 3 opponents to a much improved average of 21.3 points per game.

Especially impressive has been the Kansas secondary, which is only allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for an average of 152.7 yards per game. They have also been opportunistic in forcing turnovers with 4 interceptions and only 2 touchdown passes given up in 3 weeks. This could be a strength for Kansas as they face an experienced passer in Kedon Slovis.

Week 3 struggles

Kansas comes into Saturday’s game coming off the heels of a 31-24 victory over the lowly Nevada Wolfpack. The Jayhawks struggled mightily against an 0-3 Mountain West squad with a now 13 game losing streak. A penalty filled night led to back and forth contest in which Kansas finally secured on a fourth quarter touchdown by Devin Neal. Despite the close score, Kansas outgained Nevada 441 yards to 258.

Matchup notes

  • Saturday’s meeting between BYU and Kansas will be only the second ever. Kansas won the first meeting 23-20 in the 1992 Aloha Bowl.
  • Currently, both teams are among only 5 undefeated Big 12 teams.
  • Kansas has already announced that Saturday’s Big 12 opener has already sold out David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
  • Both teams received votes in the most recent AP Top 25 and AFCA Coaches Polls.

Final thoughts

I hope BYU fans are aware to the fact that this is not the same Kansas program that only won 20 games from 2011 to 2021. Lance Leipold and his staff have begun the process of a massive turnaround in Lawrence. BYU will enter an incredibly hostile environment in front of a fanbase eager to see their team turn the corner to being a legitimate Big 12 threat. Expect a close result with competitive play from both sides. Because believe it or not Kansas might not just be a basketball school.

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