In my best attempt at the somewhat sarcastic, partially serious style that RockChalk tends to bring...I'm going to be taking the reins of this weeks early opponent preview.
When Kansas initially hired current Head Coach Turner Gill it looked like a potential plan masterminded by Tom Osborne to effectively eliminate competition by sending a "mole" to take over a program that had recently committed to the sport of football and even embarrassed(76-39) Nebraska very recently. Soak it in for a minute, it happened once.
Unfortunately it hasn't happened again and while conspiracy theorists will certainly point to the fantastic job that one Turner Gill has done at achieving Tom Osborne's plan, it all changes next year.
Nebraska departs for the Big 10 and with that so ends the nation's longest uninterrupted streak of games played between two teams. Now my team has been on the losing end of most of those, but that still brings a bit of a somber feeling to the moment. I won't miss Colorado, but I am a little sad to see the Corn go.
I'll survive and I'm moving on. What that means is that Turner Gill will only head back to Lincoln to face his alma mater just once as the Coach on the opposing sideline. A storyline that initially looked to have some longterm ramifications now goes a bit by the wayside. Maybe that's a good thing for Turner and a good thing for Kansas.
So what do we make of this first trip home? Kansas sits 3-6 with two pretty shocking victories for different reasons. Can they go into Lincoln and pull of another?
Taylor Martinez is FAST!
A couple weeks ago against Missouri Taylor Martinez was injured and since then the Nebraska offense hasn't looked quite as deadly. Yes they have Roy Helu and Rex Berkhead but when Martinez is in the game he attracts so much attention that it opens things up that much more for everyone.
Last week against Iowa State the Huskers recieved little in the way of support from Cody Green. The week prior, with the departure of Martinez, Zac Lee was pretty much non-existent. Without Martinez, Nebraska becomes a little bit more predictable.
The bad news for Kansas, he's coming back. When the Jayhawks head to Lincoln they'll be up against the most athletic and speedy quarterback that they've faced all year. He's made good teams appear to be playing in cement shoes at times so it will be interesting and a little bit scary to see how the Kansas defense addresses this in the gameplan.
A Two Headed Monster
With Martinez back in action the next concern is the two headed monster of Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead. The two have accounted for nearly 1500 yards on the ground and provide a solid one two punch behind an impressive Nebraska offensive line.
Hell the more I write, the more I feel like we're playing Tommy Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and Cory Schlesinger. Just when you thought the days of Tom Osborne and the Corn stuffing it down your throats was over, this happens.
The fact is that last week against Colorado, the Buffaloes failed to capitalize on a clear Achilles heel against Kansas. The Buff ground game was effective to the tune of 176 yards for Rod "Do you think I'm Sexy" Stewart and then they took their foot off the gas. Nebraska can and will exploit that same weakness if Kansas doesn't make a change.
Somebody Misses Aunt Suh
A year ago the Corn had the #10 ranked run defense and the #2 ranked pass defense. They had a mediocre offense but road the back of a boy named Suh to the tune of the #2 scoring defense in the country. The guy almost won a Heisman and apparently moonlights as a kicker for the Lions now.
Most expected a dropoff with the departure of Suh and really who could blame them. But the brothers Pelini were insistent on the fact that they would be better. That just isn't true. Nebraska is still good, don't get me wrong, but they now have the #23 ranked defense in the country and they are in the lower tier in terms of stopping the run.
In reality that doesn't look to be enough to give Kansas a huge amount of optimism considering their offensive woes, but when you're grasping for straws and playing with house money, why not!
The Million Dollar Question...
So how will the Huskers treat one of their favorite sons in his return to the sea of red? I think we can all assume based on the multitude of positive comments from Corn Nation following his hire that he will be cheered and welcomed with open arms. Probably even moreso because they probably view him as leading a lamb to slaughter.
But what might be more interesting is how the game unfolds. Numerous times it's been stated that Tom Osborne will be sure that Bo Pelini does not run up the score in traditional Corn fashion when Gill returns. Husker fans are insistent about it, Jayhawk fans even believe it. But how can we be sure?
Now I'm certainly hoping the Jayhawks carry over whatever spark led them to a 35 point 4th quarter last week in Lawrence, but if they return to first half Kansas or even worse the Kansas that was demolished by Baylor and Kansas State, then what? Are we to expect that Doctor Tom is going to put a weight belt on Martinez to keep this thing close?
My guess is that Pelini will play and play hard for as long as he needs to. Kansas will have to keep this one close and nobody is going to do them that favor. If by not running up the score you mean the Corn put in a second unit late, then maybe that happens. But let's be honest, you can't fake your way through a game to keep it close and Nebraska won't be doing that on Saturday.
If Kansas manages to make this a good contest, I place that on the effort of the team and coaches. An effort that I'll be very pleased with and I'm not going to accept the "we didn't want to run it up on Turner" argument from any departing Cornhusker fan. All that said, I'm not going to pretend that this one won't potentially be a blowout to close out the series.