After last week's performance by the Jayhawks, a lot of us are at the point where some rationalization is required when trying to identify winnable games for the remainder of the 2013 season. The early favorites of Iowa State and West Virginia seemed like definite possibilities a couple weeks ago as Iowa State lost to an FCS opponent and Iowa to begin the season 0-2. West Virginia had to battle William and Mary to get a win in week 1, competed with OU but looked lost on offense in week 2, and was run off the field by Maryland in week 3. West Virginia has the added benefit of being a home game for the Jayhawks and that helps because home field advantage in Lawrence is huge. Both of those games should still be considered as potential victories but the hopes have taken a small hit as Iowa State gave the Longhorns all they wanted last Thursday, West Virginia pulled off the upset over Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and we watched the last three quarters of the game against Texas Tech.
Know what other game should be included on the list as winnable games for the Jayhawks? Saturday's game against TCU. Stop laughing. Seriously, stop laughing. Just hear me out. Yes, TCU was identified as a potential conference champ at the beginning of the year. Yeah, their defense is in the discussion for the best defense in the Big 12. True, their record (2-3) can be pretty deceptive considering each of their losses are to teams currently ranked #21 or higher in either the Coaches or AP poll.
After admitting all of that, why should Saturday's game still be looked at optimistically for the Jayhawks? Matchups. Sometimes matchups can make all the difference and this is an opponent that has the strengths and weaknesses that could open the door for an upset.
The TCU defense is without a doubt the strength for the Horned Frogs this season. The defense is ranked 17th in S&P+ and is in the top half of the conference in both points per game and yards allowed while playing one of the toughest schedules in the country so far. Gary Patterson's teams are known for their defense and this season doesn't seem to be any different. But I ask does that give them advantage when playing Kansas? Not really. The Jayhawk offense didn't threaten Rice, Louisiana Tech, or Texas Tech for much of the games. Realistically, the offense probably isn't going to threaten TCU's defense a whole lot either. It's just something that we're going to have to live with right now but that doesn't make a win impossible. If Trevor Pardula can continue to punt the ball 50 yards a kick, we can still put TCU in bad field position and cause problems for their offense.
Causing problems for TCU's offense leads me to the second reason why I think this is as favorable of a matchup as we can hope for right now, the TCU offense hasn't clicked this season. After losing Casey Pachall in the second game of the year, they have turned to Trevone Boykin once again. Boykin's a solid athlete that can run a little and pass a little but he is limited and the offense has not run smoothly with him at quarterback. In the three games he has started, their offense has been flat out bad in the first half. Against Texas Tech, they gained 164 yards over their first 9 possessions and scored zero points. Against SMU, they gained 154 yards and scored one rushing touchdown in their first 9 possessions. And finally against the Sooners, their offense gained 18 yards in their first 7 possessions. Throughout the game, TCU only had one drive that even allowed them to run more than six plays.
To be fair, Texas Tech and Oklahoma probably have better defensive units than the Jayhawks. But if the Jayhawk defense can continue to play well and avoid giving up the big play, Kansas can stay in this game and hope for a different outcome because TCU does not have the firepower of Texas Tech on offense. Staying in the game allows for anything to happen and give the opportunity for a win when it shouldn't be present. The defense has already put the team in that position once this year and Saturday is another game where it is possible.