Louisiana Tech is coming into Lawrence on the heels of a 24-15 loss to the Tulane Green Wave. The Bulldogs sit at 1-2 with losses to Tulane and NC State, the lone win being against a Lamar team that lost 59-3 to Oklahoma State a week ago. Now the question is, what does that mean for Kansas?
In theory this Jayhawk team has no excuse in this one. Kansas should beat Louisiana Tech every time and the Jayhawks are the favorite. At the same time this is a Tech team and a Tech program that finished 9-3 last year and was on a nice trajectory. Then of course Sonny Dykes left for greener pastures after several offseasons filled with job opportunities and rumors. Enter into the picture Skip Holtz. The same Skip Holtz who was mentioned as a Kansas candidate back before Turner Gill was hired.
Holtz is struggling early, but Tech was expected to take a step back with the loss of several key ingredients to their run last year. The Bulldogs return just 7 starters from that group and are not only working to integrate a whole new set of players, they're also implementing a new coaching style. Kansas should expect to win this game, but as demoralizing as these last 3 years and 2 games has been, it's sometimes hard to take anything to the bank.
The Bulldogs have had to break in a new quarterback at the same time that they are breaking in a new coach. Both player and coach being replaced were pretty darn good ones, so the transition has naturally had some growing pains. Scotty Young has been given the signal calling duties and to date he's been pretty average. Young was a fairly highly thought of recruit that started his career at Texas Tech, but elected to transfer to La Tech after losing a position battle in Lubbock. Through three games he honestly looks a lot like his counterpart in this game Jake Heaps, in a word, underwhelming.
Early on Tech expected their top three returning wideouts to help ease that transition. Hunter Lee (31 receptions for 398 yards) and seniors D.J. Banks (33 for 434) and Jon Greenwalt (24 for 210) all made solid contributions in 2012. At this point though, Lee is the only one that is really well established on the radar when it comes to the passing attack, although in general there is a lot of catching up to do for this group when comparing them to last year.
The running attack might be the area that could be pointed to as an early strength. Tech has about a 50/50 run to pass mix through three games. The two lead backs average over five yards per carry with Tevin King sitting at 7 per and nearly 300 yards. This is a positive in a lot of ways because this is also a team that has had to nearly completely rebuild the offensive line and that chemistry is still a work in progress.
At the end of the day this is an offensive unit that is most definitely feeling the effects of transition. Last year La Tech put up points early and often. This year they are averaging just two touchdowns a game through three games and two of those games are against teams they would have expected to beat a year ago.
The Bulldog defense returns some fairly talented experience up front but that experience depletes quickly as you move to the linebacking corps and the defensive backfield. This is a team that is giving up 400+ yards per contest ranking in the lower 3rd of college football. Le'Vander Liggins has been the primary returning player on the defensive side of the ball that is making a major contribution this year leading the team in tackles. IK Enemkpali, a 2012 First Team All-WAC selection, has been the best player up front in terms of creating pressure and making plays. In fact Enemkpali is near the top of college football when it comes to sacks.
While Kansas most definitely needs to rely on their strength in the ground game, at some point the passing attack is going to have to relieve some pressure if the Jayhawks are ever going to turn the corner. Yes the Jayhawks need to be physical up front and yes they need to lean heavily on what they are good at, but if the passing attack is as inept as it has been for the last 14 games under Weis, it's going to be hard to stay ahead of opposing defenses. It might work against Tech because they are struggling this year. Maybe that's the most important thing is to get a second win, but it would be nice to see something more develop.