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Kansas vs. Rice: The Argument for Running the Football

Should Kansas go to the ground to set the tone for their game against Rice?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Weis was forced to depend on a running game that proved fairly effective last year because the passing game was virtually non-existent.  While that was an strategy to a point, it probably wasn't the ideal for the Kansas coach and it didn't result in any wins.  With Jake Heaps moving into the starting quarterback role, Weis and Kansas fans have some level of expectation that the offensive gameplan will balance out.  That's not to say that the running attack won't be the focal point, but for Kansas to take a step forward they will probably need to threaten through the air to support a strong running attack.

All that said, wins matter and this weekend Kansas plays a Rice team that is favored in their home stadium.  Last week Weis started the game out early looking to establish the pass, but eventually turned to the more reliable running attack.  With more on the line, should Kansas start and finish with the run?  That question was brought up yesterday and while I still would hope we can move toward an offense that can produce in multiple areas, there is certainly a case to be made for running the football all day long.

First off there is the Taylor McHargue factor.  The Rice signal caller is the most dynamic piece of the Rice offense and this is an offense that produced 500+ yards of offense and 30+ points last week.  It was an up and down game, so why not take the air out of the football, keep a hostile crowd out of the game and keep McHargue off the field.

Secondly it doesn't take much to see that, given the Jayhawks effectiveness when running the ball, beating Rice up front might be the easiest and best path to a road win.  As Weis said during his press conference, Rice will line up and play defense and try to beat you head to head.  They aren't going to be overly cute, they want to play football and play it better than you in a head to head manner.  Last week they gave up 200 yards on the ground at a better than five yard per carry clip.  Kansas had five backs average better than five yards per carry.

The concern is that Rice could be better than that considering those numbers are only based on one game against a Texas A&M team that is currently ranked.  The good news is that more or less that's what Rice was last year too.  Last season Rice was in the lower third of teams in college football against the run and they gave up yardage at a better than 5 yard per carry clip.

We are told this is a better team and that they improved throughout the year.  Rice did make a bowl game and did so by rattling off five straight late in league play.   But are they a below average defense against the run?  If that's the case, shouldn't Kansas focus on exploiting that point, playing to their own strength and trying to shorten a game against a team that put up some big offensive numbers against a solid SEC opponent in week one?  I think everyone wants to see a more balanced attack and that extends from Weis to the players to the fans.  But more than anything everyone wants to see continued wins.  One could certainly make the argument that the best path to that might just be an all out running attack.