clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 Questions: Kansas vs. Duke

We have five burning questions about the Jayhawks' first road game of the 2014 college football season.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

1) Will the offense run as much as they did against SEMO?

The Kansas Jayhawks ran the ball on about 67 percent of their offensive plays in their first game against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (49 times out of 73 plays). They did this with good reason: it worked. 5.3 yards per carry for 49 carries, totaling up to 261 yards on the ground last week for KU. De'Andre Mann looked very good all game and Corey Avery played well too, plus Cozart is a mobile quarterback and Tony Pierson is a wildcard on every play. It worked well against a team that Kansas should have beaten, but will it work against a team they are not favored against? It truly can't hurt to try. At this point for the Jayhawks, you have to stick with what you know works. This team is built to run right now and they have got to stick with it. Mann looked good last week; you have to keep giving him the ball.

2) How will Cozart look against a stronger defense?

Last week Montell Cozart was 12-24 for 196 and 3 touchdowns. Good numbers, not great, but they certainly got the job done. That being said, when KU plays against tougher competition, he is likely going to have to do more to help the Jayhawks win. A completion percentage of 50 and under 200 passing yards is not going to cut it very often, especially if the team struggles late in games like they did against the Redhawks. Cozart is probably not going to be let loose very often, so he has to play to his strengths. Shorter, more efficient passes will help him greatly, but he also can have a bit more faith in his receivers on the outside this year, at least in Nick Harwell. If Montell Cozart is more efficient against Duke, I will consider it a positive appearance for him.

3) How involved will Nick Harwell be?

This takes into account parts of our first two questions. If Kansas runs the ball well over half of the time on Saturday, the receivers as a whole will have less of an impact on the offense. If Montell Cozart is going to play better, he will, of course, need to have some help from his receivers. We know what Tony Pierson brings to the table, but we got to see a very positive glimpse of what Nick Harwell, the transfer from Miami (OH), brings as well. I believe he is crucial to the success of Montell Cozart and of the entire offense. He offers a legitimate receiving threat outside and down field for KU, allowing the offense to open up. For the offense to succeed against Duke, even if two-thirds of offensive plays are runs, Nick Harwell must be targeted frequently on pass plays.

4) Will the Jayhawks continue to force turnovers?

Kansas caused three turnovers in their first game, all via interception, and also forced a fumble (although it was recovered by SEMO). Turnovers play a key role in any game, but for a team like Kansas, they will need to rely on them if they want to beat better teams. Unfortunately for KU, Duke is yet to throw an interception in their first two games. Anthony Boone is a good quarterback who is efficient and does not make many mistakes, so it is going to be up to the likes of the co-FBS interceptions leader, Dexter McDonald, to take the ball away from the Blue Devils and create more opportunities for the offense (a pick-6 wouldn't hurt either).

5) Can the Jayhawks defense slow down Duke's running game?

It's a tough comparison to make when you consider the difference in level of competition, but Kansas did hold Southeast Missouri State to 3.4 yards per attempt on 36 carries. Duke, by contrast, has rushed for an average of 228.5 yards per game in their first two games, against Elon (an FCS team) and Troy (ranked 120 in Football Outsiders' most recent F/+ rankings). While the Jayhawks defense was weak against the pass in their first game, you would still like to see them work to make Duke a more one-dimensional team. If Kansas cannot slow down the Blue Devils' ground game, it could be a very long day for the KU defense.