It's here, ladies and gentlemen, college football season! For most schools this started last week, but for the second year in a row Kansas found themselves idle on week 1. The good news is the weather looks fantastic this weekend for tailgating and football, and I for one am excited to see what the team has to offer in their opener.
Each week, I'll be previewing the Jayhawks' upcoming game with a "by-the-numbers" approach. Given that Southeast Missouri beat up on a team literally playing in their first ever college football game last week, there isn't much to go on statistically for this year. I'll be focusing on last year's numbers to look at this matchup. Southeast overhauled their entire coaching staff after last year, so we'll see how consistent things are.
Kansas offense vs Southest Missouri defense
|Kansas Offense||SEMO Opponents|
|Yards per rush||3.73||5.5|
|Yards per pass||5.12||8.1|
|Yards per play||4.29||6.4|
|Points per play||0.223||0.498|
|Play Success %||23.6%||38.5%|
I know these aren't the per game numbers you're used to seeing when comparing teams, but these numbers are greater indicators of success than the standard yards and points per game, and are heavily factored into my ratings system. Play success % is simply the percentage of plays run that resulted in either a first down or touchdown.
We all know the story on the Kansas offense. It's been awful since the day Charlie Weis took over, but there's a new OC in town, and we're all hoping to see improvement. The good news for tomorrow is that even a Charlie Weis offense could have fun against this defense. Their allowed success rate of nearly 40% would have put them in the bottom 20 of FBS teams last year, and keep in mind they did this facing an FCS schedule. That's dreadful.
SEMO's coaching change could end up being beneficial for them, but their defense was so far from being adequate it would be a small miracle if they're even up to FCS average this year. Looking at the roster, they do have some size up front, but cornerback may be a big issue for them. Every single corner on their roster is listed at 5'11 or shorter. This will be the easiest test of the season for larger receivers like Coleman, McCay, Harwell and King.
My prediction is that Reagan's new offense will be able to slowly and methodically move the ball against these guys. I don't think our offense is designed to be explosive, nor should it be given what we have. Even against a team that struggled the way the Redhawks did last year, I think you'll be disappointed looking for a 40+ point performance out of our offense in the first game. However, given the way this opponent looks on paper, it will be a very bad sign if Kansas struggles.
Kansas defense vs Southeast Missouri offense
|Kansas Opponents||SEMO Offense|
|Yards per rush||4.72||4.7|
|Yards per pass||7.14||5.9|
|Yards per play||5.82||5.1|
|Points per play||0.428||0.326|
|Play Success %||34.9%||31.1%|
The advantage here is pretty clear, when factoring in the vast difference between the schedules these two teams faced. Given that Kansas returns nine starters from last year's defense, it's hard to see them giving up much to this team. 5.9 yards per pass attempt is awful given the level of competition, and 4.7 per rush is very pedestrian.
While Southeast returns their top running back from last year, their quarterback (also their second-leading rusher) is gone. Their top two receivers return, but with passing numbers like those it's hard to say how beneficial that will be. This doesn't appear to be a particularly big offensive line, so it may not be the toughest test for the weakest link of our defense in trenches.
Unless the new offensive coordinator has one hell of a bag of tricks, I think our defense, very likely the strength of the team, should hold the Redhawks to a very quiet day on offense. Their 77 point scrimmage last week aside, this is a team that put up just 340 yards and 22 points per game against a lower level of competition last season.
In the end, it's hard to know exactly what to expect from this game. While KU breaks in a new offensive coordinator, SEMO breaks in an entirely new coaching staff. Kansas won just three games last year, but Southeast did the same playing in the Ohio Valley Conference. Kansas had a bye week last Saturday, and because of the statistical noise generated by playing a brand new football team made up of freshmen, we may have learned even less about Southeast last week.
In the end, we're a Big 12 team playing a lower-half FCS opponent, and we should win comfortably. Opponents were able to run and pass at will on SEMO last year, so this should be a nice warmup for Kansas' new offense. I don't look for a runaway blowout due to conservative first-week playcalling and some uncertainty in the trenches for Kansas, but this should still be a comfortable victory. I'm looking at something in the 31-13 range