It’s finally time to look forward to actual season, but there is still time to pull together one last time for quick poll of our staff. We asked the crew to help give a final preview of the upcoming season.
The Jayhawks finally named a starting QB with more than just a couple days before the season opener. What are your thoughts on the selection of Peyton Bender?
David: I think he’s the best of the limited options available. We’ve seen Carter Stanley struggle as a pure passer, and though Miles Kendrick is already a fan favorite, there hasn’t really been much buzz about him coming out of camp. There’s no dispute that Bender has the arm talent to make any throw in this offense, and if the line is improved as reported, he’s probably the right guy to try and get things clicking.
Jakebogen95: I like the move. Roll with Peyton, roll with the best pure passer on the roster and let’s see what happens. I personally think it’s Kendrick’s team after this year and beyond but you have to give Bender his last shot. The Jayhawks have some pieces around him and with a RB like Herbert moving onto another year in this offense, I think Bender will have more to work with. As far as I see, this offense is in need of a pure pocket passer and less in need of a scrambler. I think Peyton with another year in this offense will show some improvement and will help Kansas win some games they wouldn’t have last year.
Kyle_Davis21: I was not surprised by it, and I think it’s the right move for the reasons David and Jake stated. I’ll also add that Kansas has plenty of talent at running back, and a successful Bender, with his strong arm, can keep defenses honest and add some dimension to the offense. Having that first season under his belt, and the full offseason coming in, should help his confidence.
Mike.Plank: I expected nothing else and I am not surprised at all. It’s more of the same from a coaching staff who keeps spitting on me and telling me it’s raining. I don’t buy that the offensive line will be any better than last year, and I don’t buy that the coaches are going to lean more on the running game. AIR RAID! Bubble screen! ANOTHER bubble screen!! A THIRD BUBBLE SCREEN!!!!
Andy Mitts: I’m not happy about it, but it seems like the most conservative pick for this team. Peyton Bender has shown the ability to make throws, but he just hasn’t had the time behind the porous line that the Jayhawks have given him. While I’m personally on the Miles Kendrick train (at least recently), there isn’t enough evidence to make me feel super strongly one way or another.
The offensive line is obviously a huge question coming into the season. Does the recent reports of improvement there’s give you any confidence?
David: I do think the line will be improved, but it’s important to remember just how low the bar is. The offensive line has been the worst unit on one of the worst teams in all of FBS. QBs have had no time to throw, and RBs have had no room to run. Ever though I expect the transfers to raise the level of play, I don’t expect them to suddenly turn this unit into a huge success.
Jakebogen95: This is where I double down on Peyton Bender. The offensive line was atrocious. Honestly it better have improved otherwise Bender is going to be in for another rough year. He’s the best QB but frankly you could have Peyton Manning behind the offensive line the Jayhawks had last year and it wouldn’t have mattered. This unit needs to improve and I expect they will.
Kyle_Davis21: Yeah, I have to think the line will be better, with the caveat that everyone can stay healthy. But I have no idea how much better. Like David said, the bar is low. I do know Kansas is going to have to run the ball better to be successful, and while I think they’ll improve on the 102.6 rushing yards per game from last year, some of that will have to be credited to the running back talent.
Mike.Plank: You guys are crazy. We see these kinds of reports every year. Hey guess what, every other team is “working hard” and “really improved” over last year, too! Mesa Ribordy and Jacob Bragg, guys who were expected to be major contributors this year, aren’t here. So instead, on a unit that requires the most cohesion and teamwork of any on a football team, we’re going to try to piecemeal a line together from Jucos and other transfers? Oh, and we’re gonna start a statue behind them at QB. It’s a recipe for disaster.
David: The thing that sets this apart from some other reports of improvement that we’ve read over the years is that it’s not just the same guys who have supposedly improved. We have three FBS grad transfers who, while they weren’t going to be starters where they were, have been coached and trained elsewhere (several juco transfers as well). The influx of experienced guys should make some difference. Remember that the line could be demonstrably improved and still not good.
Andy Mitts: David stole my answer to Mike, but the other thing that makes me actually believe it this time is who is giving the reports. Jesse Newell and Scott Chasen are two people that I trust to give me honest opinions and real evaluations, and while they were honest enough to say that we don’t have a lot of direct evidence that we can observe, their collective belief that we will see some sort of improvement is enough for me. And they don’t have a history of being overly optimistic.
Finally, what’s your official season prediction for the football team?
David: 2-10. I want very badly to pick at least three wins, and it’s absolutely possible. But to do that I’d be relying on the idea that the staff is figuring things out, and it seems silly to expect that without having seen any indication of it. I think they’ll beat Nicholls State, and one of Central Michigan, Rutgers, or Baylor.
Jakebogen95: Somewhere in between 4 and 5 wins. Confident they get it together and win games they should win this year but this is a long process if they want to get back to Orange Bowl status. Do not rush the process. Beaty needs 5 wins to stay in my mind.
Kyle_Davis21: I’m splitting the difference and saying 3-9. The offense is improved, and the Jayhawks are slightly more competitive, but I’m still not sure how well this team can close out a game when it needs to. I think they do just enough to win two of the three non-con games and steal one in conference play.
Mike.Plank: 0-12. Why would you expect anything else? Besides, at least this way I can’t be disappointed at the end of the season (oh wait, yes I can).
Andy Mitts: I’m torn on this, because I can see a win total anywhere from 0 to 4. I will say that the only conference games they even have a shot at are against Baylor and Texas Tech on the road, meaning that I don’t have a lot of confidence in getting a conference win this year. I’ll split the difference and say they get 2 wins, both in the non-conference. I do think they break the road losing streak by taking the game against Central Michigan.
Note: David and I made our picks on these as part of the season preview on the podcast that will drop later this week.
QBs to start a game for the Jayhawks this year (2.5)
Jakebogen95: Under. Peyton Bender hangs onto the position all year.
Kyle_Davis21: Under, but I think two will start a game at some point, whether because of performance or injury.
Mike.Plank: Over. We’ll see all three because the coaching staff has no idea what they’re doing. Remember when Deonte Ford started a game?
Steven Sims TD receptions (9.5)
Jakebogen95: Under. 7.
Kyle_Davis21: Under. I think Sims will have a good season but he had six last year, so hitting 10 this year is a lot to ask.
Mike.Plank: Yep, Under. Sims will get the most attention of any of the KU receivers, and it will be hard for him to close in on those career records by Meier and Briscoe.
Khalil Herbert 200+ yard games (2.5)
Jakebogen95: 2.5! Eh, what the heck. Over. He will have 3.
Kyle_Davis21: We’re on a nice under streak. I’ll say he gets 2.
Mike.Plank: Under. He might get one at Central Michigan, but Nicholls and Rutgers both have solid, veteran-led defenses, and he’s not getting it in Big 12 play again.
Times that KU is losing by less than 10 points at the half (4.5)
Jakebogen95: Over. I think this is a good thing. Probably would make the argument they will be down by more than 10 three times this season.
Kyle_Davis21: I’ll take the over, too. Let’s be positive.
Mike.Plank: Under. I don’t remember halftime scores but only two Big 12 games were within 21 points by the final horn. CMU and Rutgers should be bad enough on offense that the scores will be close, though.
Punts on 4th and 1 (11.5)
Jakebogen95: Sheeeesh. Hopefully under.
Kyle_Davis21: I don’t want to imagine a world where that happens 12 times (even if I can envision it). Under.
Mike.Plank: I may have to try to do an article on this. How many times did this happen last year? I also don’t want to imagine a world where this happens 12 times. I’ll reluctantly go with the Under.
Andy Mitts: I’ll save you some work Mike. When I put the question together, I really meant 4th and short, and more as a “why the hell are you punting it” type of situation. Obviously not all 4th and 1 situations are bad for punting. However, these are when it happened last year.
Once against Texas Tech.
Three times against Iowa State.
Twice against TCU (4th and 2 both times, but I’m counting it).
Twice against Oklahoma.
Three times against OSU (counting the two punts on 4th and 2)
I really want to count the 4th and 3 from the KSU 41 and the 4th and 3 from the Texas 42, but I won’t for this.
So including the 4th and 2 punts, we are at 11 total.
All this goes to say that while the number seems pretty high, it doesn’t take much to get to the over. Just one questionable punt each game. The only thing that gives me any hope is that there were at least 5 or 6 times that they went for it on 4th and short, so maybe they expand that this season instead of continuing to bail on opportunities.