College football, much like the Delta variant, is surging to a crescendo as the season kicks off for most schools this upcoming Labor Day weekend. “Week 0” technically began the 2021 season on August 28 with Nebraska losing to Illinois (again) (lol). For their part, the Jayhawks will kick off on Friday night this year (Sept 3) instead of the traditional Saturday.
The Lance Leipold era will begin with the Jayhawks hosting the FCS South Dakota University Coyotes. The Coyotes come into the 2021 unranked and not receiving any votes in any FCS preseason poll that I could find.
Kansas leads the all-time series against South Dakota 2-0, winning in 1900 and 2013.
This is the 100th season of football to be played in KU’s World War I Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. It is the 7th-oldest college stadium in the country.
Kansas played 27 true freshman last season, tied for the highest number in the NCAA.
South Dakota has two wins all-time against FBS opponents: Minnesota (2010) and Bowling Green (2017).
South Dakota led the MVC in passing each of the three seasons prior to last year’s Covid-altered season.
KU is trying to hype this game as the beginning of a new era, specifically, the Lance Leipold era. That’s cute, because I heard the same thing leading into the 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2019 seasons, and literally nothing changed where it matters: the W-L column.
So, Kansas, you want to start a new era? Go out and dominate an inferior opponent. Control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Establish your offense. Dictate on defense. Give us some hope and confidence that this time, it really will be different.
Offensively, we don’t really know what to expect out of Kansas. We know that Leipold has shown a willingness to be adaptable, tailoring his offense to his players’ strengths. In back-to-back seasons at Buffalo, the Bulls led the MAC in passing (2018) and then led the MAC in rushing (2019). Depending on what coaches think they have along the offensive line as well as the skill positions, they may air it out, or go to ground and pound.
Either way, I just want to see some consistency, particularly at quarterback, and again, I want to see Kansas impose itself on the opposing defense.
Conversely, we know South Dakota will test KU’s defense through the air. Last year, QB Carson Camp became the first trust freshman QB to start a season opener for USD, ever. He finished second in the Valley in passing despite SIU playing just four games. (SIU’s QB played in twice as many games and had just 48 more passing yards than Camp.)
Obviously, it’s super-cliché to say that turnover margin is important. Of course it is. When you get six turnovers in a game, even a David Beaty-coached team can roll to a win. (We know. We saw it happen. Twice!) But still, KU is looking to kick-start the Leipold era, right? Go out there, win the line of scrimmage, put some pressure on the quarterback, and have a positive turnover margin.
S&P+ predictions haven’t been published yet, but back in July the preseason win expectancy for Kansas in this matchup with South Dakota was set at 78%.
ESPN’s FPI Matchup Predictor concurs, favoring KU with a 77.5% chance at victory.
Meanwhile, Sagarin prefers the Jayhawks by a slightly more favorable number, giving KU an 83% chance to come away victorious. Sagarin has KU ranked #102 and South Dakota ranked #147 (out of 258).
Again, so many unknowns regarding Kansas make this a tough spot to put down a prediction. So, I’ll just drink some kool-aid and tell you what I hope will happen. Kansas will control the clock (and the line of scrimmage) with the run game and three different RBs will have over 75 rush yards. Although it may be close at halftime, Kansas will pull away in the third quarter, and we’ll see the Jayhawks win in fairly comfortable fashion. Kansas 34, South Dakota 14.
Unrelated to the game, but, it is realignment related (sort of) and I thought this was fascinating so I’m going with it. Out of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, USC, Oregon, Arizona, Washington State, Oregon State, Arkansas, and Kentucky, which school does Kansas NOT have a winning record against in football?
Hint: The answer is in the opening paragraph at the top of this article.