The Jayhawks take a 3-0 record into Big 12 play this week, as they open their conference slate with a home game vs BYU. Why is BYU in the Big 12? Literally no one knows, but that's what it says on the schedule, so that's what we'll go with.
KU is coming off a less than impressive 7 point victory over lowly Nevada, while BYU is coming off a surprising 7 point victory on the road against Arkansas. Though the Cougars are also 3-0, it hadn't been an impressive start until their SEC upset in Fayetteville last week. They started the year with an anemic performance against Sam Houston State, winning 14-0 against one of FBS' newest members, a game where they could only manage 257 yards against a team that would lose 13-3 to Air Force the next week. BYU's defense does deserve credit for holding SHSU to 185 yards, tough to do to anyone in modern college football, though they would give up 346 to FCS opponent Southern Utah the next week. Still, BYU won that game without difficulty, 41-16.
Last week's 38-31 victory over Arkansas was an interesting one. The scoreboard would indicate BYU's offense finally got going against SEC competition, but the box score says otherwise. The Cougars gained a meager 4.9 yards per play, gaining just 281 total, while the Razorbacks racked up 424 on 5.7 per play. BYU had to rally to score the last 17 points of the game while Arkansas' 2nd half offense struggled to get out of their own way, with drive-killing penalties and two fumbles. In the end, their comeback bid fell 20 yards short of the endzone. Much like advanced metrics said KU's win over Nevada was a bit more impressive than it appeared, they say the reverse about BYU's, giving them just a 4% postgame win expectancy, if you're into that sort of thing.
BYU's stats for the year paint a picture of an offense that struggles, and a defense that's been doing enough to make up for it. The Cougars average a paltry 5.21 yards per play despite playing only one team with a pulse (Kansas is averaging 7.29, for reference), but they allow a very impressive 5 yards per play on the other end. The running game has been nonexistent, gaining just 2.7 yards per try, but their defense has done pretty well to shut it down on the other end, allowing 3.3. The passing game has looked better for BYU, with Pitt transfer Kedon Slovis averaging 7.3 yards/attempt, with 6 TDs to only 1 pick. Though Slovis has added 3 rushing TDs, he's got -2 rushing yards on 10 tries, so don't expect him him to gash the defense with his legs. Freshman LJ Martin is their top runner, with 195 yards on 45 carries, for an average of 4.33 per try. They have three receivers with over 100 yards, TE Isaac Rex (184), Chase Roberts (148), and brother of Jayhawk Kwinton Lassiter, Darius Lassiter (116). Defensively, DE Tyler Batty leads the team in TFLs (3.5) and sacks (2.5), while linebackers Ben Bywater and Max Tooley lead BYU in tackles at 22 and 18, respectively. Junior cornerback Jakob Robinson has already picked off a pair of passes this year.
The Kansas defense does appear to have improved this season, and BYU has yet to put together a solid offensive performance this year, despite the 38 points they scored against Arkansas. Unless BYU finally has a breakout game on that side of the ball, the key to this one should be putting up too many points for the sputtering Cougar offense to keep up. Yeah, that basically means "score more points than the other team," but you know what I'm saying. Execute offensively, and force BYU to prove they can do the same thing, because they haven't shown it consistently yet. The concern I have is that in all three Kansas games so far, the Jayhawks have had a stretch of listless play that either keeps the opponent hanging around too long for comfort (Missouri State, Nevada), or gives a team a chance when they should be put away (Illinois). I don't have high hopes that this will be the week the Jayhawks offense will just go out and destroy a team from start to finish, given how stingy this BYU defense is. That said, I think BYU is the worse team, and Kansas is playing at home. I see a scrappy game with some frustration where Kansas eventually comes out on top.
Kansas 31, BYU 24