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Black Out the Booth: Kansas/Illinois Preview

David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Home of the Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas University, Lawrence, Kansas
David Booth Memorial Stadium Credit Ken Lund via Flickr

The Kansas Jayhawks will look to build off last Friday's win over the Missouri State Bears with a statement performance against one of the Big Ten's hottest teams last year. The Illinois Fighting Illini will be coming to Lawrence, Kansas, and David Booth Memorial Stadium, and will be looking to prove last year's 8-5 performance was no fluke. The Jayhawks, coming off their potential turnaround year and making their first bowl game in over a decade, will also be looking to add momentum. The Jayhawks and the Illini have played 5 times with the Illini edging out Kansas 3-2 historically. The teams have agreed to a home-and-home series starting this year, with the Jayhawks making the trip to Champaign in 2024. This contest is shaping up to be one of the more entertaining early-season matchups. Let's look at the tale of the tape for the two sides.

Broadcast Info

Date: Friday, Sept 8th, 2023

Time: 7:30 PM EST

Where: Lawrence, Kansas David Booth Memorial Stadium


Calling: Anish Shrof, Andre Ware, and Paul Carcaterra

Radio: Jayhawk Sports Network or Sports Radio 810

Tale of the Tape: Kansas

Kansas is coming off a 48-17 trouncing of the Missouri State Bears and is looking to prove they belong in the conversation for the Big 12 race. Considering the conference opener is still two weeks away, they have to make a statement in their non-conference play to get them off to a good start, and while beating up on FCS programs is fun and all, it's games like these that a stellar performance will matter. Not only that, but another slow start could put the Jayhawks in some major danger with this game. The Jayhawks will have their starting quarterback Jalon Daniels back for this contest, a welcome sight as the Junior QB was named Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and will look to uphold that title with a great performance here. However, Illinois showed one key weakness in their last game against Toledo: A run defense that can be gashed and gashed hard. Toledo was able to average 4.4 yards a carry for 186 yards in their loss to the Illini and mind you, this is a backfield that wasn't supposed to make a ton of noise this season. The Kansas backfield, however, contains two Doak Walker preseason watch list members in Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw, as well as guys that showed last game that they can make a significant impact in Dylan McDuffie and Sevion Morrison. Kansas's defense showed that it's susceptible to the big play, especially over the middle with shotty coverage and nobody home to watch a mobile quarterback, so they will have to improve upon that. Linebacker Craig Young and company will have to make sure somebody's home to watch the middle of the field. If Kansas can capitalize on a weak run defense, come out firing, and learn from their mistakes in allowing the quarterback to scramble for big yardage (Illinois quarterback Luke Altmeyer rushed for a team-leading 69 yards on 9 carries last week which could prove to be a problem), limit the penalties, and Jalon Daniels can show he hasn't lost a step since last year, then the Jayhawks could be on good footing to win this game easily. Top that with new-look all-black uniforms debuting this Friday to look good and feel good, as well as a huge effort to sell out the Booth, and you may have a storm brewing for a big-time statement win.

Tale of the Tape: Illinois

Illinois probably would have wanted a bit better of a start this year after almost coming up short against Toledo, but a win is a win. You move on to next week, which is a contest against what will prove to be a tough Jayhawks team. Illinois didn't do a whole lot right last week, as they struggled with run defense, allowed themselves to be gashed for big yardage on too many plays, struggled to find long-range passing options, and overall sleptwalked through what should have been an easy win. Don't expect Bret Bielema, a veteran coach and a widely regarded despot when it comes to coaching style, to take that lying down, Illinois will come out prepared and with a chip on their shoulder after such a scare. They'll have to build upon their bread and butter, which is their run game in scrambling quarterback Luke Altmeyer and Doak Walker watch running back Reggie Love III, among others. Kansas struggled with the run game last season and while they looked solid against the Missouri State unit, this will be their first true test. Kansas was gashed a couple of times by Missouri State's scrambling quarterback, so an opportunity could be there to exploit that. Defensively, when you allow more than 400 yards of total offense and 28 points going up against a MAC school as a Big Ten program trying to prove itself, there's much to be worked on. You did have an interception returned for a touchdown by Miles Scott, which counts for something, but 1 sack and only 5 tackles for loss will not cut it against what will be an explosive Kansas offense. This front seven needs to shore up heavily if they expect to stop KU's stout run game, and with Jalon Daniels back and Jason Bean being there just in case, you have the passing game to be cautious of as well. Overall, if Illinois doesn't turn their lackluster performance into something they can move past and grow from, they won't lose just this game, they'll be in for a world of hurt come conference play.

Conclusion and Final Score Prediction

Kansas has the potential to run away with this one if Illinois comes out flat like they did last game. The Jayhawks are not Toledo and will keep their foot on the gas to make a statement in front of what should be a raucous home crowd. If, however, Kansas comes out flat as they did in the first half before figuring it out and putting together the beatdown, this game could certainly be interesting. It will come down to whose run game can open up space, which defense can snuff out the big play more, and overall, which team is more out to prove that they're for real. Both football programs have struggled in the past and are eager to ring in a new era, but which one wants it more? In this case, in front of the in all likelihood sold-out home crowd, Kansas prevails due to their offensive strengths and their defense's abilities to shore up when it matters most. Illinois will certainly make it interesting though...

Final Score Prediction: Kansas 38- Illinois 28


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