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BYU At Kansas Jayhawks Preview: Cougs at the Booth



The Brigham Young Cougars will be headed eastward to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Kansas Jayhawks in what will be their first-ever Big 12 conference matchup. This will be just the second matchup between the two teams, the last meeting in the 1992 Aloha Bowl, where Glen Mason's Jayhawks prevailed in a classic against LaVell Edwards's Cougars 23-20. Both teams sit at 3-0 and will look to open conference play with a huge victory over what looks to be a promising conference opponent. Details about the matchup are listed below:


Broadcast Info:

Date: Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

Time: 3:30 PM EST

Where: Lawrence, Kansas, David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium

TV: ESPN

Calling: Mark Jones, Louis Riddick, and Quint Kessenich

Radio: Jayhawk Sports Network or Sports Radio 810


Betting Line

Kansas -9.5

Over/Under: 55


Tale of the Tape: Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas is coming off a surprisingly close call against lowly Nevada 31-24. In a game defined by complacency, low energy, conservative play-calling, and overall lack of capitalization for the Jayhawks, the 5 forced fumbles with zero recoveries being the major lowlight, Kansas still prevailed due to making the right plays at the right time. They cannot have that complacency and lack of energy when they face this BYU squad, who will prove to be by far their toughest opponent to date this season. A strong defensive front four will challenge this offensive line that looked lackadaisical and undisciplined in Reno, leaders such as Mike Novitsky along that offensive front have to show up and show out, protecting Jalon Daniels and opening up holes for the strong run game to flourish. Kansas finished last week's game with 143 total rushing yards and 298 total passing, making for 441 yards of total offense. Devin Neal made his mark as a Doak Walker contender cashing in 3 touchdowns, 89 yards rushing, and 59 yards receiving. Jalon Daniels went 21/27 for 298 yards and 0 touchdowns, and Quentin Skinner showed off some highlight reel catches going 4 receptions for 50 yards. These numbers are fine, but the conservative play calling as well as the noticeable lack of intensity among this unit showed that this explosive Kansas offense is vulnerable when they're not motivated. Expect Coach Kotelnicki to throw the book at this solid but sometimes meager Cougar defense though and expect a far higher energy level with Kansas playing in front of a sold-out crowd against an opponent that means more. With the weather expected to be damp and windy throughout the day, ball security will be stressed, and expect the run game to bear the brunt of the load, however, it wouldn't be surprising if we saw a couple of strikes downfield if the BYU defense plays the fool.


Defensively, last week's game is a very similar story. Poor tackling, a slow start, low effort, and overall poor execution kept Nevada in it, and while this Kansas defense made plays when it needed to the fact that a team that got blown out by Idaho a week before 33-6 was able to put 24 on this defense that is trying to prove they are not a weak unit is concerning. Things will have to change in a big way against BYU, who put up 38 against SEC opponent Arkansas. Kedon Slovis wasn't exactly throwing with pinpoint accuracy downfield, going for 13/25 for 167 yards, but he still didn't throw any picks and did throw 2 touchdowns. Could still potentially be good pickings for a hungry Jayhawk secondary though which will be at full strength for the entire game again, if, of course, the Jayhawks can adjust well to the balanced passing attack of BYU. Again though, weather plays a factor here, and BYU could keep things on the ground as well for most of the game, however, BYU doesn't have the rushing attack Kansas has. LJ Martin is their bellcow back and if Kansas can slow him down, then they can force the pass in inclement weather against a ball-hawking secondary. That could be a big ask as Kansas did allow 150 yards rushing against Nevada, but Nevada also ran 3 backs very evenly throughout the game. BYU, by all accounts, won't, and that could play in Kansas's favor. However, the Jayhawk defense will still need to play physically and play smart, which they have only shown in spurts these past 3 games. The Cougar offense will punish this unit if they can't do that.


Overall, the Jayhawks need to have a tough, physical, but methodical game that may debut some patented Kotelnicki magic on offense, and a fly-to-the-ball, fast-paced, disciplined but aggressive game from the defense. For the Jayhawks to win this game, they will have to amp the energy up tenfold and come out firing and fiending for a bounce-back performance, otherwise, they could be in for a struggle.





TAIL of the Tape: BYU Cougars

Brigham Young will be rearing to kick off their conference arrival with a win, and against past Kansas teams, the Cougars would be salivating at the chance to make a debut statement by blowing out a pathetic Jayhawk football program. Not this Kansas team though, as the Jayhawks have built their program back from the murky depths to become a potential dark horse candidate for the Big 12 title race. BYU will have to bring their A-game to Lawrence just like they did last weekend in Fayetteville. It starts with this offense, a unit led by Pitt transfer Kedon Slovis that has shown to be a scoring powerhouse when they want to be. Blowing out Southern Utah 41-16 was one thing, but going into Fayetteville and playing an Arkansas team many had picked to be the sleeper team in the SEC, and getting the win put people on notice. This BYU team is for real and runs through their potent, balanced offensive attack. This Kansas secondary will be tough, but is it tough enough to handle as many as 6 viable targets at once? That will be the major test for both BYU's receivers and Kansas's defensive backs and will be the battle to watch for along with Kansas's tough at times but inconsistent run stopping vs. LJ Martin. While the numbers certainly don't look flashy, this is an offense that can lull you to sleep before unleashing a huge play, something that Kansas has shown to struggle with. While weather conditions could hamper that big play ability, if BYU comes out and executes their offensive strategy well, we could be in for a shootout between two underrated, but dangerous offenses. If LJ Martin can get going as he did against Arkansas, running the ball 23 times for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 45-yard breakaway, then it could prove to be the difference maker.



Defensively, BYU showed that it can certainly bend, allowing 424 yards of offense and 3 touchdowns, but that doesn't mean they break easy. Arkansas worked hard for those points, having to grind their way down the field only getting the big play just a few times throughout the game. BYU also forces QBs to be flustered and make mistakes, as we saw with KJ Jefferson, who was responsible for both of Arkansas's turnovers. This brings me to their biggest strength defensively, their front four of Tyler Batty, Atunaisa Mahe, Jackson Cravens, and Isaiah Bagnah. If the pass rush can get to Jalon Daniels and make him feel pressured, Daniels being very similar to Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson in lots of mobility, and a big arm, but can be flustered if pressured, then BYU takes away a huge part of the Kansas offensive attack. However, there is still another part of this Kansas offense that will need to be put away, and that is their multidimensional run game of 4 running backs, 2 running quarterbacks, and the potential for reverses and jet sweeps with the receivers. BYU allowed 177 yards against Arkansas's versatile rushing attack, they cannot have that happen against the Jayhawks. Kansas's true bread and butter is offensive variation and lack of predictability, and if the Cougars cannot contain the run then the pass becomes that much harder to contain and the plays that much harder to predict. If BYU's defense can play smart, contained, disciplined football and not be fooled by all the moving parts as well as not allow this rushing attack to gash them, then their chances become a lot higher. As of now though, they will have their hands full and this looks to be an offensive shootout for the ages.





Overall, if BYU is allowed to play their game offensively and can contain the trickeration, smoke, and mirrors play of the Jayhawk offense, then they will be in this game throughout and have a good chance of coming out of Lawrence with a victory. BYU can show that they belong and are here to stay in the Big 12 with a victory, and they'll be hungry, but they'll have to harness that hunger in a hostile environment and play their best football two weeks in a row. No room for mistakes here, Kansas will not let lightning strike twice with the lack of capitalization and will have learned from last week.


Conclusion and Final Score Prediction

If you're a BYU fan, you've probably noticed many comparisons being made between Arkansas and Kansas. Both have underrated dual-threat quarterbacks, both have a strong running game, and both were picked to be dark horse favorites in their conferences. Don't be fooled though, Kansas is very different from Arkansas. They have a tougher secondary than Arkansas, they have less predictability, Jalon Daniels is better at playing mistake-free football, and will not go in underestimating this Cougar team. There's a reason that even after BYU beat Arkansas. Kansas is still being picked as an almost 10-point favorite. Lance Leipold and company have shown they can get back up off the matt after a poor showing, sometimes even turning it around mid-game, and will not allow complacency to seep in against a far greater opponent. The Jayhawks will be ready and they will also be hungry to prove themselves, with talents such as Jalon Daniels, Devin Neal, Cobee Bryant, and others, who can open up a game at any moment.


This being said, BYU will be no pushover for the Jayhawks. They will need to come out firing on all cylinders, as stated before, and cannot come out flat or complacent at any time. BYU showed that they can exploit mistakes and missteps with ease, and Kansas will have to play mistake-free football to get up on the Cougars. If you allow them to hang around like you did with Illinois and Nevada, then you could very well get burnt. Not to mention that while the Booth may be indeed, packed, BYU fans travel very, very well. Let them get momentum and the crowd could turn on you. Contain the defensive front four, throw the offensive playbook at them, and play physical, high-energy football, and Kansas comes out of here with a big win. For now. though, I expect this to be an offensive shootout that just barely goes the Jayhawks' way.


Final Score prediction: Kansas 35-BYU 31

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