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Kansas Non-Conference Game- By-Game Preview: How the hawks will be tested before conference play

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

The Jayhawks are coming off their best season in over a decade, expectations are high and the air is positive for the first time in years. It all starts with the first 3 non-conference games of the season. These are games the Jayhawks can not take lightly. Games they can make a statement for themselves and go into conference play with big-time confidence and poise to stake their claim on a new look Big 12. Let's break it down on a game-by-game basis:

Game 1 - september 1st - 7:00pm Vs. Missouri State (espn+)

The first game the Jayhawks will play will be against FCS opponent from across the border in Missouri State. Missouri State and Kansas face off for the first time since 2002, with this being only the third meeting ever meeting between the two schools. In years' past, KU fans legitimately had to worry about facing an FCS opponent, not this year. The much anticipated opening matchup will showcase a new era of Jayhawk football and will give a chance for KU to really show what they're about. Expect fireworks out of the gate, as Missouri State's defense allowed 27.27 PPG, 156.1 average rushing yds/game, and 254.6 average passing yds/game according to Certainly not terrible numbers, but those stats are mostly against FCS opponents. With Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp Preseason watchlist member Jalon Daniels, as well as Doak Walker duo Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw, the Bears are in for a potential clinic on how to move the ball down the field. The Hawks can't underestimate the Bears however, as with the scare Missouri State gave Arkansas last year, anything can happen. For now though, the Hawks will handle business and look to a far greater challenge in Week 2...

Predicted Final Score: Kansas 56 - Missouri State 14

Game 2 - September 8th - 6:30pm vs. illinois (espn2)

The Jayhawks will get their first taste of primetime action since the Liberty Bowl, as well as their first true litmus test, when the Fighting Illini come to Lawrence. Head coach Brett Bielema has brought his patented Bilema Ball to Champagne and turned what once was a Big Ten doormat program into a bowl contender and force to be reckoned with. Last year's team turned in an 8-5 record with a ReliaQuest Bowl appearance, however they lost powerhouse running back Chase Brown, now with the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. Over the years the Illini possessed strong secondary play, but that has now been depleted, making for a potential field day for Jalon Daniels and his receiver corps. Unless Ole Miss transfer Luke Altmeyer can bring an air show to this Illini offense, in his second game ever for Illinois, (which against KU's stellar secondary, is not likely) expect KU to give the home crowd another good showing. It certainly won't be an easy game, but this is not the same Illini team we saw one year ago. With KU returning 9 of its 11 starters on offense and 8 of 11 starters on defense, as well as adding multiple key transfers, KU the experience, the aptitude, and improvement to show why they deserve to be in the conversation for the Big 12 title race with this game. This will be their first test though, a test they will pass with flying colors.

Predicted Final Score: Kansas 42 - Illinois 24

game 3 - September 16th - 9:30pm at Nevada (cbssn)

Nevada is certainly a team that has had its ups and downs over the past decade or so. They've had some good teams, some average, and some downright bad ones. Nevada's team last year was downright bad, in fact, they were the worst since 2000. A 2-10 record in head coach Ken Wilson's debut season. They didn't win a single Mountain West conference game. Not exactly reminiscent of 2010 when Colin Kaepernick was carrying this team to a 13-1 record and a FightHunger Bowl victory. That being said, Nevada should not be overlooked, and has added solid players in the portal. Rated 3-star (On3) and former Oregon LB Adrian Jackson will help bolster the defense, and former Cal Bear TE Keleki Latu as well as former Colorado quarterback Brendon Lewis (both also 3-star transfers according to will add talent and depth to offensive skill positions. With big questions at offensive line though, as well as major holes in an already bad secondary, Nevada could face an uphill battle against a defensive front that will be chomping at the bit to prove themselves. The Wolfpack will also have to contend with the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Jalon Daniels. The Jayhawks will be playing in thin air as well, but don't expect that to matter. In fact, the thin air may prove to be beneficial for some Jalon Daniels bombs over the top.

Predicted Final Score: Kansas 49 - Nevada 17

Summary of Kansas' Non-Conference Schedule

The Jayhawks have a chance to really make a statement with these three non-conference matchups, and go into the conference gauntlet strong and confident, ready to make a name for themselves and prove that they're here for good. In a new look Big 12, that will be extremely important. With expectations at practically an all-time high as well as a highly competitive conference schedule ahead, going 3-0 with a chip on their shoulder will be the best way for the Jayhawks to ring in this new era of Big 12 football. An era they have a chance to really stake a claim in and potentially hang with the big boys of the conference for years to come. An era they can prove that they're not "Just a basketball school."

A conference preview will be available soon, be on the lookout for an article featuring breakdowns and predictions of each conference game as well as a players to watch article. Be also on the lookout for an article regarding the renovation plans for Booth Memorial Stadium. As the great Jayhawk radio personality Bob Davis's famous line goes: "The Hawks are cookin' baby."

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