We talked to Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk this past week to get his thoughts on Kansas. After we forced him to watch all the games from the past few years, here is what he had to say.
1- Lance Leipold is off to a 1-3 start as the Jayhawks coach which some may say is not a huge surprise considering what he inherited. Though, there seems to be some hope on the horizon. What is the biggest thing from the coaching staff that has you looking towards the future?
It has to just be the track record. There is a nice blend of old staff that knows these players and was successful on the recruiting trail and developing the players they were responsible for, and new staff that has shown the ability to create a consistent message and trajectory. If you ask Kansas fans, there doesn’t seem to be a worry about IF Leipold and staff will be able to get the program turned around, it’s just a question of HOW LONG it will take. Add in a new AD in Travis Goff, and it’s pretty clear that the cancerous athletic situation that was at the top of the football program has been rooted out.
Additionally, Kansas fans have to be encouraged by how far this team has come in the short time that the staff has been together. They are learning brand new schemes, protections, playbooks, everything, and with basically only summer practices, they have fielded a team that is arguably more competent than the one they had last year.
2- Biggest strength and weakness of this Kansas team?
I’ll give you two of each, one that is pretty obvious and another that is kind of surprising. For strengths, the obvious one is the running backs. Even without the threat of Velton Gardner, Devin Neal has been sensational so far and only looks to get better, and Torry Locklin is getting more and more run as a different type of back than Neal. There is depth at the position too, with several guys that can step in if needed. As for the surprise one, it’s actually the QB position. Jason Bean has shown a LOT of ability, and his propensity to run makes him a dangerous weapon. Last week’s game with Duke has shown that he has more to his game than his legs though, and I fully expect him to get better as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable with the additional schemes. Plus, Jalon Daniels and Miles Kendrick are capable backups that can come in and make something happen if needed.
For weaknesses, the obvious one is the offensive line. While it’s better than last year, the line is one place where it takes a LONG time to overcome poor talent and coaching. We are seeing improvements, but it’s going to be a weakness for quite a while still. The surprise is just how bad the defense as a whole has been, especially against the run game. I’m not sure why it’s been such a big problem, whether it’s LB positioning, lack of a push by the DL, or something else, but it’s been bad.
3- Give us one player that Iowa State fans will know of by the end of this game that they didn’t know when it started.
On offense, keep an eye out for Trevor Wilson. A transfer from Buffalo, he has quickly become a Bean favorite when it comes to long passing plays.
On defense, you’ll want to watch OJ Burroughs. He has at least two big hits in each game so far, and he has a knack for poking the ball out.
4- How could Kansas pull off an upset on Saturday?
It’s going to take lots of ISU mistakes, or a Herculean effort by the offense. If ISU keeps turning the ball over and/or gives up some huge returns on ST (both of which are possible), then Kansas can stay in this game. But to get over the hump, KU has to find a way to move the ball consistently against that defense, even if they have to settle for field goals. Keeping that ISU defense on the field early can pay huge dividends late, both by keeping pressure on ISU that may lead to some offensive mistakes and by pumping up the confidence for the KU offense.
5- So you will be at the game Saturday? What’s your prediction?
I’m probably going to have to bring an “I AM SAD” sign, because I’m having a hard time seeing Kansas stay in this game. Sure, they can get some big plays over the course of the game, but unless they can score quickly and often in the opening half, Iowa State is going to be super comfortable after half. It’s a good thing I’m going to the game to experience the atmosphere and not because I’m expecting a Kansas win, no matter how much trash I talk on the Discord. Give me Iowa State 34, Kansas 17.