Can the Jayhawks finally end the long drought on the road? …Maybe.
Rutgers and Kansas are two football programs with issues. The Jayhawks haven’t won a game on the road since the I was in high school (I now have a master’s degree), and Rutgers has suspended six of its better players and head coach Kyle Flood for three games for attempting to influence a player’s grade.
- Will the Jayhawks be better off the bye week? Bye weeks are typically very good for a team in flux like the Jayhawks. Coaches and players have film of games, not just practices, and can evaluate talent, correct mistakes, and hopefully put players in a position to succeed. For example, tackling on defense has been an ongoing issue in the first two games. During the bye, coaches can work intensely with defensive players to improve technique, alignment, and pursuit: all elements that go into making a team tackle well. Another issue has been quarterback accuracy. Drilling accurate throws, the heart of the Air Raid offense, could result in an improved offense when the Jayhawks go into East Rutherford. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens hopes that Cozart will improve accuracy on deep passes to “take the lid off” opposing defenses, opening running lanes for the Big 12’s leading rusher, Ke’aun Kinner.
- How good is Rutgers without key contributors? In a major scandal, Rutgers was forced to dismiss five key defenders after they were arrested in connection with a home invasion and robbery ring. Among them was starting cornerback Andre Boggs, starting free safety Delon Stephenson, and reserve defenders Ruhann Peele, Nadir Barnwell, and fullbacks Lloyd Terry and Razohnn Gross. All of which were expected to contribute to the Scarlet Knights this season. To make things worse, head coach Kyle Flood was suspended for attempting to influence the grade of Nadir Barnwell, a taboo in collegiate athletics that carries significant consequences. Associate head coach for running backs Norries Wilson will take over head coaching duties for now. After last week’s game against Washington State, star wide receiver Leonte Caroo was suspended after being arrested on a domestic violence complaint. It remains to be seen how much impact all these suspensions and dismissals have on the Scarlet Knights. We did see one game’s worth of Rutgers without the dismissed players. They were beaten 37-34 by a Washington State team who lost at home the previous week to FCS bottom-dweller Portland State. Can Kansas repeat the Cougars’s success?
- Matchup to watch: Jayhawk offense versus the depleted Rutgers secondary. The Jayhawks could have some sustained offensive success against Rutgers if the wide receivers continue to improve, Cozart, Ford, Willis, or whoever the KU quarterback steps up and delivers an accurate football, and the offensive line gives the offense time to operate. All that is in question, as the offense has been woefully inconsistent thus far, even against less talented defenses. The Jayhawks are looking for a breakout performance, and may just get one against a defense without many contributors in the secondary.
Coming off the bye, this game seems like it could be a breakthrough for KU, especially if all the work players and coaches put in over the off week pays off. Rutgers has a chance to stabilize the program with a solid win at home before Big 10 play begins. Even with all the defections, Rutgers has too much for the Jayhawks and the road drought continues. Rutgers wins 31-28.