Who: Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0)
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
When: Saturday, September 9, 2017, 3:00pm CT
How to Watch: FSN
All-time Series: Kansas 2-0
Last meeting: 2014 Kansas W 24-10
Spread: Kansas -5
Central Michigan has been one of the better teams in the MAC over the last five seasons, going to four bowl games in five years. They had some trouble putting away FCS Rhode Island last weekend, as they won 30-27 in double overtime. In the process the Chips recorded six interceptions and jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead, but still the Rams were able to score some late touchdowns to force an extra period. A game like this would be a sure-fire win for most Big 12 programs, but due to the lack of success we’ve seen out of Lawrence since 2010 this isn’t as of a lock as it should be.
Chippewas to Watch:
- Shane Morris – QB – Morris is a graduate transfer from Michigan. When Brady Hoke was still the coach, it looked like Morris would have a chance to start for the Wolverines, but Jim Harbaugh came in and Morris wasn’t really a fit for what Harbaugh wanted. That said, Morris is still a pretty big talent. You don’t go to a program like Michigan and not be talented. Last week against Rhode Island, the southpaw slinger was 25 of 49 for 226 yards with 1 pick and 1 TD. Kansas will be a bit more of a test for Morris, going up against the likes of Dorance Armstrong and Joe Dineen.
- Jonathan Ward/Devon Spalding – RB – The Chips have two very capable and dangerous backs in Ward and Spalding. Last week the duo helped CMU rushed for 246 yards. Ward led the way with 153 yards and an impressive 7.7 YPC. Spalding also chipped in with 70 yards on 20 carries. The Jayhawks helded Southeast Missouri State to just 83 rushing yards last weekend.
- Wide Receivers – Morris liked to spread it out to his receivers last weekend. Seven different Chips receivers caught passes last week. Leading receiver Corey Willis has caught a pass in 18 straight contests, last week he caught balls for 43 yards. Mark Chapman had a bit better yards per catch, as he caught just five passes for 88 yards. Also look out for Brandon Childress and tight end Logan Hessbrook, as they are two of Morris’s bigger targets.
- Joe Ostman – DE – Ostman recorded eight sacks last season en route to earned All-MAC honors. He had a quiet week last week as he just recorded one tackle.
- Malik Fountain – LB – Fountain was one of the best players in the MAC last season. He was a first team All-MAC selection, racking up 92 tackles. He had a big game last week as he tallied 10 tackles
A must win?: If the Jayhawks are suppose to take a step forward on the path to being regularly competitive, it’s game like this they should win. Also if there is any chance of KU reaching 3-4 wins this year, they need to beat Central Michigan. Next week’s last non-conference game at Ohio won’t be an easy one.
Bender to Sims: Bender looked pretty good in his Jayhawk debut last week. He threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns, the best debut in the history of the Kansas program. It was the first time since 2009 that a KU QB put up that big of numbers. Todd Reesing threw for 498 yards and four TDs against Missouri.
One of the reasons Bender looked so good was the play of leading receiver Steven Sims Jr. Sims caugh four passes for 142 yards and two TDs. He also had a long of 77 yards. Bender and Sims look like they can be one of best connections in the Big 12 this season.
Strong Defensive Performances: Dineen had one heckuva season opener last weekend. The redshirt junior linebacker racked up 15 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Daniel Wise was perhaps even more impressive. He had four tackles for loss and one sack. Wise is just one of the reasons why the Jayhawks should have one of the best defensive fronts in the league this season.
Kansas 34 – Central Michigan 27
I think the Jayhawks continue to build off the momentum they established in week one. Bender looked like a competent quarterback, something that has been missing from Lawrence since Reesing. Central Michigan also had trouble with a Rhode Island team that went 2-9 a year ago. That said, the Jayhawks are far from a finished product so I still think this will be a close one. Bender throws a touchdown late to propel Kansas to 2-0.