On Friday, September 13th, Alumni Stadium will host the Jayhawks of Kansas University in the first ever matchup between the two schools.
What the Eagle’s will face:
When college football fans think of the Big 12, they think of prolific highs scoring aerial attacks offenses and laughable defenses. That is not the story with the Jayhawks.
Far from prolific, the Jayhawks finished second to last in the Big 12 in both passing offense and total offense. Conversely, they finished sixth in the conference in rushing. Thus, it is not surprising that Kansas’s standout player is their sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr.
Williams was the Big 12’s second leading rusher and led the conference in all-purpose yards, and he will undoubtedly be a focal point of the Eagles’ defensive strategy. Williams’s speed combined with his quick stop and go agility makes it hard for defenders to stay in front of him. Just when it looks like he’ll be tackled for a loss, he will reverse field and pull a positive gain out of nowhere. Williams rushed for 1,125 yards, 289 receiving yards, and even tallied 246 yards as a kick returner. Pooka was not only one of KU’s stand-outs last season, but he is also one of their few returning stars. Significant losses for the Jayhawks include their leading passer Peyton Bender, leading receiver Steven Sims Jr., leading tackler Joe Dineen, who also lead the Big 12 in tackles, leading sack master Daniel Wise, and Shakial Taylor, who was tied for most interceptions on the team. The result is a very new looking team under a new head coach, Les Miles.
Miles returns to college football after departing LSU where he won a national championship in the 2007-08 season. Miles’s arrival will certainly not undermine Pooka Williams Jr.’s production, as Miles’ teams never had too much trouble running the ball in Baton Rouge. Yet his teams’ never really established a consistent offensive attack.
The challenge will be much the same in Lawrence, where Miles need to find a starting QB among a group that has seen more shuffling than a card deck in Vegas, and wide receiver corps that is without both its #1 and #2 leading receivers; their third leading receiver, Stephon Johnson Jr., will be the new number 1 option. Miles will inherit an experienced offensive line which could provide a nice foundation if Miles can find some other offensive pieces to augment Williams.
While not exactly laughable, the Jayhawks defense was sixth in the Big 12 in total defense and the fifth best passing defense, giving up 247 yards per game. Despite losing their leading tackler and sack master senior cornerback Hasan Defense returns who was tied for most interceptions on the team. Hasan will be a key piece to a defense which led the conference in INTs and managed to be the 5th best passing defense in the pass-happy Big 12, only giving up 247 yards per game. Notwithstanding, the defense was tepid when facing the rush, ranking eighth in the Big 12, surrendering around 172 yards per game. Watch for the return of the second leading tackler Bryce Torneden at safety, and Hasan Defense in the secondary. The losses of Wise and Dineen will force the Jayhawks to find new leaders among the front seven to step up.
What all this means for BC
Of all the Big 12 teams, the Jayhawks are most like the Eagles: an offense that has mostly revolved around a star tailback, a mostly unproven wide-receiver core, and a front seven forced to replace most of its stars. But as long as Anthony Brown can stay healthy, the Eagles don’t need to worry about finding their quarterback.
Offensively, BC has all the tools to attack the weakness of the Kansas defensive. While offensive balance is important, this may be a game to pound the rock with AJ Dillon and the rest of BC’s deep backfield. The Jayhawks are not a great run-defense and their strongest area is definitely their secondary; any stray passes will likely be picked off so it may be better to let AJ Dillon do what AJ Dillon does best.
Defensively, the Eagles have one clear objective: STOP POOKA; it’ll be a tough test for BC’s new front seven as they try to replace Allen, Ray, and Smith. The Eagles secondary better be ready to come in run support as well to aid in trapping the elusive Pooka. Pooka’s playmaking ability will be hard to prepare for and BC hasn’t faced a player like him since perhaps Lamar Jackson. Multiple defenders must run to the ball but avoid giving Williams any cutback lanes. Williams may not be able to win the game singlehandedly but he could keep it close. If the Eagles can take away Pooka Williams Jr., Kansas will struggle to find another option.
Overall, BC has better talent, more stability and fewer holes in its roster. Yet, the Eagles can’t risk to sleep on Kansas because even wide awake, Pooka Williams’s Jr. might run right past them. The Jayhawks will be a good measuring stick for the Eagles team before they head into the bulk of their conference games. If the Eagles play their game, running the football and being stout on the defense, there is no reason the Eagle can’t run the Jayhawks out of Alumni Stadium.