The highs permeating the Kansas football (1-1) world have all but evaporated since the Jayhawks dropped their Week 2 game versus Coastal Carolina. The discussion this week has been all about their troublesome offense, which has posted a combined 24 points against an FCS program and one of the lesser teams from the Sun Belt.
Things won’t be any easier in Week 3 for the Jayhawks, as they’re heading to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts for a rare Friday night battle with Boston College (2-0). The Eagles had no troubles with their matchup last week, easily handling FCS Richmond at home just one week after pulling an upset against Virginia Tech.
To be frank, this is not a good matchup for Kansas. The Jayhawks lack physicality to match up evenly with the Eagles, which is particularly problematic since BC likes to keep the ball on the ground. KU’s offensive issues to kick off this season have been hard to watch and have resulted in poor results. If the defense doesn’t play its best game yet and the offense doesn’t evolve immediately, Friday could be a long night for the Jayhawks.
It’s hard to get a gauge on where the Kansas offense is through two games. While it wasn’t a potent attack by any means in their season opener, the Jayhawks did mix in a handful of modern concepts and moved the ball at least somewhat. That was all gone last weekend, even with the return of sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr. Coach Les Miles said this week that the team believes RPOs are where football is heading and that KU wants to get their first. That’s not a particularly accurate assessment, given most offenses around the country already have those concepts built in to their offenses. Whatever the game plan happens to be against Boston College, Kansas needs to find a way to get the ball to its playmakers in space (Williams, junior wide receiver Andrew Parchment, etc.) so they can make use of their unique skills and take pressure off the quarterback.
The defense for KU has been a clear strength to this point, despite some noticeable weaknesses up front. They’re holding opponents under five yards per play through two weeks, and have allowed just 22 points over those games. Friday’s game is a matchup disadvantage (at least on paper) for the Jayhawks’ offense, whose strength is the secondary. The Eagles are a run-first team, thus neutralizing the effectiveness of a talented defensive backfield to a degree. Kansas is allowing just 3.9 yards per carry, but this will be its first test against quality competition.
To reiterate, Boston College runs the ball a lot. To the tune of more than twice as much as it’s passed early this season. The big name on the Eagles’ offense is junior running back A.J. Dillon, who’s posted 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground in two games. He’s also been a capable receiving threat, with three catches for 63 yards and a score. BC’s ground game goes beyond its star tailback, though, with the Eagles’ averaging over five yards per rush and netting over 500 yards through two weeks. As long as junior quarterback Anthony Brown limits mistakes and plays a smart game, the running backs can shoulder the load for Boston College.
Turnovers are where the Eagles thrive on defense, with a +6 turnover margin already this season. That includes five takeaways in their season opener against Virginia Tech and another two (without a giveaway) against Richmond. Of those seven takeaways, five have been interceptions. BC has allowed a decent amount of yards through two games (442 versus Virginia Tech, 364 versus Richmond), so those turnovers have proved crucial.
What will be done about the offense? Last week’s showing on offense was putrid for the Jayhawks. The execution was poor (specifically by the offensive line and the passing game) and the playcalling was both ineffective and uncreative. Doesn’t get much worse than that. Don’t expect much in terms of a philosophically different unit this week, but giving the defense something to think about instead of telegraphing crucial plays will be a step forward. Lining up in the I-formation with a fullback on third and medium/short meant the same thing all day last Saturday and Coastal Carolina read it like a book. Senior quarterback Carter Stanley needs to perform better than he did in Week 2 if the Jayhawks want any chance to stay close this week, but he needs help from his coaching staff in terms of smarter play calling.
Can the offense stay on schedule? This game will be won on the ground, and Boston College has the advantage on both sides of this matchup. The Eagles aren’t big on time of possession, holding the ball for just a shade over 40 percent of the time in their two games combined. They’ve been efficient on key downs, though, going 14-of-29 on third downs. As long as Boston College can keep third downs manageable and minimize the amount of time it needs to spend throwing, it should dominate in this one. The impetus is on the Kansas rush defense to make stops early in series in order to preserve endurance and stay engaged all night.
Stanley. We’re firmly in “beating a dead horse” territory by now, but it’s undeniable that KU needs better quarterback play going forward. The offensive flaws aren’t all on him by any means, but things like his decision making need to be markedly improved soon. Interceptions like the ones he threw against Coastal Carolina will get Kansas killed against a better team (which is quite a statement, given that they doomed the Jayhawks against a bad team). His skill players will be tasked with making plays and picking up chunks of yardage, but they need their quarterback to be smart with the ball.
Freshman wide receiver Zay Flowers. The former three-star recruit is a dynamic playmaker who’s made big plays both as a receiver and in the running game. Flowers has 208 total yards from scrimmage so far, with 117 coming on six carries and another 91 through the air on two receptions. Kansas will have a hard enough time stopping Dillon and the running backs, so if Flowers gets going it could be a deciding factor in the Jayhawks’ ability to compete.