When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Southern Miss rush defense
In its season-opening loss to South Carolina, Southern Miss was torched on the ground for 224 yards and four touchdowns. That included a whopping 6.4 yards-per-carry average. A week ago, that wouldn’t have mattered much for the Jayhawks, who struggled to run the ball in a big way against North Dakota State in the opener. But Kansas righted the ship in Week 2 against Georgia Tech, with 141 yards on 41 carries. Of those, 101 came from true freshman James Sims, a back who possesses the size to run inside and the speed and agility to make moves on the edge and get into the secondary. Expect Sims to continue to get carries for the Jayhawks, who also may benefit from the return of red-shirt freshman Deshaun Sands, who missed last week’s game due to an injury.
Southern Miss is coming off a game in which it limited Prairie View to 67 yards on 27 carries, but the Jayhawks should bring more to the table than Prairie View did, and Southern Miss may still be searching for its identity against the run.
Kansas pass offense vs. Southern Miss pass defense
In two games — just one of which featured starting quarterback Jordan Webb — the Jayhawks have averaged 118 yards per game and completed 59 percent of their passes while throwing three touchdowns and two interceptions.
In its first two games of the season, Southern Miss surrendered 184 yards per game through the air and allowed opposing QBs to complete 53 percent of their passes while giving up two touchdowns and snagging two interceptions.
KU enters the game with a confident QB and a pack of dangerous and talented wide receivers. The Southern Miss secondary, which was ripped apart for 337 yards and a TD in the opener against South Carolina, also gave up 211 yards and a touchdown to Prairie View last week. Because KU’s passing offense is coming off of its best game against a ranked opponent and USM’s secondary is still trying to settle down, the Jayhawks should get the nod here. But the fact that the game is on the road and represents Webb’s first start away from home evens the score.
When Southern Miss has the ball
Southern Miss rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
The Jayhawks are riding high after their stellar defensive performance against Georgia Tech, and nowhere is that confidence more obvious than in the front seven, where the Jayhawks gave up plenty of yardage but made key plays when they had to and ultimately stuffed Georgia Tech’s high-powered rushing attack when it mattered most. Southern Miss has spread out its carries thus far this season, with three running backs having at least 17 attempts and 70 yards in the first two games. That could mean one of two things: Either the Eagles have great depth and balance, or they have yet to figure out which guy they want to make their featured back. Considering KU’s linebackers are coming off a monster game and the entire defensive line is full of confidence, the Jayhawks get the advantage in this one.
Southern Miss pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
Last year, KU limited Southern Miss standout receiver DeAndre Brown to just four catches — though one of them went for a TD — and 85 yards, with 49 coming on one play. The Jayhawks were thrilled about the way they were able to contain the 6-foot-6, 239-pound star, who’s a threat to score on every play because of his blend of size, speed and skill. So far this season, Brown has found similar numbers during the Eagles’ 1-1 start. In a loss to South Carolina, he finished with four catches for 65 yards and a TD. In a victory against Prairie View, he hauled in five receptions for 100 yards and a TD. USM quarterback Austin Davis has gotten off to a brilliant start, completing 65 percent of his passes for 416 yards. Throw in the fact that part-time quarterback Martevious Young also has logged 132 yards and a touchdown through the air as well, and it’s safe to say that facing the Eagles will be a far cry from what Georgia Tech presented last week. This will be the KU secondary’s first true test of the season.
Edge: Southern Miss
The Eagles have been nearly perfect on special teams this season, nailing all four field-goal attempts, all five extra-point attempts and even recovering an onside kick. What’s more, of their seven punts so far this season, only one has been returnable, and that return went for no gain. Kansas, on the other hand, hasn’t had such a great start to its special-teams season. After missing two of three field goals in its season-opening loss, KU scored four touchdowns in a win against Georgia Tech and was unable to attempt to atone for the rough start. Both teams feature dangerous return games, and both have capable kickers. However, the fact that Southern Miss has delivered — on offense, defense and kickoffs — gives the Eagles the slight edge here.
Edge: Southern Miss