When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Baylor rush defense
KU took full advantage of a good match-up in this department last week, gashing Texas for 234 yards on 56 carries in a near-upset of the Longhorns. Aside from playing this week’s game against Baylor on the road, the match-up is nearly just as favorable for the Jayhawks, who are led by junior James Sims and a strong supporting cast of Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox. The Baylor run D ranks ninth in the league (one spot ahead of Texas) and surrenders an average of 194 yards per game. That total includes a 207 yards-against rushing average in BU’s four losses and season-worsts of 248 yards and 251 yards in losses to TCU and Texas. Sims has looked like one of the best backs in the Big 12 during the five games he has played since returning from a season-opening suspension, and it’s a safe bet that much of KU’s game plan today will be to feed No. 29 the ball. Sims has logged an average of 28 carries per game in the Jayhawks’ last four contests.
Kansas pass offense vs. Baylor pass defense
The Jayhawks turned to red-shirt freshman Michael Cummings for his second start of the season last week against Texas and nearly pulled out the victory despite throwing just nine passes all game. Cummings has a big arm and is fairly accurate, but he hasn’t received much help from his receivers in the two games he has started. Senior starter Daymond Patterson is expected to return to the receiving corps this week, and it will be interesting to see if Patterson and Cummings can develop some kind of a connection to get KU’s struggling passing game going. Even though the Jayhawks have disappointed in this department throughout the season, Cummings has made a few key throws in each of his starts, and KU coach Charlie Weis said he would make more of the passing game available to his young QB each week. The bad news for the Jayhawks here, though, is that Weis said the secondary is the strongest part of Baylor’s defense, which ranks ninth in the Big 12 in total defense.
When Baylor has the ball
Baylor rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
The Bears are merely average in this department, as most of the damage they do on offense comes through the air. Because of their ability to stretch the field, though, BU’s backs often find room to run because the Bears’ passing game forces opposing defenses to spread out so much. Senior Jared Salubi is Baylor’s starting tailback and leading rusher, but he averages a modest 61 yards per game and has rumbled for 430 yards and three touchdowns on 98 carries. BU has three other players who average at least 25 yards rushing per game and, as a whole, the Bears rank fifth in the Big 12 in rushing offense at 173.7 yards per outing. KU’s run defense, which ranks eighth in the conference, has done well against some of the top backs in the league, but the Jayhawks’ success in this area today will depend entirely on how they fare in the passing game.
Baylor pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
The Bears lead the nation in passing offense and rank third in scoring offense. Most of the reason for that is multi-threat quarterback Nick Florence, who has helped ease the pain of losing Robert Griffin III by ripping off a solid senior campaign. Florence is the nation’s leader in total offense (414 yards per game) and ranks sixth in efficiency, with a rating of 166.6. As if his ability weren’t dangerous enough, the BU offense also features one of the nation’s best receivers in Terrance Williams (172 yards per game) and a host of other fast and elusive wideouts who use every inch of the field and give Florence multiple options on every play.
KU’s special teams were improved against Texas, but stopped short of being labeled as good. Place kicker Nick Prolago did connect on a crucial field goal late in the game, and the return game got a lift from sophomore Brandon Bourbon handling kickoff-return duties. But there were still a couple of areas in which the Jayhawks struggled, and it’s going to take a couple of more efforts like the one they showed against Texas in order for people to call KU’s special teams anything other than a concern. Baylor, meanwhile, features several dangerous return men and a kicker, Aaron Jones, who brings a great deal of experience into every game. Beyond that, the Bears’ biggest strength on special teams is in coverage, where they rank third in the Big 12.