When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. TCU rush defense
KU’s 1-2 punch of Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox has been solid during the first couple of weeks, but they figure to face their toughest test yet against TCU, which has led the nation in total defense during five of the past 13 seasons. KU coach Charlie Weis said earlier this week he was confident the Jayhawks would be able to run the ball well this week and added that his team might rely a little more on the run game to take some of the pressure off of struggling quarterback Dayne Crist. KU ran it 48 times for 263 yards in the opener and 36 times for 195 yards last week. If the Jayhawks are to go beyond those totals this week, look for injured tailback Brandon Bourbon or even fullback Marquis Jackson to snag a couple of carries to help keep Pierson and Cox fresh. Edge: Push.
Kansas pass offense vs. TCU pass defense
It will be all eyes on Crist in Week 3, as the KU quarterback who has struggled in his first two games as a Jayhawk vows to play looser and have more fun against the Horned Frogs. Two things to watch there: 1. Can Crist actually do that? So far, he’s seemed pretty tight and had plenty of moments of panic while dropping back to pass. 2. If he does start to loosen up and have more fun, will it actually matter? KU’s passing game has looked largely out of sync throughout the early portion of the season. Part of that is because of Crist, and the other part is because of the KU receivers. No one on KU’s receiving corps has stepped up and established himself as KU’s go-to guy, and the Jayhawks are severely lacking a deep threat down the field. One thing that could play to KU’s advantage is that TCU’s base defense, like Rice’s a week ago, operates with five defensive backs. While having seen such a set-up recently may help KU’s comfort level, the fact that TCU’s D-Backs are more talented and faster could negate any potential advantage. Edge: TCU.
When TCU has the ball
TCU rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
Lost in last week’s perfect 17-of-17 passing performance by the TCU quarterbacks was the fact the Horned Frogs also racked up 255 yards on the ground in the dismantling of Grambling State. Three TCU players finished the game with more than 50 yards, and two of them reached that mark despite logging fewer than 10 carries. Junior Waymon James (5 carries, 69 yards) and freshman B.J. Catalon (13, 63) led the Frogs, and their top returning rusher, Matthew Tucker, who ranks sixth on TCU’s all-time rushing list and landed on the Doak Walker Watch List in the preseason, finished with 35 yards on seven carries. The Jayhawks, while improved, have given up an average of 186 yards rushing — including a mark of 5 yards per carry — to their first two opponents. Edge: TCU.
TCU pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
Four receivers with good size, speed and skills and a quarterback who rewrote the TCU record books during his first season as a starter in 2011: That combination could make for a long afternoon for the Kansas defense, which, according to defensive coordinator Dave Campo, is going to have to find a way to force TCU’s junior quarterback Casey Pachall out of his comfort zone early. Whether that comes with extra pressure or strong production from the down linemen, the Jayhawks must find a way to fluster Pachall or else he’ll pick them apart. As Campo said, “He’s a good enough player that you can’t just sit there and cover.” In the season opener last week against Grambling State, Pachall completed all nine pass attempts for 201 and three touchdowns in the first half. He watched the rest of the blowout from the bench in the second half. Edge: TCU.
One team features the reigning Big 12 special teams player of the week and the other features a field-goal kicker who missed two of three attempts a week ago and a kickoff team that has struggled to get the ball to the end zone and bring opposing returners down. TCU freshman Deante’ Gray returned a kick 70 yards for a touchdown on his first college touch and later added a 61-yard punt return. Gray’s 160 yards on five returns set a TCU single-game record. The most impressive part about Gray’s big day is he’s not even the Frogs’ top returner; wide receivers Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter both are listed ahead of him on the depth chart. The Jayhawks’ special teams have gotten off to a rocky start, particularly in field goals, where junior place-kicker Ron Doherty has made just two of five attempts during the first two games. Edge: TCU.