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Meach You in Fort Worth: Previewing the Kansas Jayhawks

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KU is not good. So surely we will have a one point game. Sigh.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

How’s that Doug Meacham hire working out, Jayhawks? Okay, okay... it’s early. And the talent level certainly dropped significantly. But there has been no miracle turnaround in Lawrence to match what happened in Fort Worth with Matthew McConaughey Doug Meacham’s arrival ahead of the 2014 season. All that to say, Kansas is 1-5, riding a five game losing streak, and got curb-stomped by Iowa State last week. Now they come to Fort Worth, on Homecoming weekend, for a night game under the lights, with the former TCU Offensive Coordinator in tow. The Frogs are heavily favored - by 37 12 points at last check - but have beat KU by a TOTAL of 35 points over their five Big 12 meetings (thanks for the nugget, Jamie). We are surely in for another OMG WHY game. One that should still end with a TCU victory.

OFFENSE:

The ‘Hawks have increased their scoring from 20.3 points per game to... 24.6. They run it a little better, at a 145 yards per game clip, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Sophomore Khalil Herbert leads the charge, but more than half of his yardage game against WVU, when he went off for 291 yards on 35 attempts. But at 7.4 per carry overall, he’s the most dangerous ground threat for KU.

Wazzu transfer Peyton Bender won the starting QB job this fall, and has maintained it despite a 55% completion rate and an eight touchdown to nine interception ratio. He throws for 230 yards per game, but he’s not a threat to run. Like at all. Expect to see more of the blitz heavy package that the Frogs unveiled against K State last weekend.

Steven Sims, Jr is back to lead the wide receiving corp, and hauls in 65 yards worth of passes per game. The Houston native has good speed but isn’t overly big at just 5’10”, so expect a lot of one on one coverage by Ranthony Texada. He has nearly double the yardage of any other player on the team, as no other receiver averages close to 50 yards per game. Tight end Ben Johnson could present some matchup problems; at 6’5” he has the size to carve out some room in the passing game, and is the second leading receiver on the team (Meacham is using a tight end, the world is upside down and backwards). The Frogs will need likely call on Travin Howard and Innis Gaines when he goes out on routes.

Of course, the Doug Meacham factor is in play - Sonny Cumbie certainly knows how Meach wants to call the game, and should be able to pass that information along in game, helping GP anticipate in some situations. One thing we can be sure of, on third and short, expect them to throw a fade route to their shortest player. Another thing to consider, is GP seems to think that Doug will be able to consistently attack the TCU defense based on his experience game-planning against it in practice. But, this is a far different unit than a year ago, and a much more aggressive game plan... and surely GP will take on the challenge of showing him something he hasn’t seen before. The mind games between Meach and GP Saturday will be absolutely fascinating to watch (as long as the Frogs are in front).

DEFENSE:

Kansas’ ‘defense’ allows nearly 45 points and 475 yards per game. Opponents are running for almost 200 yards and passing for close to 300 against them. Opposing QBs have a 67.6 completion rate and a 16-3 touchdown to interception rate. Teams have run for 17 touchdowns on a 4.5 average. Some of that is skewed by having already faced two really good offenses in Texas Tech and WVU, but still - not good.

They are decent on third down, holding teams under 42%, but the red zone is another downer - teams have scored 27 times in 31 attempts inside the 20, including 24 touchdowns.

Junior Joe Dineen is the leading tackler for the Jayhawks; the linebacker has three games already with double digit stops and has record at least one TFL in every contest this year. He’s also recorded a sack and a PBU on the year. Safety Mike Lee leads the team with two picks, and DT Daniel Wise has three sacks. Junior Dorance Armstrong might be the most naturally gifted athlete on that side of the ball - the 6’4”, 240 DE out of Houston has 25 tackles, six TFLs, a sack, three PBUs, six QB hits, and a forced fumble. He will be a challenge for a TCU offensive line that has been very good, but is missing Patrick Morris.

While the TCU offense hasn’t blown the doors off of anyone over the last few games, they are still very efficient and have lots of weapons - especially in the realm of guys who cause problems in space. David Beatty has some athletes for Clint Bowen to deploy, and while it might not be a high-scoring affair, Kenny Hill and co should be able to move the ball with consistency Saturday night.

Of course, here we have to talk Meach again. Supposedly, Doug Meacham, Dana Holgorsen, and Kliff Kingsbury talk weekly about how to stop the TCU offense. And no one knows it better outside of Fort Worth than Meach, who has a long history with those other two guys. Does it give Kansas a better chance Saturday? Absolutely, especially when you factor in how tight these games are annually. Does it also explain a little about why the West Virginia game went the way it did? Couldn’t hurt. And does it strike fear into your heart for a November date in Lubbock. Hell. To. The. Yes.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

You aren’t going to beat the Horned Frogs with Field Goals at home Saturday night, but if that’s the direction they are forced to go by the TCU Defense, Kansas has a good kicker in Gabriel Rui, who is 8-9 on the year. Punter Cole Moos (great name) averages over 40 yards a boot, has put 12 inside the 20, and forced 14 fair catches. He’s a pretty good weapon for KU, and could be a huge factor in keeping KaVontae Turpin from (finally) breaking loose in the return game.

As for Kansas’ returns, Sims has yet to do much with punts, averaging 3.5 per with a long of 16, but closes in on 23 yards per touch on kickoffs. Partnered with Ryan Schadler, who goes over 26 per, and they are a dangerous duo. It will be a good challenge for the Frogs, who have been excellent in coverage, to maintain their high standards.

PREDICTION:

One of these days, TCU’s going to handle Kansas the way TCU should handle Kansas. The largest margin of victory over the past four years is just two scores, and though the Frogs carry a 37.5 spread into the weekend, nobody that has watched these matchups expects it to be that lopsided.

All that being said, this will be TCU’s biggest victory of the Big 12 series between these two teams. Yes, Doug wants this one bad. But don’t discount the bad blood on the other sideline, too. The offense will want to show Meach that he made a mistake leaving them, while the D will want to back up their coach’s decision to allow him to walk. And ultimately, the Jayhawks don’t have the players to make the statement they surely want to make. Factor in a night game on national television in the Carter, and a Homecoming crowd - plus the numerous examples of letdown games Patterson can point to over the past couple weeks - and this veteran team will handle their business. But it will be closer than it should yet again.

TCU 31, Kansas 12.

Go Frogs.