It certainly is less stressful for fans when the opponents are typically big underdogs. Yet the games aren’t always exciting for the public at large and certainly can be boring to analyze. While the Jayhawks are receiving some love in the polls, they are getting zero media attention outside of the local media. I don’t think that is going to change before the Oklahoma Sooners roll into Lawrence. If things go as expected, KU will be 6-0 and will likely be ranked near the Top 10. Before the season it was expected that Oklahoma would have one loss at most coming into the game. They got one loss in week one to BYU and have two very tough games with Miami and Texas before they come to Lawrence. If OU has three losses, which team will be favored? This could also be harmful to the Jayhawks’ strength of schedule. It also hasn’t helped that the Colorado Buffaloes have yet to show a pulse. I just don’t think Coach Mangino needs this many cupcakes…and yes the pun was intended.
Let’s take a look at the Duke Blue Devils. In week one Duke lost to an FCS (Division I-AA) team in Richmond 24-16. At the FCS level, Richmond is pretty darned good. Yet this was still a loss at home to a lower-level team. Last week Duke traveled to Army and won 35-19 though it took a fourth quarter rally including two interceptions for touchdowns to pull the game out. In short, Duke isn’t a very good team right now. Yet they have shown improvement since David Cutcliffe took over as coach last season. Kansas fans certainly understand having a program that is just flat out bad. And we have also seen what a new coach and new commitment to the program can bring. Coach Mangino didn’t win a lot of games early in his tenure, but the fans could see that the team was slowly improving. Duke hasn’t won many games under Cutcliffe and that will probably continue this season. Yet they are showing some improvement and that will translate into wins down the road.
One challenge for the Jayhawks this week is preparing for two quarterbacks. Duke will start the game with Thad Lewis behind center. Cutcliffe has made it clear that Sean Renfree will also see significant playing time at quarterback. I don’t think either of the quarterbacks is as good as Trevor Vittatoe of UTEP and Kansas kept him under control last week. I’m not saying that these quarterbacks won’t be better than Vittatoe at some point, they just aren’t there yet and I doubt that will change against the Jayhawks. Whichever quarterback is behind center, he won’t be throwing to Connor Vernon. Vernon is one of Duke’s better receivers and it doubtful for the game.
Duke doesn’t have much of a running game with only 44.5 yards per game and that probably won’t improve in this game. Leading rusher Jay Hollingsworth is questionable for the game and second leading rusher Re’quan Boyette is only probable. Throw in the Jayhawks defense against the run and I would expect most of the Duke offense to come in the air.
The injuries continues on the defensive side of the ball for Duke. Defensive lineman Vince Obhobaase, considered the heart of the defense, is listed as questionable for the game. If Duke tries to stop the KU passing game, we will probably see more of the rushing game the Jayhawks have used to pile up big numbers in the previous two games. Should Duke decide to take away the run, we might finally get to see Todd Reesing and his stable of receivers open up the attack. Given that Reesing was recruited by Duke, he may also want to show them what he has.
I don’t see this game being close. Duke hasn’t shown a lot of offense in their first two games and I doubt that will change this week. The Jayhawks have continued to put in a workmanlike performance each game. I’m going with 52-10 in favor of the Jayhawks.