PREVIEW – West Virginia heads to Lawrence for a primetime showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks

PREVIEW – West Virginia heads to Lawrence for a primetime showdown with the Kansas Jayhawks

NCAA Football: Kansas at West Virginia
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Last game of the year, Dan, can’t hold anything back now!

OPENING THOUGHTS

It says a lot about this team that they’ve responded every time they’ve been backed into a corner this year. Never mind that they’ve spent far too much time in corners, that resiliency and lack of quit, even in the face of some comically bad mistakes, is something that I think will ultimately serve the program well going forward. The next step is learning how to avoid those mistakes, and finally, how to handle that success when it happens. And as frustrating as this year has been at times I do think you can see us taking baby steps in that direction. On to Kansas.

WHEN/WHERE

Date: November 27th, 2021

Kickoff: 7:00PM EST

Where: Memorial Stadium – Lawrence, KS

Tickets: General Public

WATCH/LISTEN

Channel: FS1

Online Streaming: FoxSports app with a valid cable subscription

Cord Cutters: Mountaineer fans can catch all the action on fuboTV. fuboTV is an over-the-top streaming service that carries all the major networks, including CBS, NBC, FOX, and now….the ESPN Disney networks! It also carries ABC, CBS Sports Network, FS1, SEC Network, and more. fuboTV comes with a cloud DVR feature, so you can record the game and watch it later. Sign up for a free seven day trial of fuboTV, and get 15% off the base family plan, by following THIS LINK.

Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Radio Affiliates) | SiriusXM Channel 200 | WVU Gameday App (Apple | Android)

Radio Announcers: Tony Caridi (PBP), Dwight Wallace (analyst), and Jed Drenning (sideline)

Reminder: It is against site policy to post links to illegal streams in the comments.

DEGENERATES UNITE

Spread: WVU -15.5

Over/Under: 55.5

I’d stay away from the total but don’t think we’ll have issues covering.

WEATHER FORECAST

Clear – high 64/35 low – 0%

This season’s weather has been as good as any in recent memory, and it’s looking like that trend will continue in Lawrence on Saturday.

THE ENEMY

Where are they from? Lawrence, Kansas.

All-time series record: 9-1. Predictably our most lopsided conference matchup. The 2013 loss was probably the low point of the Holgorsen era, but we’ve won 7 in a row since then.

Last game: Last year’s 38-17 win in Morgantown was arguably our most statistically complete performance of the season, outgaining Kansas by nearly 400 yards. The Jayhawks raced out to any early 10-0 lead but were systematically destroyed for the next 55ish minutes.

Head coach: Lance Leipold (1st season, 2-9). Leipold is in his first year in Lawrence after a successful 6-year stint at Buffalo, and previously won 6 Division 3 titles as the head coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater. He’s the rare guy who probably won’t see Kansas as a stepping stone while still being a good enough coach to move the needle there.

2021 record: 2-9. You wouldn’t know if from their record but there’s been an unfamiliar whiff of friskiness about the Jayhawks this year. They’ve still been on the wrong end of their fair share of beatdowns, but they’ve also looked very competitive in a handful of games, especially since making the switch to Jalon Daniels at quarterback a few weeks back.

NUMBERS THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

71.9% – Completion percentage for Kansas’ FBS opponents when passing the ball this year, good for dead last nationally.

56% – Success rate allowed by the Jayhawk defense this year. A play is considered successful if it gains 50% of the necessary yardage on first down, 70% on 2nd down, and 100% on third and fourth down, and their 56% is again the worst mark in the country.

83% – Completing the hattrick of suck, Kansas opponents have scored touchdowns on 83% of their red zone trips this year. The next worst team is at 76%.

8.8 – Tackles per game for Kansas safety and Big 12 leading tackler Kenny Logan Jr.

34 – Pressures from Kansas edge Kyron Johnson. As bad as the unit is as a whole, Johnson and Logan are two of the better players in the conference at their respective positions.

53% – Kansas’ run rate in November after running the ball 61% of the time in September and October. Jalon Daniels has given them the confidence to be more two-dimensional.

KEYS TO THE GAME

PLAY CLEAN

Let’s keep this short and sweet – free points and possessions are the Jayhawks only path to a victory in this game. This obviously includes turnovers, but if we can also avoid big plays and backbreaking penalties then I don’t see any way we lose this one.

BLOCK KYRON JOHNSON

Kansas’ team pass rush metrics – 4.2% sack rate (113th nationally), 1.2 sacks per game (121st), 68.0 PFF pass rush grade (103rd) – are actually even worse than Texas’ were. The one advantage they have over the Longhorns is Kyron Johnson, a bonafide game wrecker with 36 pressures off the edge. Johnson was directly responsible for Kansas’ first half flurry in Austin two weekends ago, forcing 2 fumbles and an interception that led directly to 21 points.

The good news here is that nobody else on their team has generated more than 17 pressures (fellow edge Malcolm Lee) and only two others have more than 10, so we should be able to single up elsewhere and pay Johnson all the attention that he deserves. The bad news is that every other team they’ve played has theoretically been able to do that too and he’s still caused plenty of problems. We need to pay close attention to where he is and can’t let him get consistently isolated.

CONTAIN JALON DANIELS

There’s no arguing the fact that Jalon Daniels has breathed new life into the Kansas offense. Taking over against opponents like Texas and TCU certainly hasn’t hurt him, but he gives them a balance and an outside-the-pocket playmaking factor that they haven’t had in recent memory. His 69% completion percentage is a full 13 points higher than Jason Bean’s 56%, and though he’s not quite as much of a threat on designed runs as Bean, he’s a much bigger one as a scrambler due to his ability to keep his eyes downfield as he runs. We can’t let him break contain and start making plays on us, because as he goes so go they. They’ve clearly bought into him as “the guy” and we don’t want to get into a situation where they’re feeling themselves on us in the second half.

HOW AFRAID SHOULD WE BE?

2/10. This is still a game we’ll expect to win comfortably, but Daniels’ emergence has added a layer of uncertainty that definitely wasn’t there a month ago.

PREDICTION

“Set aside watching the games, though that’s certainly a part of it, but statistically in just about every category, offensively and defensively, [Texas] comes out on top over [Kansas].”

Jokes aside, the Jayhawks may have beaten the Longhorns but this is still very much Kansas we know and love, especially on the defensive side of the ball. You couldn’t build a Doege-friendlier defense in a lab. Between the pass rush and the red zone defense they’re just exceptionally ill-equipped to take advantage of the things that give us trouble, and in general nobody’s been worse on a per-play basis. I expect us to move the ball and put up points with ease, and even if Jalon Daniels does get some mojo going I don’t think they can score with us. Let’s go bowling, dudes.

West Virginia 41-21 Kansas