Kansas at TCU
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
TV: Fox (Ch. 4)
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Radio: WHB (810 AM)
Line: TCU by 39
The lowdown: KU football is getting the rare opportunity to play in prime time. It’s the Jayhawks’ first game on Fox since the 2008 Orange Bowl, and it’s also the team’s first night game on one of the four major broadcast networks since a November 2009 matchup at Texas. KU linebacker Joe Dineen summarized the situation well earlier this week: “For us to be able to go out and show the whole country what we’re about is huge,” he said. “Now on the contrary, we know that it’s high stakes. We’ve got to go out there and perform, because if we don’t, then it is nationally televised and people will also see that.” Something else to remember: If KU loses, it will tie the FBS record for consecutive road losses at 44.
KU key to success: Play with emotion. KU is not as good as TCU — no one will argue that point. Yet, the Jayhawks have lost their last three meetings against the Horned Frogs by a combined 11 points (including a 24-23 home loss last year) mostly because of effort. This also could be personal for many Jayhawks, as KU has 37 players from Texas and 15 from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “‘You didn’t recruit me. You didn’t really offer me. Now, you’ve got to pay.’ That’s just the mindset for me,” KU defensive end Dorance Armstrong said. “Hopefully it’s the same for some of the other guys from Texas as well.”
TCU key to success: Don’t turn it over. This is basically true of every KU opponent the rest of the way, as the Jayhawks will need help to remain competitive. Turnovers are the flukiest (and easiest) way for underdogs to make up points in a hurry, so for TCU, ball security should be of utmost importance. Coming in, the Horned Frogs are fourth in the Big 12 with a plus-four turnover margin, while the Jayhawks are last at minus-9.
TCU player to watch: Quarterback Kenny Hill does a good job of spreading it around offensively, as four different receivers are averaging at least 30 yards per game. Hill has completed 70 percent of his passes (sixth nationally), and also has gained 8 yards per attempt thus far.
Key matchup: KU’s offensive line vs. TCU’s defensive front. The Jayhawks’ running game collapsed last week with center Mesa Ribordy and running back Khalil Herbert not available. KU, which ran for 367 yards less than a month ago against West Virginia, was stifled by Iowa State while rushing 33 times for 62 yards. Ribordy and Herbert will be game-time decisions according to KU coach David Beaty, and with or without them, the Jayhawks will need to play with better technique in the trenches or this game will get out of hand too.
Jesse Newell’s prediction: TCU 58, Kansas 14. Just when it appeared that the Jayhawks were becoming a predictable football team, last week happened. A much-maligned defense forced seven three-and-outs and had its best performance against an FBS opponent. A once-improving offense struggled to the point where it didn’t cross its own 35 until its 15th possession. A decent special teams had its worst day of the Beaty era, allowing a punt return touchdown with two separate exchange issues in the punting game. So which KU team will show up in this one? It’s almost impossible to know, but odds are that the Horned Frogs — despite their past issues against the Jayhawks — shouldn’t have any problems improving to 7-0.