Kansas (1-2) at Northern Illinois (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Huskie Stadium (24,000) -- DeKalb, Illinois. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: KU 1-2, NIU 1-0. Away Record: KU 0-0, NIU 1-0. Neutral Record: KU 0-0, NIU 0-1. Conference Record: KU 0-1, NIU 0-0. Series Record: Series tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Kansas Jayhawks hit the road for the first time this season when they invade Dekalb for non-conference action against the Northern Illinois Huskies.
The Charlie Weis era at Kansas is off to a slow start. The Jayhawks dropped to 1-2 last weekend after being shutdown in a 20-6 loss to their new Big 12 rival, TCU. Kansas opened up the season with a 31-17 victory over South Dakota State behind a strong performance from Tony Pierson, but lost, 25-24, to Rice next time out, as the Owls drilled a game-winning field goal as time expired. Weis, who coached Notre Dame for five seasons, spent 2011 as the offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators. KU is 8-6 all time versus teams from the MAC.
Defeating NIU in DeKalb is not going to be easy for Weis. NIU has won its last 16 games at Huskie Stadium. Coach Dave Doeren improved his record with the team to 13-4 last week with a thrilling, 41-40 victory over Army. The Huskies suffered an 18-17 loss to Iowa at Solider Field in their season opener and put a check in the win column the following week by downing Tennessee-Martin, 35-7, at home. Winning has become the norm recently at NIU. The Huskies are the winningest program in the MAC over the past 10 seasons (80-50) and are one of 10 FBS programs to win at least 11 games in each of the past two years.
This will be just the third meeting between these programs. The series is tied, 1-1, after a pair of thrillers. Kansas evened up the series last season by scoring a touchdown with nine seconds left to take a 45-42 victory in a contest that featured 996 total yards of offense. NIU won the first meeting in 1983, 37-34, thanks to a field goal with eight seconds remaining on the clock.
Kansas is not an impressive team offensively with averages of 383.7 yards and 20.3 points per contest. After gaining more yards on the ground than through the air in their opening two games, the Jayhawks made a breakthrough in the passing game in the loss to TCU.
Former Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist threw for a season-high 303 yards on 19-of-39 efficiency. It was the best performance of his short, three-game tenure as KU's starting quarterback. Crist has now completed 50.4 percent of his passes for 616 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions in a Kansas uniform.
Pierson was the team's best offensive weapon in its opening two games, rushing for 124 yards versus South Dakota State and 120 more against Rice. The sophomore was held to just 35 yards on nine attempts by TCU. Taylor Cox has seen double-digit carries in all three games this season and averages 82.3 yards per game.
Slot WR Daymond Patterson has recorded a team-best 17 receptions. The undersized senior is coming off a six-catch, 48-yard performance against Rice. Andrew Turzilli led the way with 100 yards on three receptions in the team's most recent outing. The Jayhawks should see a boost to the passing attack with the return of Kale Pick, who missed the game against TCU with an injury.
Although KU ranks 91st in the FBS with an allowed average of 433.7 yards per game, it is considerably better at keeping opponents off the board. This is a clear result of the Jayhawks' uncanny ability to create big plays and force turnovers. KU's 12 forced turnovers in the first three games leads the Big 12.
The Jayhawks are led by senior FS Bradley McDougald, who has been all over the field this season. He leads the team with 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
There were questions on whether NIU would continue its success when its star QB Chandler Harnish graduated last spring. Jordan Lynch has stepped into the starting role and thrived as a dual-threat quarterback. Lynch, who is built like a linebacker, amassed 467 yards of total offense, threw four TD passes, and broke away for an 88-yard run to the end zone in last week's win over Army. Lynch ranks in the top 30 in the FBS in rushing, passing efficiency, total offense, and scoring.
Martel Moore is the most dangerous weapon in NIU's passing attack. Moore has amassed 229 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions in three games. Senior tight end Jason Schepler has been named the team's offensive player of the week in each of the past two weeks. Although his numbers do not jump out, his blocking ability makes a clear impact in the rushing game.
The Huskies' defense played exceptionally well in their first two games, but they were unable to slow down Army's wishbone offense which led to three Black Knights passing the century mark on the ground. Despite allowing 40 points to Army, NIU still ranks second in the MAC in scoring defense (21.7 ppg).
Senior linebacker Tyrone Clark will be looking to ride his career-best performance of 17 tackles with three for loss versus Army into the bout with Kansas.
The Jayhawks have played without any heart in their first three games, all of which were at home. Weis will need to find a way to motivate his troops or they will be left in the dust by Lynch and the Huskies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 42, Kansas 30
09/19 11:04:20 ET