Louisiana Tech (1-2) at Kansas (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (50,071) -- Lawrence, Kansas. Television: Fox Sports 1. Home Record: LaTech 1-1, KU 1-0. Away Record: LaTech 0-1, KU 0-1. Neutral Record: LaTech 0-0, KU 0-0. Conference Record: LaTech 0-1, KU 0-0. Series Record: Kansas leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Kansas Jayhawks hope to avoid consecutive losses to a member of the Conference USA as they take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in their final test before their Big 12 season begins.
Kansas let a fourth-quarter lead slip away last week as it endured a 23-14 loss to Rice on the road. Coach Charlie Weis' team coasted to a 31-14 victory over FCS opponent South Dakota the previous week in its season opener to end an 11-game losing streak. The Jayhawks will try to end their current streak of 21 straight losses to FBS opponents this week.
They will face a Bulldogs team that had an unfriendly welcome into the C-USA in week three as they were beat at home, 24-15, by Tulane in a Thursday night game. Louisiana Tech is now 0-2 on the road having lost 40-14 at NC State in the program debut of coach Skip Holtz. The former South Florida head coach notched his first win with the school the following week over FCS opponent Lamar (27-14).
This will be just the fourth meeting in history between these schools. Kansas holds a 2-1 edge in the all-time series thanks to its 29-0 shutout win in 2008.
Louisiana Tech will fall behind in the series even further if its offense does not figure out a way to produce points. In their loss to the Green Wave, the Bulldogs were held out of the end zone until the 3:44 mark of the fourth quarter. Louisiana Tech led the FBS in both total offense (577.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game) in 2012. Its averages have plummeted this season to 349.7 yards and 18.7 points per game.
Starting quarterback Scotty Young went 9-of-28 for 108 yards last week versus Tulane before a rib injury late in the first half forced him to miss the rest of the game. Young's injury put freshman Ryan Higgins on the field for the first time in his career. Higgins completed 7-of-16 attempts for 57 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Young is probable to return this week, but he will feel pressure from Higgins if he does not improve his average of 150.7 passing yards per game on just 52.9 percent efficiency. The usually steady rushing attack must get better for the Bulldogs also. Tevin King has played well over the past two weeks, amassing 270 yards rushing during that span. Star tailback Kenneth Dixon did not look sharp in his return from injury last week however, and finished with negative five yards on four carries.
Louisiana Tech's defense had a decent showing its last time out as it recovered three fumbles and recorded an interception off Tulane's Nick Montana. Still, the Green Wave were able to convert 9-of-22 third downs opportunities as they exploited the Bulldogs' weak pass coverage. Although Tulane had the worst rushing offense in 2012 with less than 40 ypg on the ground, it managed to rush for 129 against Louisiana Tech. Holtz's defense is led by Kentrell Brice, who has registered a team-high 26 total tackles. Daniel Cobb has been an impact player also with 23 stops, eight tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Brice and Cobb are going to place their full attention on Kansas running back James Sims, who tallied 109 yards on 19 carries last week for his 12th career 100-yard game. Sims has 2,685 yards on the ground in his career which ranks fifth best in school history. His production has helped the Jayhawks average 190 yards per game and score four times in the running game this season.
Even with the offensive-minded Weis in control, Kansas has had very little success with its aerial attack. Jake Heaps completed just 14-of-28 pass attempts for a career-high 157 yards and a touchdown and was intercepted twice by Rice last week. The junior passer has connected on only 47.9 percent of his pass attempts and nets only 133.5 yards per game. His favorite target has been Tony Pierson, who leads the Jayhawks with 127 yards and six catches.
Ben Heeney has been the heart and soul of the Kansas defense with 22 total tackles, 3.5 TFL and two sacks. The team's pass defense is ranked among the nation's leaders, having allowed just one passing touchdown to three interceptions. The Jayhawks have shown they struggle at stopping opposing rushers by allowing over 400 yards on the ground already through two games.
This one could go either way as both teams have been disappointing in the early season. Despite forgettable performances by both Louisiana Tech and Kansas in recent weeks, there should be plenty of offensive production as both sides are equipped with talented halfbacks and weak rush defenses. The Jayhawks could experience a sweep at the hands of the C-USA if Dixon is back to 100 percent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 35, Louisiana Tech 31
09/18 10:31:53 ET