Since we are but 100 hours away from kickoff at Memorial Stadium, it seems like we ought to at least take a glance at the opponent. Granted, this would not be considered a difficult game even in the Terry Allen era, it is still a game and one that must be won handily to get the year started off right. The visitors this week are Mario Cristobal's Panthers of Florida International. You may remember them from their semi-recent on field brawl with The U or from the 55-3 beat down they were given in Lawrence last year.
The Panthers would like you to believe that they have put those transgressions in the past. In all fairness to them, they have neither been in another enormous brawl since that one, nor have they been beaten by such humiliating scores as 55-3 since the one experienced last year. For this, we must give them credit. We also must give them credit for getting a brand new on-campus stadium built, even in the midst of a 1-17 streak in which they've been the underdog all 18 games. Given that they start: @ KU, @ Iowa, v. South Florida (inaugural game in stadium) & @ Toledo, I would expect that underdog streak to make it to at least 22. Game 23 in this streak will be player @ North Texas, the lone team responsible for losing to FIU during this horrid stretch. Oddsmakers, the floor is yours. But, I digress.
Even though we already know what would happen (and did) when last year's KU team played last year's FIU team, here is a look at the stats anyway…
As you can see, FIU was better in exactly one category: sacks. And in reality they actually had less of them, but since they played in one less game, the per game average was actually slightly better. We have made no secret of our hope for a more consistent and overall better pass rush out of the Jayhawks this year. And now knowing that they sacked the quarterback less frequently than Florida International, we feel more strongly about this than ever. If Florida International is doing anything better than you, that problem must be rectified.
Aside from that I would also direct your attention to the rushing yardage in both charts. As you've likely noticed, not only were the Hawks better than the Panthers, but often they weren't even in the same stratosphere. The most telling of these differences comes from the running game. Assuming the team has watched some tape on FIU, Jake, Jocques and Angus presumably cannot wait to do their best Knowshon Moreno impressions this Saturday (If I haven't mentioned it, I want to be Knowshon Moreno when I grow up). I'm sure Todd and the receivers will put up their stats. I'm sure the pass defense will look just fine. But the pure domination of this game is likely to be centered on the ground game (or lack thereof) that each team will enjoy.
We'll try to have more for you as the week goes on, but though the passing game is thought to be a "strength" of this team, they have yet to decide on a quarterback. So needless to say there is not exactly a bevy of information out there and much of what is out there is all second hand, because I only saw them the one time. You all saw what this team had to offer last year. Barring an unforeseen collapse on the part of Kansas and surge on the part of FIU, I'll be shocked to see something all that different from what went down last year. However, I won't be holding my breath for another 100+ yard interception return for a touchdown. Thank you, Aqib.
Before we go, I should also direct you to Tim Griffin's preseason All Big XII teams. No Jayhawks on offense, but three of them (Mortensen, Rivera, & Harris) on defense. No complaints here.
Note: If there's something you want to know about FIU, put it in the comments and I'll see what I can do.