After enjoying a scintillating start to our first conference game week, we've decided to come back today with the five reasons Kansas could win. Granted, we weren't all that pessimistic yesterday; those were the notable weaknesses we think ISU will need to exploit to win. And while we don't think they'll be able to do so (at least not on all 5), these five may outweigh them even if they can. With that, we're off…
1. The bye week: Any idea what Mangino's record in games after a bye week (bowl games included) is over the last three years? 5-1, with the lone loss coming in 2005 in Lubbock, when they held the Raiders to 30 points (7 of which were scored by the defense), but had such a shit offense they couldn't capitalize. That's pretty damn good, especially for a team that was nothing more than competitive (if that) prior to last year.
Will it help? Well the proof is in the pudding and while past results do not guarantee future outcomes (remember that when you're investing), they can be a good indicator. Combine that with: Mangino's overall displeasure with how his team has played, the fact that it's a conference opener, on the road, and I think at the very least the team is going to come out prepared and ready.
2. Returning personnel: This is entirely speculation at this point (maybe we'll find out at the presser today), but supposedly Mangino has said it's likely that both Dexton and Kendrick will play this weekend. I had heard different on the latter, but after the performance of the freshman triumvirate, I can't imagine they aren't considering Kendrick if he's been cleared.
Will it help? Absolutely. If it actually comes to fruition. While Dexton hasn't been noticeably missed in the passing game, it's hard to believe he hasn't been extremely missed as a run blocker. And considering he's been out since August (presumably with turf toe), it seems likely we'll see him Saturday. All we can do is speculate on Kendrick. I haven't heard anything that wasn't released outright, so I don't even know the extent of his injury. Having him on the field would undoubtedly be a bonus, though.
**UPDATE** - Dugan is now reporting that they'll both play. And when Dugan says something, it comes to be.
3. The match-up: This really just isn't a good match-up for the Cyclones. As we know it, Kansas' defensive weakness seems to be their lack of a pass rush and susceptibility to a strong passing game. Offensively, they are having trouble running the ball and (to an extent) protecting the quarterback. ISU is not equipped to take advantage of either of these deficiencies.
Will it help? Obviously. While ISU has been solid against the pass (176, 6.9/att.), they have been woeful against the run (188, 5.24). And they get almost no pressure at all (5 sacks). So while Kansas may not be suited to completely expose their poor run defense, they aren't likely to have much trouble moving the ball. On the other side, ISU has actually been decent (though I think they're better defensively), and at the very least has capitalized on their opportunities. Despite averaging less than 350 ypg, they have been able to put up 32 per game, and that's with a 5 spot included. I'm not convinced KU is going to come out and dominate them, but ISU can't succeed as a pass-only offense and if there's one thing KU's defense has shown it's that they can stop the run (93, 3.87), especially if they're geared primarily to do so.
4. Todd Reesing: I'm sure Mangino would hate me singling him out as a reason, but you just have to. He's 15-2 as a starter and his two losses have come by a combined 11 points against legitimate top 10 teams.
Will it help: There are no guarantees, but if I'm confident about anything heading into this game, it's that Todd will show up to play. He may be forcing things more this year than last (and this is a concern), but he's still getting the job done. He'll need to be careful with the ball as ISU has been able to cause a lot of TOs in Ames, but I expect him to get some much needed help on the ground in order to do so (see: Big XII record 213 straight passes without INT).
5. They're just better: In sports the best team does not always win. This is increasingly true in the world of college football. But it certainly never hurts to be the superior team on the field. And this week, Kansas is just that.
Will it help? Of course. As you know, it guarantees nothing, but in the Mark Mangino era, KU has lost very few games in which they were the better team (though Toledo comes to mind), because he always has them ready to play no matter the opponent. Saturday, they will be the better team. If they also show up prepared and focused, they should have no trouble executing and leaving Ames 4-1.