As soon as Boston College football handed Richmond a 45-13 defeat on Saturday, Eagles head coach Steve Addazio turned to Kansas (1-1). For one, BC (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) had only six days to prepare. But Addazio was also quick to mention during Monday’s weekly press conference, that his team is up against a Power Five opponent. He’s technically right. Over the course of this decade, however, the Jayhawks haven’t looked the part. In fact, at times, they’ve looked like another FCS program.
Kansas hasn’t won more than three games in a single season since 2009. This decade, the Jayhawks have posted a meager 19-91 record, registering two one-win seasons (2012, 2017) and, even worse, one zero-win campaign (2015)—Kansas was the first Power Five program to go winless since Washington in 2008. With former LSU head coach Les Miles at the helm, there’s more optimism than usual, but a 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina last week showed that the Jayhawks still have a ways to go. This might be a short week for Kansas, but it could be a very long game for Miles and Co.
Who is BC playing?
When is BC playing?
Saturday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where is BC playing?
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
How to watch:
The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.
BC and Kansas have never met before, but their head coaches have. Addazio was hired as Florida’s tight ends coach the same year that Miles got the head coaching gig at LSU. While Addazio was in Gainesville, Fla., (2005-10), the Gators squared off against Miles’ Tigers six times. The teams split those games and provided several exciting moments, including a 2007 matchup where LSU dashed a 10-point fourth quarter deficit, went 5-for-5 on fourth down conversions, and beat then-No. 9 Florida—quarterbacked by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow—28-24.
“I think he’s one of those guys that’s going to take chances,” Addazio said during Monday’s presser. “He makes college football fun in a lot of ways, not just with that, but just with personality and everything else. Been in a lot of big-time ball games, and certainly one of the great coaches in the history of our game. No doubt about that now. He gets his teams ready to play.”
What to expect from Kansas:
The Jayhawks haven’t averaged more than 24 points per game in a single season this decade, and, through two games of the 2019 season, it’s looking like their scoring struggles might very well continue. Last week against Coastal Carolina—a team that gave up 30 points in a Week 1 loss to Eastern Michigan—Kansas mustered one touchdown, and it came in the first quarter of play. The Chanticleers held offensive coordinator Les Koenning and the Jayhawks to 280 total yards. Fifth-year Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley never established a rhythm, averaging a mere 5.6 yards per attempt and throwing two interceptions.
Although Stanley tossed a pair of touchdowns in Week 1, the second of which served as the game-winning score, Saturday’s performance raised a lot of questions. But Miles is sticking with his guns, resting all of his confidence in Stanley as the starter. The 6-foot-2 signal caller hasn’t always made the right adjustments at the line of scrimmage, notably last week on a 3rd-and-2 with less than five minutes in regulation. With nine Coastal Carolina defenders in the box, including a blitzing safety, and room on the perimeter, Stanley should have audibled out of the run to move the chains through the air. He didn’t, Kansas turned the ball over on downs the next play, and the Jayhawks never got the ball back.
This week, Miles hinted at incorporating some run-pass option plays into Kansas’ offense, according to The University Daily Kansan. Stanley ran RPOs in high school and apparently is pretty comfortable with the scheme, so don’t be surprised if Miles goes that route on Friday night. After all, Richmond dual-threat quarterback Joe Mancuso found success with the read-option against BC last week, rushing for 70 yards on 10 carries.
The Jayhawks’ run game is the bread and butter of its offense, which is hardly surprising considering that running back Pooka Williams Jr. is Kansas’ premier playmaker and Miles loved to pound the rock at LSU. Williams, who earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors, rushed for 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman, even piling up 252 yards on the ground in an entertaining loss to then-No. 6 Oklahoma. So far this year, though, fellow back Khalil Herbert has rushed for 71 more yards than Williams on just three more attempts (but Williams served a one-game suspension for a domestic battery charge in Week 1.) The duo has a big and experienced offensive line to work with, headlined by four-star left tackle and tenured starter Hakeem Adenji, but the rushing attack will be handicapped as long as the passing game flounders.
The Big 12 is notoriously bad on the defensive side of the ball, and Kansas is no exception. Each of the past nine years, the Jayhawks have allowed, on average, at least 30 points per game. Not only that, but Kansas hasn’t had a defensive S&P+ rating higher than 94th since 2014. New defensive coordinator D.J. Elliot was dealt a good deal of turnover this offseason, especially up front—the Jayhawks lost their top-three leading tacklers from last year’s defensive line. The departures of linebackers Joe Dineen Jr. and Keith Loneker Jr. certainly didn’t help either. Luckily for Elliot, the secondary is relatively experienced, and, as of now, the unit has held its own, albeit against Indiana State and Coastal Carolina.
Kansas is currently allowing just 14.5 points per game and 4.9 yards per play, ranking 52nd in the nation in total defense. But the Jayhawks have had a hard time against the run. They’ve given up an average of 159 rushing yards during the first weeks of the year, allowing both the Sycamores and the Chanticleers to rush for more than 145 yards. Those numbers have AJ Dillon, David Bailey, and the rest of the Eagles’ running back room salivating. Last week against Richmond, BC logged 346 yards on the ground, as five Eagles recorded 20 or more rushing yards.
Kansas’ run defense could use some help, but the unit has been finding ways to rush the passer. The Jayhawks have tallied a total of six sacks thus far, in large part thanks to both linebacker Azur Kamara and defensive end Darrius Moragne. Each have brought down opposing quarterbacks on two separate occasions. Kansas has forced a pair of interceptions, including a 57-yard pick six by Hasan Defense, but hasn’t yet recovered a fumble. If the Jayhawks are to upset BC on the road, they’ll likely have to win the turnover battle, and that starts with making game-changing plays on defense.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Kansas only has a 7.1 percent chance to knock off the Eagles in Alumni Stadium. Quite frankly, it’s going to take a lot. The Jayhawks will have to control the clock with the run game, open up the offense with RPOs, hope Williams has another highlight-reel friendly game, and create a few turnovers on defense. It would be one of the more improbable wins in Kansas’ recent history and one of the most disappointing losses in the Addazio era.
The more likely scenario involves BC running all over the Jayhawks’ defense and Anthony Brown going over the top of the Kansas secondary on play-action, resulting in a runaway Eagles victory and BC’s second straight 3-0 start. The last time Miles and Addazio coached against one another, their teams were some of the best in the SEC, and even the country. Now, their programs couldn’t be more different: one is trying to escape from a decade’s worth of embarrassment, the other is looking to return to the AP Top 25.
Featured Image by Orlin Wagner / AP Photo
Photo by Charlie Riedel / AP Photo