From the second the Jayhawks walked off the field after the 2016 regular season finale against Kansas State, excitement filled the air for what was to come in the future.
After defeating Texas for the first time since 1938, and playing a competitive game against the Wildcats, Kansas carried this momentum to the off-season and were seemingly hitting on all cylinders.
David Beaty and his staff recruited way out of their league, collecting verbal commits from many four and five star recruits that were being chased by the top SEC programs.
KU addressed the ongoing offensive deficiencies by acquiring TCU’s offensive coordinator Doug Meachem. The hire shook the college football landscape, as Meachem was considered to be one of the best offensive minds in football. Meachem was even named a finalist for the 2014 Broyles award, an honor given to the best assistant in college football.
To put the icing on the cake, the KU athletic department awarded Beaty with a contract extension and announced that there were plans in place to complete a 300 million dollar stadium renovation.
Everything that could go right, did go right. The future had never looked brighter for the program.
2017 was going to be the year the Kansas football program showed true, tangible evidence on the field.
With the fan base dying for something to cheer for, commits on the fence, and boosters wanting to see results to feel comfortable chipping into the stadium renovation fund, the first couple games of the season were paramount for the Jayhawks.
Anything less than a 2-0 start would be a major disappointment.
We all know what happened next. After a solid but not resounding victory over an inferior FCS foe (Southeast Missouri State) in week one, Kansas reverted back to the Kansas we have all grown so accustomed to seeing over the past seven years.
Central Michigan, a team picked to finish 5th in the MAC west, strolled into Memorial Stadium and disemboweled the home team 45-27. All of the positive momentum the program seemingly had was vanquished in a mere couple of hours.
If Kansas wants to save their season, they must now go on the road and win a game many had projected them to lose in the preseason.
The opponent standing in their way is the Ohio Bobcats.
Ohio comes into this game trying to bounce back from a loss of their own, taking a 44-21 defeat at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers last week.
The teams squared off last season in Lawrence, resulting in a 37-21 Ohio victory.
What we can expect to see
Living in a pass happy Big 12, Kansas will see a change of pace from the offensive style they are used to this week.
Ohio will look to pound the rock on the ground.
“The core of their offense is running the football. They are a downhill, knock you off the ball and get movement at the front line team. They will give you hard double teams and try to win the line of scrimmage. They will do what they have to do to get the running game going.” -Clint Bowen (KU defensive coordinator)
While the Jayhawks’ offense was not the main reason to blame for the loss to Central Michigan, they must be better going forward.
Ohio gave up 558 yards of offense to Purdue and their defense was gouged for seven 20-plus-yard passing plays.
Look for Peyton Bender to continue to build continuity with his new teammates and the Jayhawks to put up some points. The likely return of star receiver Steven Sims will be a huge shot in the arm for KU.
Keys to success
On paper, this seems like a matchup Kansas would want. After their secondary got exposed last week against CMU, giving up 467 passing yards, a team that wants to run the ball seems like a huge sigh of relief.
KU’s best group of players is their front seven on defense. Linemen Dorance Armstrong Jr. and Daniel Wise have received lots of national attention for their play and linebacker Joe Dineen Jr has been all over the field.
With that being said, Kansas will continue to pile up losses if they don’t fix their turnover problem.
KU leads the nation with 41 giveaways over the past two seasons, and Ohio forced three in last year’s game on its way to the comfortable victory. The Jayhawks have managed to commit two or more turnovers in 16 straight games.
Bender will need to be more careful with the football, his four interceptions on the year leads the FBS.
Players to Watch
Peyton Bender: 59-99, 687 yards, 4 TDS, 4 INT
Dom Williams: 28 carries, 105 yards, 3 TDS
Steven Sims: 4 catches, 142 yards, 2 TDS