Kansas football currently sits with a 5-2 overall record, with a 2-2 record in Big 12 play in 2023 as they head into their bye week this weekend. After a tough 39-32 loss to Oklahoma State this past weekend, the Jayhawks will look to take the time to regroup in preparation for Homecoming next week against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Today, we are going to be breaking down what has happened so far for the Jayhawks during the 2023 season. We are going to break down all of the good and bad and discuss the storylines surrounding the team.
The 2023 season has already been full of many ups and downs for the Jayhawks. It all starts with star junior quarterback Jalon Daniels, who has been dealing with a back issue since this past offseason.
He missed the season opener against Missouri State before making his first appearance of the 2023 season the next week against Illinois. The Jayhawks have won all three games that Daniels has started against Illinois, Nevada, and BYU, while he threw for 705 yards and five touchdowns with a 74.7% completion rate.
Three weeks ago, Daniels was slated to start their game at Texas but was a last-minute scratch for the Jayhawks. It turned out that the back issues he dealt with during the offseason that also kept him out for the season opener, flared up before kickoff. He has been sidelined since.
Head coach Lance Leipold said in his post-game press conference this past weekend, that he has “great hope,” about Daniels returning for the Jayhawks soon. “We’ll see what next week brings, and as we head into Oklahoma week where he’s at,” Leipold added on Saturday.
His status for next week’s game against Oklahoma is currently unknown. But with all things considered, it wouldn’t be surprising if they try to do what they can to get him ready for a possible return next week. Nevertheless, it’s pure conjecture right now with Daniels’ timetable.
The good for Kansas:
Kansas has made appearances in the top 25 poll twice this season after defeating BYU and then reappearing in the poll after their bounce-back win over UCF. The team playing at their best has shown so far that they are a top-25 team.
Senior backup quarterback Jason Bean has played well in the four games that he has started for the Jayhawks this season. He has thrown for 913 yards and nine touchdowns with a 65.3% completion rate. Bean opted to return for his final year of eligibility this season, and it is safe to say that the decision has worked out well for all parties.
The running game for the Jayhawks has been their biggest strength on offense, with their top two running backs in junior running back Devin Neal and redshirt sophomore running back Daniel Hishaw rushing for over 1,000 yards seven weeks into the season. The most impressive performance when it came to the running game for the Jayhawks, was their 399-yard, five-touchdown performance in their 51-22 win over UCF.
The Jayhawk defense has made strides from last season to this season. They currently have nine turnovers in total so far through seven games, which include seven interceptions and two recovered fumbles.
Junior cornerback Cobee Bryant has made the most of the impact in the turnovers, with two interceptions and a fumble which ended up becoming a scoop-and-score against BYU. Senior safety Kenny Logan Jr. leads the team currently in solo tackles with 28, with a forced fumble, and an interception against BYU that turned into a pick-six.
What does Kansas need to do to play better?
While Bean has done a great job of taking over for Jalon Daniels due to injury, he threw for two interceptions and had a fumble last week against Oklahoma State. Bean had not thrown any interceptions coming into the contest.
Not just for both Jalon Daniels and Jason Bean, the offense as a whole will need to have the mindset of taking care of the ball better in these final five games. It ultimately became the deciding factor in last week’s game. However, if you flip the script from last week, Kansas forced three turnovers against BYU, and that became the deciding factor in the game in which they won.
It is safe to assume that the Jayhawk offense will continue to center to scheme around attacking in the running game, regardless of who starts at quarterback moving forward with how the group has performed this season.
The defense for Kansas looks to continue to force turnovers and win the battle up front while working on getting around blocks faster to make plays. Getting around blocks has seemingly been an issue for the Jayhawks, which was evident last week against the Cowboys. If they can improve that part of their game on defense, this group will perform better.
The special teams unit has been consistent all season long until last week. One extra point was blocked, and a botched snap cost the Jayhawks two points. They will have to clean things up in the kicking game and return to form if they want to help complement the offense and defense.
Schedule for the rest of the season:
The Jayhawks will have the following schedule to close out 2023:
October 28th: Oklahoma, 11 a.m. kickoff November 4th: at Iowa State, TBA November 11th: Texas Tech, TBA November 18th: Kansas State, TBA November 25th: at Cincinnati, TBA
The Jayhawks will have three more games at home and two on the road.
The meeting between the Sooners and Jayhawks will likely be the final meeting in football between the two schools for the foreseeable future, as Oklahoma gets set to make their move to the Southeastern Conference alongside current Big 12 member Texas next year.
The Jayhawks travel to Ames after Oklahoma to take on Iowa State. They have not defeated the Cyclones in Ames since 2008.
The Red Raiders then come to Lawrence on Veteran’s Day in an interesting matchup. The Jayhawks have only beaten the Red Raiders twice all-time in 2001 and 2019. We will see what this Texas Tech team looks like in a few weeks as they currently deal with injuries in key positions. This game seems to be like a win for Kansas, but the Jayhawks should not take this game lightly.
Kansas State will then make the small trip to Lawrence, KS in the final game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium before renovations to the stadium began. There will be a lot riding on this game, with possible Big 12 championship implications that rely on this game, and the fact that the Jayhawks have not defeated the Wildcats since 2008. It will be one of the most intense matchups in this rivalry’s history.
Then to close out the season, the Jayhawks travel to Cincinnati. It will be Cincinnati’s senior day. It is also worth mentioning that the Jayhawks have not traveled to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats since 1997. Cincinnati currently sits at 2-4, 0-3 in conference play so far on the season. We will see if any tides turn for the Bearcats under first-year head coach Scott Satterfield. The season finale should turn out to be an interesting matchup.
What is the best possible outcome for the Jayhawks?
There is a realistic chance that Kansas wins out the rest of the season. However, Oklahoma will likely be a top-10 opponent come next week and will pose another big challenge for the Jayhawks. One can argue that this matchup will turn out to be what some people call a “trap game” for the Sooners, but they will be ready to play.
The next four games are seemingly 50/50 matchups, meaning that the end result could go either way.
Iowa State and Cincinnati will both be on the road, with likely hostile environments. Like what we saw last week against Oklahoma State, turnovers and self-inflicted mistakes will be the reasons why Kansas doesn’t end up winning those games.
Kansas State is a tougher matchup for Kansas on paper versus Texas Tech, however, the Red Raiders have pulled away in some games this season so far, and have also at least kept it close as they did against Oregon at home.
There are many factors to consider with Kansas’ finish to the 2023 season. The common questions and factors will be in regards to Jalon Daniels’ return, the performance on defense, and ball security.
While many fans are hoping for a fantastic finish to the season, Kansas needs to first find their sixth win of the season to become bowl-eligible. When the Jayhawks can achieve that goal, then conversations about winning seven games or possibly more will be appropriate to discuss.
The Jayhawks return to action next weekend for Homecoming on Saturday, October 28 to take on Oklahoma at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium with an 11 a.m. kickoff.
The game will be broadcast live on KJHK 90.7 FM, with coverage beginning an hour before kickoff with KJHK’s edition of the Kansas football pregame show.