Through two games the Kansas Jayhawk defense has looked like an improved unit. Against the North Dakota State, Kansas held the Bison to just six points and under 200 yards of total offense. In week two the Jayhawks were able to do enough to contain a Georgia Tech triple option that most expected to run wild. Headed into week three a big challenge awaits.
Larry Fedora and Southern Mississippi represent the first true fast paced, pass happy, spread style offense that the Jayhawk defense will face in 2010. Spread offenses similar to what the Golden Eagles run is exactly the type of offense that Kansas has struggled with for the better part of two season.
In 2009 the Jayhawks ranked in the 80's in both pass defense and scoring defense while they attempted to outscore opponents unsuccessfully. In a Big 12 conference that had some of the most successful passers in league history, Kansas struggled to get a consistent stop. Southern Mississippi returns a starter at quarterback from a year ago in Austin Davis. At his disposal a host of solid receivers, three capable running backs and one of the biggest offensive threats in the country when he chooses to be, DeAndre Brown.
The Golden Eagles will come into Friday nights game prepared to move quickly, attack and attempt to outscore Kansas in the same way that Kansas has attempted to beat teams a year ago. Now things are different for the Jayhawks. An offense that moves a little bit slower and plays less explosive, needs the defense to step up and help shoulder some of the load.
Kansas has managed to look very good through two games, but how will a team with limited linebacker depth respond to an uptempo contest? How can a team with linebackers more built to stop the run, matchup in the pass? And the question that's plagued Kansas during the struggles over the past two seasons, can Kansas generate a pass rush? All these questions will be answered in some capacity as the Golden Eagles boast the 28th ranked passing attack in the country headed into the game.
It's a new defensive philosophy in Lawrence with Carl Torbush. The defensive coordinator for Kansas has talked attacking defense, in game adjustments and so far he's delivered. With Southern Miss. Kansas is going to be challenged in ways they haven't been yet this season. From a personnel standpoint, in terms of the gameplan and from a stamina standpoint Kansas has to be ready.
Right now the Jayhawks remain a bit of a mystery through two games. One week they looked like 0-12, the next they looked like a potential 7 win team. This week, facing an offensive style that will be similar to those conference foes they've struggled with most, Kansas will have a chance to answer the bell and make a few more believers. Cautious optimism could turn to full blown excitement if the Jayhawks win in Hattiesburg, and it will be more exciting because the Jayhawks will have to do it with defense.