Kansas has split two non-conference games to start the season, and this week the Jayhawks get their first real test when they open their Big 12 schedule with an 11 a.m. kickoff at home against new conference member and 15th-ranked TCU.
The Horned Frogs bring a 1-0 record to Lawrence, having crushed Grambling State 56-0 last weekend in their season opener. Coach Gary Patterson's team also boasts the country's longest current winning streak, which stands at nine, and has won 24 consecutive conference games - but in the Mountain West Conference, not the Big 12.
The two teams have met 28 times previously, but never as members of the same conference. TCU leads the overall series 16-8-4; however, the Jayhawks have won the last three games between the two teams and are 7-6 in the games played in Lawrence. Kansas' last win over the Horned Frogs in Lawrence, however, dates back 50 years, to 1962. Back then, TCU was known by its longer, more formal name: Texas Christian.
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis is pleased with the Jayhawks' running game in their first two outings in 2012 and likes the production from running backs Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox, both of whom have 200 or more yards on the ground in the first two games and are averaging better than six yards per carry. TCU's defense was extremely stingy in the Horned Frogs' opening-game win, yielding just 26 yards through the air and 44 rushing yards.
This could spell trouble for the Jayhawks' offense if they aren't able to get more out of the passing game and more balance in the offense. Notre Dame senior transfer Dayne Crist has only been average at quarterback in the Hawks' first two games. Weis believe his senior leader has been pressing and trying to do too much. "You don't have to bear all the weight on your shoulders," Weiss told his starting quarterback after practice on Monday night.
In two games, Crist has completed just over 50 percent of his pass attempts (33 of 64) and has thrown one more interception (3) than touchdowns (2).
"It was clear that in watching myself on film, I just wasn't having any fun out there," Crist said.
Weis knows that the Kansas passing game isn't very good right now, and he also knows that it needs to get better in a hurry because the "big boys are coming," he said in reference to the elite teams in the Big 12. The first-year Kansas coach considers TCU to be one of those teams.
Weis is impressed with TCU junior quarterback Casey Pachall, who completed all nine of his passes against Grambling and still threw for more than 200 yards, including three touchdowns. "There (are) a lot of things to like about this kid, but his arm strength and his accuracy stand out to me," Weis said. "One of the things that makes it a little easier for him is that he has a front-line receiver (junior Josh Boyce) who could play for anybody."
The Horned Frogs also present problems on defense when they run the ball. They have a thunder-and-lightning combination in the backfield behind Pachall. Senior running back Matthew Tucker goes 6-1, around 230 pounds and junior Waymon James is listed at 5-8, 205 pounds. He may be short, but he is not small. He is strong and lightning quick. The Jayhawk defense, which is last in the conference in defending the run, and against two opponents that are far less talented than TCU, will have its hands full on Saturday.
The 11 a.m. start on Saturday will be first time TCU has played that early in the day since the opening game in 2005. On that day, TCU marched into Norman, Okla., and came away with a 17-10 upset victory over an Oklahoma team that had played in the BCS National Championship game the season before.
Another factor that works against Kansas in this matchup is TCU's stellar record in road games the last three-to-four years. The Horned Frogs have won 17 of their last 19 road games, including a huge win last season on the famous blue turf over highly ranked Boise State.
Kansas may be on an upward move under Weis, but they are still a long way from being good enough to compete on equal footing with the likes of TCU. Game Prediction: TCU 38, Kansas 17.
Other Big 12 Games This Weekend (Week 3)
(Projected winner in bold face)
North Texas @ Kansas State
Louisiana-Lafayette @ Oklahoma State
James Madison @ West Virginia
Sam Houston State @ Baylor
New Mexico @ Texas Tech
Western Illinois @ Iowa State
Texas @ Mississippi
Bye week: Oklahoma
For the season: 16-2
Follow Big 12 football all season long, including news and commentary on all 10 conference teams, atRock Chalk Talk.