ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 17: Synjyn Days #10 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rushes upfield against the Kansas Jayhawks defense at Bobby Dodd Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Can the Kansas defense step up to the plate as Big 12 play begins.
Two weeks ago the Kansas Jayhawk football team was embarrassed in a road contest against their first BCS opponent Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets ran through Kansas to the tune of a 12 yard per carry average and passed with ease when they chose to do so. It was a game where despite all the improvement on the offensive side of the ball, Kansas never stood a chance.
Two weeks later Kansas welcomes their first Big 12 opponent to Lawrence and it might represent one of the few opportunities remaining on the schedule where Kansas might, emphasis on might, match up fairly well. But none of that will matter if the defense doesn't improve.
Heading into this one Kansas and Texas Tech look primed for a shootout. The Kansas defense ranks at the bottom of the division one rankings in most major categories most notably total defense and scoring defense. For their part Texas Tech isn't all that great either. The Red Raiders rank 111th in terms of stopping the run and 95th in overall defense.
All in all this one plays right into what Kansas does well from an offensive perspective. The Jayhawks are a top 20 team in terms of the rushing attack and they are extremely efficient in the passing game to date. One would have to think that this sets up fairly well for Kansas on one side of the ball and that has to at least provide some hope.
The problem is that Texas Tech is better offensively and there really isn't a spot on the field where Kansas could argue that they matchup well from a defensive perspective. At least not based on what we've seen to date. Year two of the Turner Gill era has provided some hope in areas, specifically the offense and special teams play. At the same time the defense might actually look worse despite what many felt was a better team on paper.
In this game, much like the Georgia Tech game, it's going to come down to the defensive play of the Kansas Jayhawks. The Kansas offense can score and they can move the ball, but they aren't world beaters at this point and they can't be expected to score on EVERY possession. Tech's defense will get a stop, the question and the chances for a Kansas upset rest on whether or not the Jayhawk defense can slow down and stop the Tech offense on a more consistent basis than what they've shown this year.
There is some good news for Kansas as both Pat Dorsey and Tunde Bakare return to the defensive lineup. Both should provide a lift and added depth to their respective positions. But neither are enough to change things by themselves. Everyone is going to have to show improvement this week. From the scheme laid out by the staff to the effort and execution on the field by the players, it all has to make a dramatic shift as Kansas heads into Big 12 play.
Based on expectations and where Kansas currently sits it's impossible to call a game a "must win". But based on the schedule that the Jayhawks face from here on out and the fact that Tech is probably a Big 12 team in the 6-9 range in terms of overall Big 12 ranking, there is definitely some sense of urgency when looking ahead to this one from a Kansas perspective.