Can KU Upset Iowa State?

It may be a sad commentary on the state of Kansas football, but this season’s biggest game may be Saturday against Iowa State at Memorial Stadium. What should fans watch for in order for KU to get their second win of the season?

Who starts at quarterback?

At his press conference today, Kansas football head coach David Beaty declined to name a starter, “We’re still in competition mode. We’ll go through practice today and tomorrow then make a decision.” The options right now seem to be either redshirt junior Montell Cozart or redshirt freshman Carter Stanley. Cozart has not played well of late on the road. He’s barely completed 50% of his attempts (31/60), hasn’t thrown a touchdown, and has thrown three interceptions. After leaving the game last week, Carter Stanley stepped in. Stanley provided somewhat of a spark for the hapless KU offense, going 9/11 for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

Beaty raved about Stanley’s preparation today at his press conference, citing Stanley’s work in practice, getting “mental reps” even behind Ryan Willis and Cozart. Beaty seems to believe that Stanley is ready for more action earlier in games, so if Cozart either can’t go or is limited by concussions, Stanley should get the nod. Beaty did criticize Stanley for a couple poor throws at the end of the West Virginia game, but liked his “gamer mentality,” especially against WVU’s starting defense. Hopefully, the staff has given him some first team reps in practice to see how he can do. I like Stanley’s makeup and live arm, and would like to see him go an entire game.

KU should shut down the Cyclones. Can they against a veteran Iowa State team?

The Kansas defense vs. Iowa State offense is a matchup in contradictions. Iowa State returns 136 starts from a season ago, making them one of the most experienced units in the conference. Kansas only returned five starters from a moribund unit a season ago, where they were near the bottom in most defensive metrics.

The biggest challenge for the Jayhawk defense will be slowing down Iowa State’s best player, junior receiver Allen Lazard. Lazard is a matchup nightmare at 6’5” and 223 pounds. Look for KU to bracket Lazard like they did Oklahoma State receiver James Washington. If they can hold Lazard under his game average of five catches and 73 yards, Kansas can definitely win the game.

Iowa State’s offense struggles on the road. In road games, the Cyclones only managed 343.5 yards per game, among the worst in the country. They struggle in putting together chunk plays as well, only gaining 4.3 yards per play. Unsurprisingly, poor offensive production doesn’t translate to points. Head coach Matt Campbell’s offense scores only 15 points per game on the road. The Cyclones play two quarterbacks, junior Joel Lanning and sophomore Jacob Park. Lanning is the better running threat, while Park has a better arm. Both have played well, especially in avoiding turnovers. Lanning has thrown nine touchdowns and three interceptions, while Park has thrown eight scoring tosses and also three picks.

The Jayhawks got some good news today, as star defensive tackle Daniel Wise is reinstated by the NCAA and will play the entire game Saturday. Wise was ejected after a fighting penalty late in the third quarter against West Virginia last week. Wise wlll be needed to apply pressure to ISU’s quarterbacks. KU should do a much better job against the run than they did last week against West Virginia, where they allowed 341 yards on the ground. Iowa State only averages 139 per game, only 103rd in the country.

Can the Jayhawks finally play a clean game?

It’s no secret that mental mistakes have cost the Jayhawks dearly in 2016. They’ve averaged -1.7 in the turnover margin, nearly last in the country. At home, they’ve actually been better, at only -.75. Iowa State is -.3 on the year, and -.7 on the road. Perhaps Stanley can cut down on KU’s two interceptions thrown per game.

Penalties have cost the Jayhawks as well. They’ve averaged six per game for 52 yards. Surprisingly, Iowa State has actually been the more penalized team. They’ve averaged seven per game for 57 yards. In what promises to be a close contest, penalties could decide it.

Bottom Line

This is easily KU’s best chance for their first conference win under Beaty. The conditions are ripe for an upset here: KU is at home, with an early kickoff, and hopefully a complete mystery at quarterback ready to take on a porous defense. I’m feeling an upset: KU 31, ISU 24.

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