Kickoff: 11 a.m., Saturday
Where: Booth Memorial Stadium, Lawrence
Radio: WHB (810 AM) in Kansas City, KFH (1240 AM, 97.5 FM) in Wichita
The line: Kansas by 7.0 points.
First-year Duke coach Mike Elko, who worked the last four seasons as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, this week becomes the latest football mind to try to figure ways to slow Kansas’ high-scoring offense.
The Jayhawks (3-0) rank fifth in the country in scoring offense at 51.0 points a game heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. battle against the Blue Devils (3-0) at sold-out Booth Memorial Stadium.
“A very dangerous Kansas team,” is how the 45-year-old Elko described Lance Leipold’s Jayhawks in speaking with media members earlier this week in Durham, North Carolina.
“They’ve been able to run the ball really well up to this point. They’ve got a tremendous dual-threat quarterback (Jalon Daniels) and what they’re doing on offense is extremely challenging. I think they’re averaging over 50 points a game and so we’ve got our hands full with that side of the ball defensively.”
Duke, which shut out Temple in the season opener for both teams, has allowed 43 points in three games, good for a 14.3 points per game average.
“It’s obviously a challenge and any time you have a dual-threat quarterback it makes it a lot harder,” Elko said. “They can run designed quarterback runs, run-read plays, throw the ball and he throws the ball exceptionally well. He’s not only a runner. He can throw the ball exceptionally well, but even when they are throwing it, he’s still a run threat. He still has the ability to pull the ball down and kind of make something out of nothing now and then.”
Daniels is KU’s leading rusher with 237 yards on 27 carries for an 8.8 yards per carry average.
“They’ve got weapons around him. They’ve got weapons at wide receiver. They’ve got weapons in the backfield. They’re a talented group. That’s why they’re scoring as much as they are. It’s just an impressive group to watch on film,” Elko said.
Running back Devin Neal has gained 204 yards on 28 carries (7.3 yards per carry) and Daniel Hishaw 170 yards on 26 carries (6.5 yards per carry), KU and Arkansas are the only two teams in the country to rush for at least 200 yards in every game.
KU rushed for 297 yards against Tennessee Tech, 200 at West Virginia and 280 at Houston. It’s the first time the program has rushed for 200 or more yards in three straight games since 2012. Overall the Jayhawks rank seventh in the country and No. 1 in the Big 12 in rushing offense at 259.0 yards per game.
The Jayhawks rank second in the country in third down conversion percentage at 68.6% trailing only Minnesota. Kansas is 24-of-35 on third downs.
Daniels, a junior from Lawndale, California, has passed for 566 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception. Daniels last Saturday at Houston became the first quarterback nationally this year to rush for 100+ yards, run for two touchdowns and pass for three touchdowns.
Since the start of the 2019 season, only eight quarterbacks have accomplished that feat.
For the year, the offense has 22 touchdowns and two field goals. The Jayhawks scored 32 touchdowns in 12 games a year ago.
Overall, if one counts the 12 points put on the board by defensive back Cobee Bryant, the Jayhawks average 53 points per game, third-best in the country.
Of KU’s defense, which has allowed 27.3 points per game, Elko said: “They’re able to roll through a lot of bodies on defense. They’ve got a lot of guys and so they’re really able to sustain success. They play extremely hard, and they’ve been able to stop people from running the football.
“That recipe is a recipe for success.”
Duke, which won impressively (31-23) at Northwestern of the Big 10 in Week 2, was a 7-point underdog as of Thursday night.
Says here KU will win and cover the spread.
Prediction: Kansas 45, Duke 28
Last game prediction: Kansas 37, Houston 30 (actual: KU 48, Houston 30)
2022 record on picks: 2-1
2022 record vs. spread: 1-2