It’s a term thrown around loosely by college football coaches, typically trying to stay conscientious of opponents media types are quick to throw shade at. One such program coaches “respect” is Kansas… while the rest of the nation puts the Jayhawks on blast, just waiting for basketball season to get going.
Last week, the Jayhawks almost pulled off an ambush. They nearly upended TCU, losing 24-23. If not for a missed field goal from 54 yards, Kansas would have broken its conference losing streak, which dates back to 2014. Baylor coach Jim Grobe said that was an attention-grabbing moment for his Bears, who are trying to start the season 6-0. They want to avoid stepping in the Jayhawks’ trap, which almost caught TCU.
“Typically if you take [Kansas] for granted, you could consider this a trap game,” Grobe said Wednesday. “But I don’t think our players will.”
Baylor’s coming off a bye week, but the week before, it needed a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter to take down Kansas’s cellar-mate Iowa State. Grobe and his staff implored the team just how much Iowa State had actually improved this season despite its single win against a collection of losses. That game in Ames was a true wake-up call for the 11th-ranked Bears, who are surprisingly the Big 12’s best chance for a playoff representative alongside West Virginia.
“I think we tried to let our guys know Iowa State improved greatly,” Grobe sadi. “I think [the coaches] got a little more respect now from our players as far as our opinion of teams we’re getting ready to play […] I think our players realize this Kansas football team has improved quite a bit.”
One thing Grobe said he was most impressed with about the Jayhawks, and would certainly share with his players, is just how hard they play. It’s a blanket answer typically shrugged off as coach-talk in line with “respect” comments, but for Kansas, a team playing without a single four-star recruit, there’s no other way to lead the conference in tackles for loss.
Through five games, Kansas averages 9.6 TFLs per game (Baylor is one tackle behind) to lead the Big 12. That production hasn’t been stockpiled in non-conference action, either. The Jayhawks were in double figures last week thanks to Cameron Rosser and Dorance Armstrong making a strong push in the trenches.
Those two rank in the top five in TFLs per game and will be the biggest challenges Baylor’s offensive line has faced so far. If the game comes down to one area, it’s in the trenches — Baylor leads the conference, allowing just four TFLs per game. Furthermore, Seth Russell has been sacked just three times.
Grobe also had high praise for Kansas’s new starting QB. Ryan Willis completed 69 percent of his passes for 348 yards against TCU. He did throw three interceptions, but it was the most productive Kansas had been on offense all season. The performance gives Baylor reason for trepidation, much like Iowa State caused the Bears after its two QBs tossed five touchdowns against San Jose State the week before taking on BU.
With all that considered, as long as Baylor enters the game expecting a battle and not a cakewalk, it should be another successful Baylor homecoming.