Gameday Preview - 9/10/2011 - Northern Illinois

The Jayhawks got off to the start they needed to get off too.  While not overwhelmingly impressive, a 42-24 victory over McNeese State served the Hawks very well.  Further, they were able to show some exciting aspects of their running game, although their defense did little to quell the unease after last season’s incredibly poor performance.

This week they remain in Lawrence where they will take on the NIU Huskies.  While some may try and chalk this up as a win, I’m not so fast to do so, NIU has put together a solid program over the last 10 years or so and have some legit talent.  They will be a handful for the Jayhawks and if they are not ready to play, this will not go well for KU.

Northern Illinois Huskies:

The big issue to worry about for the Huskies is their multi-threat QB Chandler Harnish.  Harnish racked up 3,366 yards of total offense last year throwing 21 TDs to only 5 INTs, while averaging over 6 yards per carry.

NIU was the best defense in the MAC last year and 26th nationally in points allowed.  Even though they switched head coaches in the offseason (from Jerry Kill to Dave Doeren), most don’t expect them to miss a beat.  This is especially troubling when KU has their two best receivers out and showed that they could be stopped by McNeese State last week.  If NIU stacks the box (which they will) and KU’s running game is ineffective, the game will fall on the shoulders of Jordan Webb and that is NOT was KU wants at any point this season.

On top of their stout defense they also finished 12th nationally in scoring offense, leading one to conclude that they are indeed a formidable opponent.  Picked to win the MAC this year, NIU would be a tough draw for anyone, so this Kansas team needs to come prepared and jump on them early so they don’t fall behind and have to rely on the arm of Webb to play catch up.

5 Things to Watch For:

1)      How does Jordan Webb handle the running game – This was one of the areas that was weak last week so seeing how he is able to improve will go a long way towards seeing if he will finish the season at QB.

2)      Will James Sims continue to get the bulk of the carries? – After impressive starts by Darian Miller and Tony Pierson last week it would not be surprising to see even more equity between the 3 RBs.  Each of them getting 10-15 carries per week (depending on the week/opponent) would be a solid 3-headed monster that teams would have to prepare for.

3)      Run defense – This was a bright spot against McNeese state allowing only 2.8 yards per rush, can they keep it up against a much better FBS team?

4)      Pass defense –Thought to be a strength at the beginning of the season the pass defense was porous at best allowing over 300 yards to an FCS opponent.  They will need to get their act together if they want to even think about hanging with the likes of offensive juggernauts Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

5)      Tony Pierson – He looked impressive in his limited time last week, if he can keep it rolling against a much better defense he could turn into a formidable weapon.

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Tags: Big XII Football College Football Kansas Jayhawks KU Football MAC Northern Illinois

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