Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Booth Memorial Stadium, Lawrence
Radio: WHB (810 AM) in Kansas City, KFH (1240 AM) in Wichita
The line: Baylor by 17 1/2.
I like the game plan that KU coach Lance Leipold and staff have for trying to remain competitive in games this season: simply be sound.
The Jayhawks have not had a turnover in their first two games while also limiting penalty yardage. KU will probably be the least talented team in its remaining 10 contests ... but if an opponent on any Saturday decides it wants to be generous and make a bunch of mistakes, the Jayhawks seem like they’ll be ready to swoop in and accept a potential victory.
KU played to this strategy last week in a 49-22 loss at No. 17 Coastal Carolina. The Jayhawks slowed it down and limited possessions. Quarterback Jason Bean made a few great individual plays. And because of that, KU was only down 28-22 in the third quarter before Coastal Carolina took control by simply executing well as the better team.
The problem for KU moving forward is likely this: As much as you preach ball security and taking care of it ... well, stuff happens. The Jayhawks have fumbled a couple times this year but recovered those. And if you fall behind in games — a spot KU is likely to be often — it’s only natural that riskier passes might get picked off.
Baylor’s a little difficult to gauge simply because its last opponent, Texas Southern, basically played at the level of a decent high school team in a 66-7 loss. That skewed the Bears’ stats and also makes it hard to parse whether Baylor is actually a dominant run-blocking team or one that simply looks great against an over-matched foe.
It’s at least worth mentioning that Baylor has completely dominated this KU series lately. In fact, the Bears have won the last 11 meetings by an average score of 48-12, while KU has hit double figures just once in their last six contests.
This feels to me like a lower-scoring game as both teams try to establish the run while attempting to take pressure off their respective quarterbacks. KU’s pass-blocking was particularly troubling last week against Coastal Carolina, so offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki is unlikely to force things in the pass game unless he absolutely has to.
The bottom line, though: KU has failed to cover its first two spreads while not committing a turnover. College football giveaways, through previous studies, have been found to be worth about five points each, and odds are that as much as Leipold knocks on wood, his team’s giveaway-less streak is likely to end sooner rather than later.
KU should have a better chance of slowing down Baylor’s offense than it did Coastal Carolina’s, but I also see the Jayhawks struggling to score, especially if Bean can’t pull off the same magic he did at times while getting constantly pressured last week.
I’ll take Baylor for the win and cover, believing turnovers will be the deciding factor for the Bears when it comes to the Vegas spread.
Baylor 31, Kansas 10
Last game prediction: Coastal Carolina 45, Kansas 10 (Actual: Coastal Carolina 49-22)
2021 record on picks: 2-0
2021 record vs. spread: 2-0