The Kansas Jayhawks and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers will meet for the third consecutive season, this time in Conway, South Carolina, on a Friday night. Kansas was favored in each of the previous two meetings, both in Lawrence, but the Chants came away victorious in each.
The 38-23 Coastal Carolina win last year helped propel the Chanticleers to an 11-1 overall record, which included an 8-0 march through Sun Belt Conference play. The Chants lost to Liberty in the Cure Bowl but entered the 2021 season in the Top 25 and picked up an easy, 52-14 win over The Citadel, their 13th in the last 14 games.
The 2020 loss to Coastal Carolina was a preview of an ugly 0-9 season for Kansas in which the Jayhawks posted a 0-8 record in Big 12 play. However, a turbulent offseason led to the hiring of head coach Lance Leipold from Buffalo. In his first game, Leipold led Kansas to a 17-14 victory over South Dakota, which snapped a 13-game losing streak for the program.
Kansas at No. 17 Coastal Carolina
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Coastal Carolina -25.5
When Kansas Has the Ball
The offensive philosophy isn’t likely to change much for Kansas under Leipold: the Jayhawks will continue to try to win by running the football. The results were mixed last week as KU managed only 82 rushing yards on 41 carries in the win over FCS South Dakota. The running backs were particularly unproductive, as quarterback Jason Bean accounted for 54 of those yards on 15 attempts.
Velton Gardner, the leading returning rusher from 2020, was held to 21 yards on 19 carries, and star recruit Devin Neal carried just once for one yard. Neal should get more work as the season progresses. Torry Locklin moved from running back to wide receiver in the offseason but returned to help pick up the slack left by injured running backs Amauri Pesek-Hickson and Daniel Hishaw Jr. Hishaw is out for the season, but Pesek-Hickson could be available as early as this week.
Bean, a transfer from North Texas, completed 17 of 26 pass attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns — both to Lawrence Arnold — in his first game with the Jayhawks. He connected with Buffalo transfer Trevor Wilson five times for 50 yards and found tight end Mason Fairchild four times for a game-high 58 yards.
When Coastal Carolina Has the Ball
Quarterback Grayson McCall picked up right where he left off in the win over The Citadel. McCall was 16-for-19 (84.2 percent) for 262 yards and one touchdown, which was good for 13.8 yards per pass attempt. The third-year sophomore found his favorite target Jaivon Heiligh six times for 133 yards and one touchdown. He hit tight end Isaiah Likely five times for 64 yards, and fellow tight end Xavier Gravette hauled in two passes, one of them a touchdown, for 54 yards.
A very capable runner who accounted for 569 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground in 2020, McCall ran just twice for 24 yards last week. Instead, the Chants relied on the running back trio of Shermari Jones (9 att., 100 yds., 2 TDs), Reese White (7, 62, 2), and Braydon Bennett (6, 45, TD). Bennett also caught three passes for 33 yards.
Though The Citadel runs a traditional triple-option offense, Coastal Carolina allowed an impressive 14 passing yards last week — the lowest of any FBS team. The Chanticleers also lead the nation in yards allowed per pass attempt (2.3) after one game, and NFL prospect Jeffrey Gunter recorded two tackles for a loss, including his first sack of the season. However, the 223 rushing yards the Bulldogs gained could give Kansas some confidence. The Jayhawks also rank among the top 10 nationally in pass defense (98.0 ypg) and surrendered 165 rushing yards on 4.02 yards per carry last week. Kansas was particularly tough on third down, allowing just three conversions in 13 tries.
It’s difficult to know how much emphasis to put on the results of one game against an FCS opponent. Nevertheless, Coastal Carolina was dominant, and Kansas had to fight to the final whistle for its victory. The Jayhawks look improved (KU won for the first time in 14 games, after all), but the Chanticleers are the better team (as evidenced by the fact CCU has won 13 of 14). Expect a third straight Coastal Carolina win over Kansas, and for the 2021 edition to be the easiest yet.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 45, Kansas 14
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