Fifty-two days before the Duke and Kansas blueblood basketball programs meet in the Champions Classic, their undefeated football teams will meet on Saturday.
Call it the Gridiron Champions Classic.
To get to the Jayhawks, we’ve enlisted the help of jon kirbyJayhawkSlant editor and football editor at the Rivals network.
Here’s a five-part question and answer session on Kansas:
1. Let’s start with a simple vibe check: Kansas has the same 3-0 record as Duke, what are the feelings around this program right now as to how sustainable it is?
Answer: I really think this is a one game scenario at a time. Lance Leipold He is a very detailed and organized trainer. I know fans are looking at the schedule and targeting winnable games with three straight home games to come. But he certainly isn’t and he said so in his press conference.
They have one of the best offenses in the country and are second in third-down conversions. If the offense can keep doing what it’s done, then it’s sustainable. The question will be whether the defensive coordinators can come up with a plan to stop him.
2. Lance Leipold has gotten a ton of credit for getting this team off to a good start in just its second season, but is there anyone else being overlooked as playing a key role in this rebuild?
Answer: There are several people who have a hand in success.
I would start with a strength and conditioning coach Matt Gilders manga. He came from Buffalo and has been instrumental in the weight room and is also very involved with nutrition.
offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki would have to be at the top of the list right now for the Broyles Award. His offense through three games has exceeded expectations.
Their internal recruiting department has done a very good job of mapping out the strategy and navigating the transfer portal.
Leipold made personnel changes and there seems to be good chemistry with all the coaches pulling in the same direction. The successful start has been a team effort from all ends of the program.
3. Last year’s game between these teams in Durham was tight midway through the third quarter, and then it felt like Kansas was fading in the final stages of the game. Looking at the scripts for the last two Kansas games, that’s a problem that appears to have been reversed. How have the Jayhawks become closers?
Answer: First of all, the defense has played better in the second half of the games. That game in Durham last year was a track race where defenses went on vacation. Remember, Kansas had 550 yards of offense in that game.
KU has also done a good job with the running game in the second half and chewing up the clock. His running game seems to get stronger in the second half.
And above all, it is confidence. They think they can win.
4. It looks like Duke dodged a bullet last season when quarterback Jalon Daniels missed that game. What has been the key in its development?
Answer: It really started at the end of last year. He got into the second half of the Kansas State game and did some good things. They did not move the ball and the coaching staff accompanied him to finish the game. It then exploded the following week when they scored 57 points to shock Texas.
They decided to redshirt him so he could start the final two games of the season and the momentum has continued ever since.
quarterbacks coach jim zebrowski he has done a good job developing it and Kotelnicki has a scheme that matches his strengths.
5. Kansas has started each of the last two games on holes 14-0. Was it a fluke or is it Leipold’s concern that the Jayhawks haven’t started faster?
Answer: On Tuesday, Leipold said they need to come out and play more aggressive and confident to start games. They eventually catch on and play better. But at some point, that will become an issue as teams get better.
It happened against West Virginia and Houston, so it’s not a long-term pattern yet. Right now, I put it down to being more fortuitous, so we’ll see how they stack up against Duke. They will be at home to a full house on Saturday and I expect a better start than the last two games.