Here is everything you need to know about the Jayhawks’ season opener in our Nicholls State vs. Kansas Preview.
6 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: Jayhawk Television Network/ESPN+ (announcers TBA)
Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network
QB Chase Fourcade. The junior is attempting to rewrite the Colonels’ record book at the quarterback position. He’s coming off a 2,316-yard season with 14 touchdowns. He’s only the second NSU QB to throw for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
RB Kendall Bussey. The New Orleans native transferred back to the bayou from Texas A&M, where he was lightly used by the Aggies. At NSU he scored a touchdowns in the Colonels’ second fall scrimmages. He could help in the return game, too.
LB Allen Pittman. The junior leads an experienced corps of linebackers and is coming off an 80-tackle season that led all NSU defenders. Expect him to challenge for a First-Team All-Southland Conference selection in 2018.
DT Daniel Wise. Perhaps the best players on the Kansas defense, the senior was an All-Big 12 preseason selection and could track much like Jayhawks end Dorance Armstrong Jr. as a potential NFL draft selection next April.
LB Joe Dineen Jr. The Jayhawk legacy in his family is well-known, but the senior is closing in on the program’s record for tackles-for-loss (34.5 for his career). The Jayhawks need Dineen to have another standout season if they hope to reach a bowl game in 2018.
WR Steven Sims Jr. He led KU in receptions and receiving yards last season and if the Jayhawks can finally get some consistent quarterback play then Sims’ numbers could vault him into the Top 5 in the Big 12 among receivers.
On Saturday Kansas is honoring its 2008 Insight.com Bowl team and inducting CB Chris Harris Jr. into its Ring of Honor.
The Colonels are coming off a watershed season, reaching the FCS playoffs last season for the first time since 2005. For that, head coach Tim Rebowe deserves an instant raise. But this Colonels team is built for another run, with experienced, productive players at key positions and a solid recruiting class built to give the Colonels sustained talent. This isn’t your typical “Happy Meal game” opponent for the Jayhawks. NSU can give them some real problems.
Predictably, there is buzz around head coach David Beaty’s job status. He’s won three games in three seasons and has a new athletic director looking over his shoulder in Jeff Long, formerly of Arkansas. I think the brass there at KU want Beaty to succeed and understand the difficulty of the job. But with $300 million in renovation projects going on in the athletic department (including the opening of a brand-new indoor facility just for football this fall), Beaty has to show progress in the win-loss column this season. The good news is that this should be Beaty’s most experienced team as he returns 25 seniors, including Wise, Dineen and Sims. Peyton Bender will be the starting quarterback, and that’s where the Jayhawks desperately need consistency. At the same time, Beaty told reporters this week there is a place for Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick on the field. So if Bender wants to keep the job, now is the time to prove it.
Prediction: Kansas 30, Nicholls State 24. Nicholls State, as mentioned, is coming off an FCS playoff appearance. Don’t expect this to be that easy a game for Kansas. But it is a game the Jayhawks must win to keep the dogs off this team. I’ll take the Jayhawks, but I’m expecting some evening drama in Lawrence.