Here is everything you need to know about the Kansas Jayhawks and the Duke Blue Devils In our Kansas vs. Duke preview.
3 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Kansas: Jayhawk Sports Network.
Records: Kansas, 1-2 (0-1 in Big 12); Duke, 2-1.
Ranking: Kansas: None; Duke: None.
Last week: Kansas lost to Baylor, 45-7; Duke def. Northwestern, 30-23.
Fun fact: The Blue Devils and Jayhawks last played each other in 2014, as the Blue Devils won that game easily, 41-7, in Lawrence, Kansas. Duke had a 17-3 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Somehow, the Kansas defense held future NFL wide receiver Jamison Crowder, then a Duke All-American, to two catches for 14 yards.
S Kenny Logan Jr.: If the junior wanted to head to the NFL Draft after this season, it would be hard to blame him, as he’s already put together a solid and productive start of the 2021 season. He is already third in the Big 12 in tackles per game with 8.3, which is also in the Top 50 among all players in FBS. With four pass breakups this season, Logan, is tied for the lead in the Big 12 and in the Top 15 in the nation. Look for him to have another big game for the Jayhawks.
S O.J. Burroughs: Another safety? Well, while Logan brings the experience, Burroughs, an early enrollee at Kansas, brings the youth and vitality, and Jayhawks fans received a heaping helping of that in the loss to Baylor. He had five tackles and forced a fumble. Now, the blowout nature of the game allowed Burroughs to get some extra playing time. But more performances like that and he’ll find himself logging time in the starting lineup, rather than as a backup. Right now he’s behind super senior Ricky Thomas.
RB Devin Neal: This appears to be Devin Neal’s offense now, at least from a running game standpoint. Neal came to Kansas as the state’s No. 1 recruit in the 2021 class, so the fact that the true freshman is starting means, yes, the Jayhawks are trying to find the right combination at the position. But it also means Neal has the talent to do the job. He has just 72 yards rushing so far this season, but all but two yards of that has come in the last two games. It’s his job to lose now.
QB Gunnar Holmberg: Duke’s starter is off to a hot start to the season, completing 71 percent of his passes and throwing for 812 yards, two touchdowns and one interception through three games. While one would hope for more touchdowns, you would expect this type of efficiency from a quarterback under Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who tutored both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning in college.
RB Mataeo Durant: Here’s an under-the-radar All-America pick for you, and one that should be a 1,000-yard rusher by season’s end. He has 398 yards already this season, with a whopping 255 yards and three touchdowns against Charlotte. He’s scored seven rushing touchdowns this season, a big reason why Holmberg only has two passing scores. He rushed for 102 yards and a score in the win over Northwestern, so as Durant goes, so goes these Blue Devils.
LB Shaka Heyward: This guy is going to be everywhere on Saturday. He has 32 tackles this season already. The returning starter is now closing in on 200 career tackles and, as the middle linebacker, he runs that Blue Devil defense. Expect to see him tracking Kansas QB Jason Bean and RB Devin Neal all afternoon.
Kansas is coming off its Big 12-opening loss to the Baylor Bears, and the Jayhawks are in a progression they don’t want, which his giving up more total yards in each of its first three games. After allowing 252 yards to South Dakota, they’ve given up 460 yards to Coastal Carolina and then 575 yards to Baylor. The new coaching staff is trying to remake a porous defense, and that takes time. If there is a saving grace, it’s that Kansas isn’t turning the football over on offense. They have just one turnover in three games, so they’re not putting the defense in short fields from that standpoint. The Jayhawks lost running back Velton Gardner after he submitted his name to the transfer portal. That means even more Devin Neal and quarterback Jason Bean in the running game moving forward. Kansas had, by far, its worst game of the season to this point against Baylor, so at least the Jayhawks have room to bounce back.
The Blue Devils are a dumb upset loss to Charlotte away from being 3-0 this season. Duke fell to the relatively new FBS program (Charlotte started its program in 2013), 31-28, in the season opener, despite Durant’s 255-yard afternoon on the ground. Since then, the Blue Devils handled North Carolina A&T easily, 45-17, and then exacted a win over Northwestern, 30-23. The Blue Devils are seeking a third win before they enter ACC play against North Carolina on Oct. 2. Head coach David Cutcliffe has one of the cushier jobs in FBS. Duke’s reputation is built around basketball, so as long as he’s able to keep Duke competitive he’s likely to remain employed. For the most part, Cutcliffe has done that. At one point, he had the Blue Devils in a bowl game six times in a seven-year span. Now, he’s trying to get them back to a bowl game for the first time since 2018.
Prediction: Duke 37, Kansas 14
Kansas should play better this week. But the Jayhawks gave up 307 rushing yards to Baylor last week. That’s a bad recipe when you’re facing a back like Durant.
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