Big 12 Previews

Kansas vs. Illinois: Preview, Prediction, and Game Odds

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Kansas

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Illinois Fighting Illini.

GAME INFO

Friday, September 8; 6:30 p.m. CT; David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium; Lawrence, Kansas

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Jayhawk Sports Network, Brian Hanni

Record: Kansas (1-0); Illinois (1-0)

Rankings: N/A

Series History: Illinois leads, 3-2

Last Meeting: Kansas 47, Illinois 7 (1968)

Line: Kansas (-3.5)

Fun Fact: The matchup between Kansas and Illinois has one of the oldest documented games listed on the series matchup menu. The first meeting ever between the two programs took place on October 27th, 1892 in Lawrence with the Jayhawks taking the win 26-4.

 

KEY PLAYERS

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

QB JALON DANIELS

The main player to watch in this game has to be Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels. After sitting out in Week 1 against Missouri State, multiple reports have seemingly confirmed that Daniels will take the field for the first time on Friday night against Illinois. Daniels was picked as the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year in the recent Big 12 Media Poll for a reason, and while the Jayhawks have a reliable backup in senior quarterback Jason Bean at their disposal, Daniels gives the Jayhawks an edge that the squad may need to win. Jalon Daniels has been dealing with some lingering back tightness this offseason, and while we may not get to see the California native for the full four quarters, Daniels will be someone to keep an eye on.

CB COBEE BRYANT

There’s no way around it, Kansas’ defense in 2022 was bad. Despite the unit’s struggles in the previous season, Lance Leipold has developed some solid players on the outside including the likes of junior cornerback Cobee Bryant. Bryant recorded two total tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup in the Jayhawks’ Week 1 win, and while SEMO didn’t throw the ball in the direction of Bryant very often, Illinois is definitely not shy about throwing the deep ball. Look for Cobee Bryant to duke it out with Illinois wideout Pat Bryant in this one.

 

ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

WR PAT BRYANT

Bryant was the main standout on Barry Lunney’s offense in the Illini’s Week 1 win over Toledo, catching six passes for 64 yards and two scores on Saturday. Bryant was electric against Toledo and was a brutal matchup for anyone to handle in one-on-one coverage, especially in the red zone. The 6-foot-3 junior is one of the best playmakers on Illinois’ roster, and with a Jayhawks secondary that has yet to be truly tested, Bryant has a chance to be a game-wrecker for the Fighting Illini.

LB DYLAN ROSIEK

Sophomore linebacker Dylan Rosiek was the leading tackler for the Fighting Illini against Toledo as the Florida native finished his day off with eight solo tackles. While Rosiek is on the young side in terms of collegiate experience, Illinois is going to need his A-game if they plan on stopping Kansas’ dynamic rushing attack. Rosiek will have to meet running backs Devin Neal and Daniel Hilshaw between the tackles while attempting to keep a dual-threat playmaker like Jalon Daniels in the pocket in the event that he is cleared to play. The former three-star will have to come up big on defense for Illinois to steal a win on the road.

 

KEY STORYLINES

KANSAS JAYHAWKS

The Kansas Jayhawks have one main storyline to follow in this game: Can they keep Jalon Daniels out of harm’s way? The junior quarterback has had an unfortunate streak of injuries during his time in Lawrence and with Daniels entering the game with a lingering back issue, it will absolutely imperative that Kansas keeps him away from many big hits. Illinois is a tough matchup for Week 2 of the non-conference schedule, and while Jalon Daniels should be a major factor in helping Leipold’s group leave with a win, the last thing anyone wants to see is Daniels on the sideline during Big 12 play.

ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

Illinois cannot let off the gas against Kansas. Outside of Pat Bryant, does Illinois have enough talent on offense to take down the Jayhawks? Quarterback play was not incredible in the Fighting Illini’s 30-28 win over Toledo, and while the Jayhawks’ defense has not been known as one of the best groups in the Big 12 in the past, if Illinois starts slow, Kansas has shown an ability to take the top off of teams quick. My main question for Illinois in Friday’s matchup can be summed up with this: Jalon Daniels is going to be the best player on the field, can you stop him?

PREDICTION: KANSAS 34, ILLINOIS 27

If all else fails, I’m going with the squad that has the best athlete on the field and that’s Kansas. While I’m not sure if Jalon Daniels will be able to go for the full duration of the game or not, Jason Bean showed enough fight in Week 1 that I have confidence in Kansas to win the matchup if Daniels only sees one half of action. My sneaky player of the game to keep an eye on is going to be Kansas tight end Mason Fairchild. He’s a big-bodied playmaker that I think is going to run wild against Illinois with the Fighting Illini focusing their resources on stopping the run game. Hawks roll to 2-0.

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