Rock Chalk Jayhawk: Kansas (+9.5) Leads CFB Week 4 Plays Against Spread

Mark CrystelContributor IIISeptember 20, 2012

From South Bend to Lawrence, Kansas is a 9.5 point underdog at Northern Illinois
From South Bend to Lawrence, Kansas is a 9.5 point underdog at Northern IllinoisJamie Squire/Getty Images

The Kansas Jayhawks' coach and quarterback both come from Notre Dame, but they have yet to bring along the luck of the Irish.

They are also yet to produce a win over an FBS opponent.

The next stop is DeKalb, Illinois to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies. Kansas better win this one, because the schedule doesn't get any easier.

After Turner Gill was sent packing following a disappointing 5-19 record with the Jayhawks, former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was called in and former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist took over at quarterback. However, the transition has been rougher than expected.

Kansas opened the season with a win over South Dakota State, a team in the "others receiving votes" category of the FCS, but the Jackrabbits gave the Jayhawks a good game.

After losing to Rice 25-24 on a long last-second field goal, Kansas opened Big 12 play with a tough assignment against TCU, a team just two years removed from being arguably the nation's best team. The Jayhawks held the Horned Frogs to 20 points, but could only muster 6 themselves in the loss.

Considering the Jayhawks defense finished dead last in total defense in 2011, holding Rice and TCU to two touchdowns each showed some promise for Dave Campo, the Jayhawks' new defensive coordinator and long-time NFL coach.

However, looking at the point spread for this week's game, you wouldn't know it.

Northern Illinois has played 30 teams from BCS conferences in the last 13 years and have had some success—most notably a thrilling win over Purdue in 2009 in which the Huskies pulled off a gutsy but perfectly executed fake punt to preserve the win. 

In 2002 and 2003, they opened the season with wins over Wake Forest and Maryland. 

But one thing has remained consistent: Except for an 11-point win over Minnesota in 2010, none of the other 29 games against BCS opponents has resulted in a double-digit victory.

The Huskies went 11-3 last season, including a bowl victory, but quarterback Chandler Harnish, the 2011 MAC player of the year, has graduated. Harnish's departure left the door open for Northern Illinois' new offensive stud, Jordan Lynch.

A capable athlete and one of the larger quarterbacks in the league, Lynch is a dual threat who has been called upon to do it all in the early going, as the offense returns just three other starters from last season's bowl team.

Against Army, he passed for 342 yards and ran for 125 more in a 42-41 win in which Northern Illinois held the ball for just 17 minutes.

Against Iowa, it was a different story.

Northern Illinois tallied just 201 total yards of offense, and 73 of those yards were on a single running play. Iowa's defense was notably better than Kansas' unit last season, but the Hawkeyes did lose four starters on the defensive line. 

Last season Kansas went winless in the Big 12, but its one FBS win came over Northern Illinois. Chandler Harnish was the starting quarterback for NIU in that game and was a solid 27-of-33 passing while rushing for 89 yards on 11 carries.  Jordan Lynch will be asked to shoulder the same type of load, but it's doubtful he will hit on 82 percent of his passes like Harnish did.

Whether running or throwing, Lynch was responsible for all but 52 of the Huskies' yards against Iowa and 467 of 515 yards against Army.

One must assume Dave Campo has been around long enough to draw up an effective game plan for the Jayhawks defense to at least try to contain this one player who is doing it all through the first two FBS games.

The Jayhawks must feel motivated about being big underdogs to a MAC team that returns just four offensive starters, so look for them to come out and play with some extra intensity.

As for new coaches Charlie Weis and Dave Campo, the last thing they will want to do is come back to Lawrence, Kansas with a double-digit loss hanging around their neck from a MAC team.

History is on Kansas' side—of the last 30 teams Northern Illinois played from a BCS conference, most were losses. More importantly, just one resulted in a double-digit win and that was the 11-point win over Minnesota in which the Huskies were out-gained by 91 yards.

Through all this, the Jayhawks roll into Huskie Stadium on Saturday as 9.5-point underdogs.

Take the points!