For their second game of the 2010 season, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will travel to Lawrence, Kansas for a non-conference matchup against the new look Kansas Jayhawks. The game is scheduled to kickoff at noon (EST). It will be televised on regional Fox Sports Network affiliates.
Kansas enters 2010 as a team with more questions than answers.
After their drama-laden 2009 campaign, Kansas will attempt to recover from the soap opera coaching style of former head coach Mark Mangino, who was fired after problems on and off the field became too distracting for the program.
Replacing Mangino is the highly praised Turner Gill. Formerly the head coach of Buffalo, Coach Gill is notably given credit for turning around one of the perennially worst teams in college football. His tenure there was highlighted by winning the MAC Championship in 2008.
A high character coach who demands respect and discipline from his team, Coach Gill appears to be a great hire for Kansas.
With the positive news of Coach Gill's hire comes the reality of the Jayhawks' football program. Kansas has to replace offensive centerpiece and QB Todd Reesing, both starting WRs, and mend what was a broken team last year.
The 2009 KU squad was built around passing the ball, but it seems likely that Coach Gill and his staff will bring a more balanced attack this season, leaning heavily on their upperclassmen laden O-Line and their big, strong arsenal of tailbacks.
At this point, competition is still open for the skill positions on the Jayhawks' offensive unit and it appears that many of those battles will not be settled until fall camp is completed.
Sophomore Kale Pick and redshirt freshman Jordan Webb are battling for the QB position. RBs sophomore Toben Opurum and senior Angus Quigley are fighting for backfield time. WRs senior Johnathan Wilson and junior Daymond Patterson will be asked for fill the receiving production voids of over 2,300 yards and 18 TDs left by former teammates Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe.
Now, one would think with Kansas' offensive line returning intact and full of veteran players, it should be the strength of the unit. One might also believe that whoever the new Kansas starting QB is, he should be primed to feel safe standing strong in the pocket. But with over 30 sacks given up and only 1,345 yards of rushing produced last year, can the O-Line become the dependable strength expected or will it be more of the disappointment as seen in 2009?
Defensively, the Jayhawks will simplify last seasons 4-2-5 base scheme with a more conventional 4-3 base defense. Led by senior DE Jake Laptad (16.5 career sacks), the defense returns most of their 2009 depth chart. With the healthy return of LB Drew Dudley, Kansas should improve on their 76th national ranking for total defense last season.
Before facing Georgia Tech, the Jayhawks open their season with FCS program North Dakota State (3-8 in 2009), providing a nice warm-up game before the interesting out of conference matchup.
Georgia Tech will take one of the nation's most prolific offenses on the road and try to steal an early win against a Kansas team still in rebuilding mode. Expect a slow starting game as each team will play it conservatively for differing reasons.
Kansas will play it close to the chest trying to limit mistakes and take advantage of the momentum their home crowd will provide.
Georgia Tech on the other hand will try to maintain sustained offensive possessions, control the clock, shorten the game, and take the vocal crowd out of the mix with run-heavy drives and ball-attacking defense.
Expect some defensive breakdowns from both teams, each feeling out new schemes early in the season. But give the edge to Georgia Tech on converting those Kansas breakdowns into punishing quick strike scores, a signature trait of Paul Johnson's triple option filled offense.
Despite the long travel and road venue, look for Georgia Tech to take care of business against a work-in-progress Jayhawks team. Call it an advantage for Tech to catch Kansas early in the season as they are breaking in young playmakers and adapting to a new system of coaching.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 28, Kansas 17