Texas A&M comes to Lawrence for their first true road game of the year. The Aggies had no trouble with their three non-conference home opponents, beating The Citadel (I-AA), Louisiana-Lafayette, and Louisiana Tech by a combined score of 131-24. In between the Lousiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech laughers, Texas A&M traveled to San Antonio and struggled mightily against Army, making a goal-line stand in the final minute to win 28-24. Army set season-high marks in rushing yards, yards per carry, and total yards against the A&M defense. Army's other four opponents have been Arkansas State, Kent State, Baylor, and Rice. Texas A&M returned home last week and lost to Texas Tech 31-27 on a 37-yard Graham Harrell touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining. Texas Tech outgained A&M by 80 yards, in no small part because Texas A&M SO QB (#7) Stephen McGee suffered a mild concussion in the second quarter but continued playing. McGee easily had his worst game of the year, but expects to be recovered from the effects by Saturday.
If McGee is healthy, he will cause problems for a Kansas defense that struggled to contain South Florida QB Matt Grothe on the ground. Unlike South Florida, A&M features a solid running back rotation of SO (#11) Jovorskie Lane, SR (#25) Courtney Lewis, and FR (#3) Mike Goodson.
The concussion seemed to effect McGee's passing. In his first three games against Division I opposition, McGee completed 69.7% of his passes without throwing an interception. Though the Texas Tech defense certainly provided a stiffer test than those of Louisiana Tech, Army, and Louisiana-Lafayette, McGee's passing numbers cratered against the Red Raiders: 9-20, no touchdowns, one interception, for just 103 yards.
With the Kansas secondary struggling against any sort of vertical passing attack, look for McGee to try to get the ball downfield to SR WR (#14) Chad Schroeder who leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. JR WR/KR (#8) Kerry Franks may feature prominently in this game as a deep threat. McGee will also make ample use of SO TE (#13) Martellus Bennett and JR TE (#81) Joey Thomas. JR FB (#24) Chris Alexander has only four catches for 17 yards on the season, but two of those recepetions were for touchdowns.
Texas A&M is allowing over four yards per carry to their Division I opponents. Their pass defense numbers on the season as a whole flatter the unit as Army and Louisiana-Lafayette combined to go 19-44 with three interceptions, gaining 153 yards through the air. Louisiana Tech had some success throwing the ball. They completed just 40.6% of their passes, but gained 229 yards on just 13 completions. Texas Tech shredded the Aggie pass defense last Saturday in College Station to the tune of 32-45 for 392 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.
JR DE (#92) Chris Harrington has three-and-a-half sacks and five tackles-for-loss this year. 2005 1st Team All-Big 12 SR LB (#10) Justin Warren easily leads the A&M defense in tackles. SO FS (#26) Devin Gregg is responsible for four (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) of team's eight takeaways.
Kerry Franks returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown last week against Texas Tech. SO P (#16) Justin Brantly is averaging 49.5 yards on 15 punts, with four of those settling inside the 20 and only two touchbacks. FR PK (#7) Matt Szymanski lost the place-kicking job after making just one of four field goal attempts in the first three weeks of the season. SR PK (#32) Layne Neumann has been 3-3 since taking over, but he has not attempted a field goal longer than 32 yards this year. Szymanski and Neumann have combined for seven touchbacks over 34 kickoffs. A&M's kick coverage team has limited opponents to 18.4 yards per kick return. Punt returners have fared better against the Aggies, returning nine of Brantly's 15 punts for an average of 10.7 yards.
There's no reason to believe that Kansas can limit their mistakes sufficiently to win comfortably against a decent opponent. If Texas A&M continues to struggle against the run, Kansas will have a chance to control the game, especially if Kerry Meier starts. The porous A&M pass defense will struggle to contain the rejuvenated Adam Barmann should he make the start or be forced to relieve Meier for health reasons.
Stephen McGee must be expected to make plays against an inconsistent Kansas defense which will be missing Eric Washington. I expect another close game, the kind Kansas has been able to win (recently) at home but can never convert on the road.
Kansas 27 Texas A&M 21