Kansas Football: A Look Ahead at the Illini vs. Jayhawks Clash

Indiana vs. Indiana State may be the featured Friday night football game on this website, but there’s another thrilling Big Ten showdown brewing in Lawrence, Kansas. Coach Bret Bielema’s Illinois Fighting Illini are gearing up to face off against Lance Leipold’s Kansas Jayhawks in a highly-anticipated Big Ten vs. Big 12 matchup. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN2.

In previous years, a Kansas football matchup against Illinois might not have garnered much excitement. Both programs have struggled with losing records throughout the 21st century and their entire histories. However, the tides have turned, and both teams are coming off breakout campaigns in 2022.

Under Bielema’s guidance, Illinois had a resurgence, securing their first winning season since 2011. Notable NFL Draft picks like Devon Witherspoon, Chase Brown, and Sydney Brown emerged from the Illini’s roster. The team reached a high point of No. 14 in the AP poll with a 7-1 record before finishing the season at 8-5.

Kansas Football: A Look Ahead at the Illini vs. Jayhawks Clash

Kansas football, led by Leipold, didn’t achieve a winning record in his second year as head coach, but they did make it to a bowl game for the first time since 2008. It was also the first time the Jayhawks had more than three wins in a season since 2009. Leipold’s rapid transformation of the Kansas football program is nothing short of miraculous.

As for the upcoming Friday night clash, Kansas football is favored by 3.5 points on the spread. KU dominated FCS opponent Missouri State with a 48-17 victory in their 2023 season opener, while Illinois had to mount comebacks against Toledo. Thanks to a last-minute throw by their new quarterback, Luke Altmyer, the Illini come into this game undefeated.

This Kansas football matchup features two undefeated teams after just one week of college football, setting the stage for an evenly-matched contest. The close 3.5-point spread reflects the parity between these two Power 5 teams, with Illinois ranked 53rd and Kansas closely behind at 55th in ESPN’s SP+ rankings.

Kansas football holds a significant advantage with the return of star quarterback Jalon Daniels, who missed the previous game due to back tightness. Daniels, a dual-threat playmaker, shone in 2022, throwing for over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 425 yards and seven touchdowns. His presence unlocks Leipold’s attacking offense. In case Daniels isn’t fully ready, Kansas football has a reliable backup in Jason Bean, who threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1.

For Kansas football to secure an impressive victory at home, it’ll rely on standout linemen and a well-rounded offensive attack. The Jayhawks boast a seasoned offensive line, and Leipold’s strategic prowess adds to their versatility. Facing off against Illinois, they’ll need to execute effectively on both sides of the ball.

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However, if Kansas football’s linemen can assert dominance, the Jayhawks may well be on their way to a successful season, setting the stage for an exciting era in Kansas football.

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