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3 lingering questions as Kansas football readies for its Big 12 Conference opener vs. BYU

LAWRENCE — Kansas football is 3-0 for the second-straight season for the first time since accomplishing the feat in 1991-92, after its 31-24 win this past weekend against Nevada.

The Jayhawks are now heading into their Big 12 Conference opener Saturday at home against BYU with even more momentum. The Cougars (3-0) will arrive with their own undefeated start, which includes a road win against Arkansas. And if Kansas can earn a victory inside David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, that’ll likely see the Jayhawks earn a top-25 ranking the next time polls are released.

But in the win against Nevada, where was Kansas’ ability to capitalize off of miscues and force turnovers? Is the fact the final score was as close as it was a reason for Jayhawks fans to worry? Are head coach Lance Leipold and company ready for BYU?

Here are a few lingering questions after Kansas’ win against Nevada, as the 2:30 p.m. Saturday scheduled kickoff for the BYU matchup this upcoming weekend nears.

Will Kansas be able to rebound from an inability to capitalize and force turnovers?

There were multiple times Kansas’ defense should have ended a Nevada drive with an interception. There were even more times the Jayhawks should have recovered a fumble, considering there were five Wolf Pack fumbles — but didn’t. Although the playmakers on Kansas’ defense enjoyed success at times against Nevada, those Jayhawks didn’t make enough game-changing plays that would have ensured a more relaxed night for their fan base.

Those issues didn’t lead to a loss. So, the morale around the program is going to be higher than it would have been had they lost. But as Big 12 play unfolds, it’s unlikely Kansas is going to be able to survive similar performances as the level of competition takes a steep rise.

Is the close win against Nevada a sign Kansas might not be as good as once thought?

Against Nevada, Kansas suffered from a number of different self-inflicted problems that allowed a struggling Mountain West Conference opponent to stay close. Should the Jayhawks have been as disciplined and opportunistic, as usual, they would have won by two or three touchdowns instead of just one. But those issues against the Wolf Pack are real and could be a sign that Leipold’s rebuild isn’t as ahead of schedule as it sometimes seems.

Kansas’ Big 12 opener against BYU, which will be televised on ESPN, will go a long way toward indicating which way one should lean when it comes to a topic like this. It’s the next most significant game for the Jayhawks this fall, so far, after the win at home during non-conference play against Illinois. The feeling around Kansas’ road trip the following week to Texas — for a 2:30 p.m.-scheduled kickoff that’ll be televised on ABC — has the chance to change dramatically depending on how the game against BYU goes.

Is Kansas ready for its first Big 12 game this fall?

Kansas has a bit more buildup into its first Big 12 game this year, compared to a season ago. In 2022, the Jayhawks’ conference opener came with their second game of the season. In 2023, it’ll be their fourth — and it’s at home, instead of on the road against West Virginia like last year.

But the difference of a couple of weeks could very well be overblown when it comes to Kansas’ readiness for its Big 12 slate. And regardless of how the game plays out, one week will remain one week for a program with plenty of more opportunities to reach bowl eligibility in 2023. The road forward is much easier to navigate, though, should the Jayhawks showcase a readiness to take the start of conference play in stride.

Nevada's Brendon Lewis (2) makes a throw while being pursued by Kansas' defense during a game on Sept. 16, 2023 in Reno, Nevada.
Nevada's Brendon Lewis (2) makes a throw while being pursued by Kansas' defense during a game on Sept. 16, 2023 in Reno, Nevada.

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Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association’s sportswriter of the year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: 3 lingering questions as Kansas football readies for BYU matchup