Shooting for the Upset

Kansas is enjoying a once-in-a-century type season. For the eighth-ranked Jayhawks to beat Nebraska only seems just as unusual.

Mark Mangino's team tries to stay in the BCS championship picture and pick up a rare victory over its Big 12 North division rival Saturday when the Jayhawks host the Cornhuskers.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Kansas -18.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Nebraska +18.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Kansas (4-0 Big 12 North) is 8-0 for just the fourth time in school history, and is looking to start 9-0 for the first time since its undefeated 1908 season. The Jayhawks are one of only five remaining unbeaten Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

The Jayhawks emerged through their most difficult road swing of the season unscathed, winning at Colorado and 19-11 at Texas A&M last Saturday to climb to eighth in the BCS rankings.

The media spotlight has shone brighter on the Jayhawks with each victory, but Mangino is confident his players will take the increased attention in stride.

"We can't control what goes on outside the building and outside of meetings and practice," he said. "I really think we have a good group of kids that really understand what is taking place here. We'll just keep our same routine as we always do and our same focus."

That focus will be challenged as Nebraska (4-5, 1-4 North) arrives for Homecoming Weekend. This Cornhusker team, though, does not approach the quality of the great Nebraska teams of the past, which rolled up a 36-game winning streak against Kansas that only recently ended with a 40-15 rout by the Jayhawks in 2005.

"Hopefully, it will be electric," said Jayhawks fullback Brandon McAnderson. "In the past for the Nebraska game it has been packed, and we have given the fans something to cheer about, so I expect a really good crowd."

Kansas is unbeaten on the strength of a stout defense that has conceded just 241 rushing yards the past four games and 82 points all season. That defense will get to face a backup quarterback Saturday.

Already struggling through a tumultuous year, the Cornhuskers absorbed another blow Monday when they learned starting quarterback Sam Keller will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Keller suffered the injury on a hit by Texas defensive end Eddie Jones in Saturday's 28-25 loss, the fourth in a row for the Cornhuskers.

"We couldn't be more pleased with everything he's done for us,'' Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said of Keller, who threw for 2,422 yards and 14 touchdowns this year. "He's had ups and downs. I'm appreciative of his efforts. He's a good kid, a classy individual. He was a real leader for us during some troubled times.''

Without Keller, Callahan turns to junior backup Joe Ganz, who has appeared in two games and completed 3 of 4 passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. But given the Jayhawks' strong run defense, it may be too tall an order for Nebraska to avoid its first five-game losing streak since 1958.

"We've given our backup quite a few (practice) reps during the season, and he's well-prepared,'' Callahan said of Ganz. "Our team and staff have the utmost confidence in him. We lose a good player, but we have a good player stepping in.''

Ganz does have the luxury of handing off to I-back Marlon Lucky, who has rushed for team highs of 832 yards and six touchdowns. He had 111 yards in Saturday's loss to the Longhorns - his fourth 100-yard game this season.

Lucky also has a team-high 55 catches, including 19 in the last two games. Wide receiver Mario Purify has touchdown catches in his last two games, but totaled just eight catches for 80 yards in those contests.

Callahan's teams have been unable to defeat an elite opponent. The Cornhuskers are 0-6 against Top 10 opponents in Callahan's three-plus seasons, and they have not beaten a Top 10 team since a 20-10 victory over then-No. 2 Oklahoma on Oct. 27, 2001.

The teams are meeting for the 102nd consecutive year, making this the longest continuous series in the country. Nebraska, which won 39-32 in overtime last season, is 88-22-3 all-time against Kansas and 46-7-1 in Lawrence.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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