Who was named the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in football? Not a player from blue-bloods Texas or Oklahoma or even from reigning Big 12 champion Kansas State, but instead Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels. He missed the Jayhawks’ season opener due to injury but is on track to start Friday night against visiting Illinois, and that has sent the total rocketing up from a consensus open of 54 points to as high as 57 at some books.
#RockChalk isn’t exactly known as a football school and Daniels became the first KU player to be named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and the second Jayhawk ever to be named a preseason individual award winner by the Big 12, joining Dorance Armstrong, who was the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
Last season, Daniels was named second-team All-Big 12 after completing 152-of-230 (66.1 percent) passes for 2,014 yards and 18 touchdowns despite missing multiple games with a shoulder injury. He was spectacular in the 55-53 triple-OT Liberty Bowl loss to Arkansas in throwing for 544 yards and five touchdowns, while adding another touchdown on the ground.
KU didn’t need Daniels to win Week 1 against Missouri State so he sat out of caution with back tightness and the Jayhawks won 48-17, although it was only 17-10 at the half. Backup Jason Bean threw for 276 yards on 22-of-28 passing and tossed two touchdowns. The Jayhawks had 521 yards of offense, marking the eighth time Kansas has gone over 500 yards of offense in a game in the Lance Leipold era. Bean also started four games in 2022 and nine contests in 2021.
Top Kansas wideout Luke Grimm is questionable for Friday after being banged up in the opener. He recorded his 12th career touchdown reception in the second quarter vs. Missouri State and now tied for 10th on the KU all-time touchdown reception list with Isaac Byrd. Grimm’s 97 career receptions are tied for 18th at KU.
Kansas unveiled new “Blackhawk” uniforms on Sunday, which will be worn against Illinois on Friday. KU will be hosting an ESPN nationally televised weeknight game for the first time since 1995. Illinois, which was lucky to beat Toledo in Week 1, leads the series 3-2 but the teams haven’t played since 1968.
The #Illini are 1-8 in their past nine road non-conference games dating to 2008 and have been outscored by an average of 38.4-21.2 in them. Their last such win was in 2019 at UConn. Kansas has won four straight non-conference games at home by an average margin of 22 points.