Log in Fall Special

Kansas tries to build on first bowl since 2008 in opener against Missouri State

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Missouri State at Kansas, Friday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Line: No line, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Kansas leads 2-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Kansas experienced a major turnaround last season, going .500 in the regular season before losing an epic three-overtime Liberty Bowl game to Arkansas. Now the question is whether the Jayhawks can continue to build on the momentum as coach Lance Leipold enters his third season in Lawrence. Missouri State is heading into its first season under Ryan Beard, who replaced the departed Bobby Petrino.

KEY MATCHUP

Jalon Daniels against the Missouri State defense. The dual-threat quarterback was getting Heisman Trophy love a year ago while helping Kansas to a 5-0 start. But Daniels hurt his shoulder against TCU and missed four games, slowing his momentum. He was limited in the spring because of the shoulder, then had some back pain that kept him out for a portion of fall camp. Still, when Daniels is at his best, he is one of the most exciting players in college football.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Missouri State: RB Jacardia Wright is returning to Kansas, where he began his career just down the road at Kansas State. He was the Missouri Valley's top newcomer a year ago, finishing sixth in the conference in yards rushing per game. He is also the Bears' top returning receiver after catching 23 passes.

Kansas: RB Devin Neal is the Big 12's top returning rusher after going for 1,090 yards and nine touchdowns on just 180 attempts last season. The Jayhawks have tremendous depth at running back with Daniel Hishaw returning from a season-ending injury and the arrival of redshirt senior Dylan McDuffie from Georgia Tech.

FACTS & FIGURES

The 34-year-old Beard spent the past three seasons as Missouri State's defensive coordinator before his promotion. ... The last Missouri State coach to win his debut was Jesse Branch with a 17-16 victory over Illinois State on Sept. 6, 1986. ... The Bears are playing on Friday night for the first time since Sept. 3, 2010, when they beat Eastern Kentucky in a game postponed the previous night by tornado warnings. ... Kansas is opening on Friday night for the third straight season. ... Kansas returns its head coach, all 10 position coaches and strength coach for the first time since the 2003-04 season. ... The Jayhawks return four of their five starters on the offensive line, including 201 starts. ... Daniels had the second-highest completion percentage in school history (66.1%) last season. He had 18 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. ... FS Kenny Logan Jr. has led the Jayhawks in tackles each of the past three seasons. He has 281 in his career.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll