Tuesday, October 23, 2007

KU/CU Post-mortem

You know what, this Kansas team just keeps doing a little bit of everything – and doing most of it well. Can you believe they are heading to College Station to play a 6-2 Texas A&M team, fresh off a pasting of Nebraska and Kansas opened as a 3 point favorite?! I have not checked on the line since - and I would be shocked if it doesn't move – but Hot Toddy! Now, maybe that's not based as much on respect as it is on the fact that Kansas has covered in every game this year…Vegas likes to adjust for that. But I'll tell you one more thing – I could not be happier. The longer and more publicly this team is disrespected, the better. I have been saying all year to not underestimate what confidence does for a college football team. The only thing more dangerous than a team playing with confidence is one with confidence and a chip on its shoulder.

Offense: I know Tom Keegan has beaten it to death, but in his lowest passing effort of the year, Todd Reesing has never looked better. His pocket presence is fantastic and he really does have an unbelievable calm to him, no matter what the situation. Those two second half touchdown drives were unbelievable, and not because they were flawless or beautiful, but because of their timing and their structure. Obviously Colorado's focus was to take away the pass and specifically the big play – which they did. This will not beat Kansas this year for two reasons: 1) Though not nearly as flashy, the running game is just as solid; and 2) Todd Reesing plays within himself and with what the defense gives him. For a guy who loves to make plays and throw the ball all over, he has an uncanny ability to make the right decisions – most notably where not to force the ball. In a game where the offense kind of sputtered, it would have been easy to try and make something happen, but instead he took what he was given, trusted his defense and grinded out a win. As much as anything, the key to this win was not throwing any interceptions. And for the season, he has now thrown the ball 220 times and only completed it to the wrong team on 4 of those passes, 2 of which hit the intended receiver and bounced into enemy hands. Not bad for a guy who had not started a game prior to the year.

On the other side of the spectrum, I'm not sure 19 points will win many remaining games, with the exception of Iowa State. Fortunately, I'm also pretty confident that was the best defense Kansas will see all year (B12 champ, bowl excluded). I know it was decimated by the Purple just a week earlier, but I really don't think you can underestimate how different of a team Colorado is in Boulder. Plus, I think the best defense left on the schedule is Missouri and you know how I feel about that unit (though I remain impressed with the holding of T-Tech to 10 points). As much attention as the Kansas offense gets, I like Kansas' Big 12 chances largely because of their defense. In my opinion, there are really only 2 defensive units you could now argue are better: Oklahoma and Colorado (I include them because they held a much better offense in check than did the Kansas defense). Contrarily, you could argue that OU, MU, Tech and even Okie State have more high powered offenses, though I'm much less impressed with OU and Tech after last week. Balance, baby, balance!
**Note** After writing that, I realized I may not have made my intended point, though I like what ended up being illustrated. This is two straight games under 200 yards passing – which included Baylor – and I don't think we want that to become a regular occurrence. I absolutely do not want to force the issue for the reasons outlines above, but in order to keep this winning streak alive, they will need a threatening passing attack (Nebraska game excluded).

Defense: I could not have been more impressed on this side of the ball. Even though it sometimes felt like C-Hawk could find DeVree any time he wanted (7/90/1), I was shocked to see that he threw for 287 yards. It really didn't seem like nearly that much, which I think is mostly a product of why all those yards only accounted for 2 scores, the first of which should have never occurred (crap delay of game on the defense penalty on a punt). Hugh Charles had come in with 4 straight 100 yard rushing games with 110 out of the 161 they ran for against OU. Kansas held Charles to 39 (3.5 per) and Colorado to 66 (2.0 per) – that is what wins ballgames. I don't think they will be able to post stats nearly that gaudy this week, but if they do anything like they did last year in holding the same A&M backfield to 157, they will win that game.

My biggest worry here continues to be the ability to cover the tight end. This is a very good defense that is playing relatively mistake-free, but year in and year out, the tight end seems to be the Achilles heel. Historically, Colorado has been the only team to consistently expose this weakness, but since Missouri has the two best tight ends in the history of football (and don't try and tell me differently!) it could be an issue at Arrowhead. Even Gary Pinkel can't miss this one.

There is officially no denying that Kansas is a team capable of winning all of its remaining games. Given the events of this football season, I'm not sure if that makes it more or less likely that they will accomplish this feat. I mean, if up is down and black is white, then why can't the Jayhawks win out? When you look at the facts, they match up pretty will with every team left on the slate. I have little doubt they will be able to score on each of them and with a defense only allowing 78 ypg on the ground, they should be able to stop or slow most of them as well. That tells me if they don't beat themselves, they have the ability to get through the conference unscathed. Do I think it will happen? – Probably not, but just knowing that it's not unrealistic is satisfaction enough for me.

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