Wednesday, October 10, 2007

KU/K-State Post Mortem...Big 12 Recap/Rankings

Blogger's note: This is my blog from Monday, but I'll be back later in the week, possibly as early as today.

Hot Toddy! Well, there are 7+ games left so "let's not start sucking each other's [popsicles] quite yet." (Winston Wolfe) BUT...that was an enormous win for the Kansas program, and the national recognition verifies this (#20 in all major polls, #15 on CFN). It will be interesting to see how Mr. Stewart Mandel responds this week as he clearly had not even seen a video clip prior to this week (and probably only saw a 20 second highlight or read the AP report for this game). Without further ado, let's revisit the glory.

Based on my game preview (, first up is the fast start. I thought the Purple would have a slight edge in this area and it proved to be larger than I would have hoped. Fortunately, KU was able to withstand a slow start and an interception on the first play from scrimmage to end the first quarter only down 7-0. I said at the time that could be considered a mini-victory - in retrospect, I think it may have loomed even larger though I did not expect this to be a make or break quarter...and it wasn't.

KU Offense v. KSU Defense: A big win for the Jayhawks. After the aforementioned slow start, they were able to move the chains with relative ease. They gashed the previously daunting KSU run defense for 170 yards on 39 attempts. The two-man attack of McAnderson (12 for 81) and Sharp (17 for 77 and a TD) was a perfect balance, pounding up the middle with McAnderson or bouncing it outside with Sharp. The passing game was equally solid with Reesing going 22/35 for 267 yds., 3 TD and 3INT (should be 2). Aside from the interceptions, one could not have asked for more from a QB making his first road start, albeit in the Big 12 against a ranked, in-state rival.

KU Defense v. KSU Offense: I stated earlier that I thought this was an even match-up. I don't rescind that viewpoint, but KU clearly won this battle. The Purple were only able to sustain 2 drives, one culminating in a TD (11 plays, 80 yds. in 5:19) and the other in a FG (13, 60 in 6:09). The other two scores were a 68 yards pass and catch to Jordy Nelson on the first play and a 16 yard drive based on a fluke interception off Dexton Fields' facemask. Though it was predictable their run game would be suspect, it was not as expected that the Power Towels would only be able to muster 53 yards on 21 carries.

Special Teams: Neutral, which is as good as a victory for KU. The Purple count on points from their special teams and Kansas did not allow any. They did get some good field position via the punt game as KU primarily kicked away from Nelson and Murphy, but nothing that greatly affected the game.

I could not be happier with the Jayhawks' performance. The fact that it wasn't always beautiful and/or easy makes it that much more satisfying. Not only did we get to see the Jayhawks knock the Purple off their proverbial tower, but we also got to see them do it in Manhattan for the first time since 1989 while facing a great deal of adversity in doing so. I have said all along that this was the biggest game of their season and given all the monkeys they got off their back in winning this game, I stand firmly by that belief. Next up is Baylor at home for what should be a rowdy Memorial Stadium. Could Kansas be bowl eligible after only 6 games?

Big 12 Recap: Just for fun, I am going to rank each team in order of their chances to win their respective divisions.

1. Kansas (5-0, 1-0) Won @ KSU 30-24. I probably don't need to say much more here, but then again you can't say enough when your team is ranked for the first time in 11 years and is directly ahead of the likes of FSU, Texas, Tennessee, etc. As for the ranking, most would probably have MU here, but 1 team has to play @ OU and the other does not. Also, I think KU is more balanced and could never rank the bushwackers ahead of the Jayhawks without absolute proof.

1a. Missouri (5-0, 1-0) Won v. NU 41-6. I can't say I saw this coming, at least the 6 part. MU putting up 41 was no surprise, but how did that defense hold anyone, let alone a pro-style, West Coast offense to 6 points? I can't say I watched many of the meaningful minutes of this game as UF/LSU was on opposite, but I'm not sold on the MU defense. But, how about that classy gary Pinkel running a fake field goal up 34-6 in the 4th quarter...karma anyone? While I'm not sold on the defense, I am/was sold on the offense and the team's chances in the conference. Very intrigued to see their game against Oklahoma next week.

3. KSU (3-2, 1-1) Lost v. KU 30-24. See above. If you're wearing Purple, you still have to like your chances against most of your schedule. Toughest games remaining: @ OSU, @ Nebraska, Missouri. All very winnable. They need a good bounce back game against Colorado, which has a better defense than Kansas, but not nearly as much offense.

4. Colorado (4-2, 2-0) Won @ Baylor 43-23. Why bother analyzing this one? It could be argued they are actually in the driver's seat as they have the biggest win and are already 2-0. However, with the exception of Iowa State and maybe Nebraska, I'm not sure they are favored in many more games (@KSU, KU, @ T-Tech, MU). Could take a HUGE step with a road win in Manhattan.

5. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1) Lost @ MU 41-6. I could go on for days about this if I cared to. Having grown up watching Nebraska dismantle pretty much anyone and everyone, this is getting ridiculous. The vaunted black shirt defense is ranked 96th - giving up 442 ypg! Also, they are 76th in scoring at 29 ppg. I've said it before and I'll say it again...Bo Pelini anyone? Can you believe they wouldn't give Pelini an in-house chance because they wanted Bill Callahan...and if they aren't going to stop anyone, they should at least put up for than 6 points against a Missouri defense allowing 21 ppg and 407 ypg (and these stats are after the Husker debacle).

6. ISU (1-5, 0-2) Lost @ T-Tech 42-17. On the bright side, I expected this to be worse and they have put up 17 points in each Big 12 game. Chizik may have gotten out of Austin at the right time, but he still landed in Ames. By the way, ex-coach Dan McCarney is currently on the undefeated, #5 staff of South Florida.

1. OU (5-1, 1-1) Won v. UT 28-21. I still can't believe they blew that game against Colorado. Also, I expected better from them against a weak Texas team. Then again, it is a rivalry game, so anything can happen. I'll be watching their game against Missouri very closely next week as I think it will be very telling for both teams. Two weeks ago, I wouldn't have given the Tigers a puncher's chance...after the last two OU performances, I'm not so sure. I'm sure they are better on defense and while they probably are not quite as good on offense, they do have a solid running game which should allow them to control the clock and wear down Missouri. If they have any aspirations past the Big 12, they need to win this comfortably.

2a. Texas Tech (5-1, 1-1) Won v. ISU 42-17. I'm going to take this space to explain why they are here: by default. I'm not sold on them any more than you are. Their defense is atrocious at best, but their offense is unbelievable. Look at these stats by freshman WR Michael Crabtree: 70 rec., 1074 yds and 17 TD through 6 games. Are you kidding me?! Graham Harrell has 2726 yds. and 28 TD. I wouldn't take my chances with them in a bowl game but when a team only has a week to prepare for that, they are going to have to exploit their defense all game to keep up with that offense.

2b. Texas (4-2, 0-2) Lost v. OU 28-21. I was impressed by how close they kept it against OU. Maybe I am too high on OU and maybe it was just a rivalry game, but they have the pieces to be successful if they can figure out how to use them. I would suggest asking any above average Pop Warner or High School coach - I'm sure they are more than capable of doing so. Aside from that, I like their schedule from here on out (@ISU, @ Baylor, NU, @OSU, TTU, @TAMU). I'm not saying they will win out from here, but they should breeze through the next 3 and if they take 2 of the last 3, that leaves them at 9-3, 5-3. Not a great season by UT standards, but given how they have played thus far, would probably be acceptable.

2c. Texas A&M (5-1, 2-0) Won v. OSU 24-23. Until that second half rally, Fran was on his way out. That said, despite the fact that they are the only South team with an unblemished conference record, that Miami game is way too fresh in my mind to put any faith in this team. They could prove me completely wrong and I won't be surprised - I'm just not there yet. Very interesting game against Tech next week could go a long way.

5. OSU (3-3, 1-1) Lost @ TAMU 24-23. I suppose it's a tough place to play, but that was a terrible collapse. If they win that game, they are in the driver's seat. As it is, they are a team who can't beat Troy or hold a lead, with a coach who has no composure and a 3-3 record with this remaining schedule: @ NU, KSU, UT, KU, @ Baylor, @ OU. Are they better than any of those teams except Baylor? I'm not so sure...though the home field will help greatly.

6. Baylor (3-3, 0-2) Lost v. CU 43-23. I told you not to believe all the Blake Szymanski hype. Again, I'm not saying he isn't a talented QB, because he is, but at some point you have to lead your team to some wins and I don't see this happening too often in the Big 12. Hopefully I don't eat my words next week in Lawrence.

College football is just crazy this year. How many of you thought you would ever see KU and MU in the top 20, with Nebraska and Texas nowhere to be found? It looks like there will be some sort of a surprise every week, especially in a conference that is as balanced as the Big 12. I'm sure we'll be shocked in some way again this week. Here's to hoping it's not in Lawrence - Hot Toddy!

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