Thursday, December 27, 2007

Orange Bowl Preview: Part I

First off, since this is an Orange Bowl post, I would be remiss if I didn't at least extend you the courtesy of informing you where and how to get your very own Orange Bowl urinals. Onto the game...

Kansas Defense v. Virginia Tech Offense

Since I'm at work and the Chippewas dropped my bowl record to 5-2, I'm in need of some regalement, so we'll start with the good news. Despite what the confidants at ESPN and the like will tell you, this Hokie offense is about as malodorous as your common Methzourian. Needless to say, it's not very productive either. I know what you're thinking, "…But they've embraced the 2-QB system and really taken off!" Not exactly.

I'll even be generous and discount the LSU game entirely, because apparently it was an anomaly and should be forgotten as an aberration (just ask them). After doing that, we can split their season into 2 halves: in the first six games they totaled 190 points – in the last six, 184. Now that's improvement! Granted, I will give you that their competition did get tougher as the season went on so to keep putting up the same amount of points against better opposition does constitute improvement.But to act like this offense just took off as soon as they embraced this system is about as logical as Eddie Sutton returning to coach San Francisco. Speaking of, what's the over/under on days it takes for him to get drunk, stumble into a gay bar and again be in the papers for all the wrong reasons? But I digress.

To further understand the Virginia Tech offense, we need some comparables. Since the object of the game is to score, let's start with their ability to produce said statistic. Not surprisingly, they are extremely average in doing so, ranking 50th by lighting it up for 29 per game. The closest comparable is A&M, who is 53rd and who Kansas had shut out into the 4th quarter on their home field. Then again, when you consider what their defense and special teams do for them, this isn't really as much of an offensive accomplishment as one the whole team can take pride in. No shame in that.

The shame comes into play when you look at the specific offensive stats. First and foremost, this Hokie juggernaut is averaging an astonishing 332 yards per game, good for 99th nationally. Or in other words, about 5 yards better than Iowa State. But they didn't achieve this status by magic; they had to earn it by moving at a pace of less than 5 yards per play on the way to pay dirt 37 times. I'll be the first to admit that Kansas' countering stats are still slightly inflated from their pre-conference foes, but let's just say if this were played on paper, it wouldn't be pretty. The Jayhawks are 14th nationally, giving up 312 yards on 4.5 per play, totaling 24 touchdowns. Take that for what you will, but in all the KU defense has looked great in 9 games, average in 2 (OSU/NU) and porous in one (Methzou). When looking at the opponents' offenses it's no secret as to why, but where the VT offense would fall is similarly translucent.

How exactly do the Hokies produce such magnificent offense? They like to both run and pass the football. They do exactly neither well, though. On the ground, they usually like to give it to Branden Ore or let Tyrod Taylor try his best poor man's VY impression. On the year, Ore has been slightly less than superb, running for 876 yards (3.6 per) and 8 touchdowns – not exactly what you're looking for out of your feature back when you have a defense/special teams combo that just asks you to control the clock a little. He eclipsed 100 yards exactly once, but was close on 2 other occasions. Since "embracing the system," Tyrod Taylor has run for 431 yards (4.4 per) and 6 touchdowns. Considering that was in limited action and he does pass sometimes as well, that's pretty solid and it's definitely good enough that the defense has to prepare for it. But it's not exactly Pat White either. Before we get to their production, I think it's also relevant to mention how many tackles for a loss they have allowed. Only Notre Dame was worse as they ranked 118th by allowing 110 of them, or 8.5 per game. 82 were of the solo variety and 56 were assisted – that's a whole lot of action in the backfield. As a team, they rank 82nd by moving it 134 yards (3.35 per) and have scored 21 of their touchdowns this way. For comparative purposes, Colorado ranks 61st (150), Nebraska 70th (144), the Purple 83rd (133) and Texas A&M is 12th (216). All of these rushing attacks were completely shut down by Kansas, with Nebraska moving the most at 79 yards, most of which came on the 2nd and 3rd teams.

As uninspiring as that may all seem, I am actually a bit wary here after seeing Savage and Temple each get about 100 yards – because I think Ore is a similar back. Any idea if she has any eligibility left? And though the Kansas run defense is ranked 7th nationally, yielding only 91 a game (3 per and 7 TDs), the aforementioned games stick in my mind. It's also worth pointing out that in VT's two games against the first ranked rush defense (BC at 68 yards) they gained 98 and 116, respectively. Not exactly jaw-dropping, but pretty productive against a statistically good unit. Then again, when you look at BC's schedule, it's tough to find a competent offense on there, so maybe Kansas wasn't the only team whose stats were aided by its competition. Have you stopped looking at that tank yet?

Even more telling, is when the ball travels through the air. I don't think I'm out on too much of a limb when I say that Kansas was more worried about the pass (Methzou is 7th at 328 per and OSU has Adarius Bowman) than the run during those 2 games. The Sean Glennon/ Tyrod Taylor combo doesn't instill quite as much fear, airing it out for 199 yards a game, good for 86th nationally. In doing so, they have accounted for 16 scores and gained 7.43 yards per attempt. Only one team in the Big12 – not surprisingly the one that forgot that there are 2 ways to progress the ball – Texas A&M, produced less with 187 yards. As you may have guessed, this isn't their bread and butter. But they do have balance and athleticism at the receiver position to go along with some big play ability. And they are all seniors, too. Seven guys have had receptions of 30+ yards and 6 of them have scored. Justin Harper leads the way with 37 catches for 572 yards (15.4) and 4 scores. Josh Morgan is next with 43 grabs for 522 yards (12.1) and 5 scores. Eddie Royal has contributed 32 for 485 (15.2) and 4 TDs. And Josh "The" Hyman has nabbed 25 for 339 (13.6) and 1 score.

So yeah, they've got the guys to make the plays if they can get the ball in the right position. This is where I love Kansas' match-up. The Hawks have been largely average defending the pass, ranking 57th nationally by yielding 227 yards and 16 TDs on a 58% completion rate – nothing too overwhelming. What I love here though is that though Kansas is susceptible to an efficient passing attack, they don't usually give up the big play. They are 3rd in the nation, behind only A Ohio State University and USC in allowing 5.5 per attempt. And they are even better when the pass is completed, allowing only 9.4 per, which is second to only AOSU. This meant bad news against Methzouri, but could prove very beneficial this time around. Whereas Booger was content to sit back and throw outs to Rucker and Alexander, Taylor (54%) especially, and even Glennon (63%) do not fit this mold. Glennon is accurate enough, but he has only thrown it 207 times (compare that to 534 for Booger) and has not had to go out and control a game with his arm. And along these same lines, the VT line has as much trouble protecting their QB's as they do preventing TFLs, allowing 49 sacks (or just under 4 per game) on the year, good for 114th nationally. Kansas couldn't get a lot of pressure on Booger (MU is 35th, 20 SA), but you have to think they'll be in the backfield a bit more come January 3.

And now for the little things. With their extreme emphasis on special teams, you would think a "Beamer Ball" team would concentrate on doing all of these well. But that's not entirely the case. They take care of the ball pretty well, having only thrown 7 interceptions (t-11th) and lost 10 fumbles (t-48th). But they aren't too disciplined, ranking 80th nationally in penalties with 88, or just under 7 per game. It probably doesn't need to be said, but their offensive production doesn't lend itself to withstanding many penalties. And given these issues, it's no surprise that they don't convert all that well on third down. Much the same as many of their statistics, this is below average at 35.9% and good for 85th nationally. Though half of the ACC (GT, FSU, the U, UNC, & Duke) are below them, only two Big 12 teams are worse with Baylor at 35.7% and Colorado at 34.5%. Though statistically a strength, this was my biggest worry heading into the Methzou game and actually it turned out pretty decent. Kansas is currently 12th only allowing a conversion 31.4% of the time, but allowed Methzou to convert on 40% (they were at 1st at 57% going into the game) of their tries. Holding VT at or below their average should be good enough.

I'm not sure if much surprised you here, but I for one, feel better about things. Iowa State aside, November wasn't a great month for the Jayhawk D and though I have long since known of VT's offensive struggles, I started to have some doubt. And trust me, there's still plenty, especially since KU is in the midst of a 40 day layoff, but I feel a lot better after confirming my suspicions with some numbers. And I've come to the conclusion that there is no reason not to hold this offense well under 20 points. Can you see this unit scoring 3 times? I sure can't.
Edge: Kansas

And just for good measure, here are a few links.

First, courtesy of the Washington post (via Deadspin) comes the tale of a true man's man, someone we'd all love to have around. Hell, it may not even be a stretch to call this guy by the name of Billllll Brasky.

I wonder if it's too late to change my Penn State v. Texas A&M pick? Don't fuck me Anthoney Morelli!

And a nice little diddy by LSU Freek to get you in the mood for tonight's Holiday Bowl.

If you're after something a bit more analytical, try this.

If you watched Mike and Mike today, you'll find this funny. If not, probably no need to bother and we'll talk again soon.


Anonymous said...

Tyrod Taylor is the most athletic QB kU will have seen all year. If Frank Beamer decides to not be a total dick and actually play Taylor over horrible Sean Glennon, kU will be in trouble. He is the real deal.

I did hear that VT's official tailgate will be a dog fight.

Hiphopopotamus said...

I don't think he's much more athletic than Brad Smith - who, needless to say, didn't have a whole lot of success against KU.

The key will be not letting him loose, because he's reliant on the big run.

His stats: 97 carries for 431 yards (4.4 per)

Take out his longest run in every game and his stats: 88 carries for 228 yards (2.6 per).

Obviously those runs count as much an any other, but it seems to me if you limit the big play, you limit Taylor because he's not going to beat you down-by-down.

Robo Boogie said...

dog fight for a tailgate... Man that had me on the floor.

GingerBalls said...

That's a HUUUUUGE Bitch!

Hiphopopotamus said...

She's quite breath-taking

Anonymous said...

Let it be known that I never was a huge Brad Smith fan ( and I thought Chase was better as a sophomore than BS was in any of his four years. I think people are finally getting it through their heads that Chase is 10x better than BS ever was.

As for this year, how may of kU's defenders even played against Brad Smith?

And you're welcome Robo. If you're going down to Miami, drop a 10 spot on the rotweiller for me. You'll know the VT fans with the High Life orange/black hunting cans and the huge skin graphs like Uncle Frank Beamer.