Kansas Offense v. Virginia Tech Defense
Well, it's now Friday and it's snowing, so what better time to talk about the less fortuitous match-up against the Hokie Defense. Idea #1 would be getting defensive coordinator Bud Foster to take the WVU job like now. If idea #1 doesn't pan out – and even if it does – the best thing Kansas has going for them is that VT has not seen an offense like theirs. The question remains – does it matter?
Statistically speaking, it should be a great match-up and while Kansas' offense isn't quite as good as that stats say, it's hard to defend when it's used correctly and even harder to prepare for because you can't simulate timing. Unfortunately, Virginia Tech's defense is somewhat similar. They have padded their stats too (discussed shortly), but it's inarguable that they have a great defensive team and you absolutely can't simulate their speed. Since Kansas hasn't faced a defense like this all year, the comparables we'll be using are the best offenses VT has seen.
I liked how we did things yesterday, so let's get things started with the name of the game - scoring. Both units are second in the nation. Kansas has racked up over 44 per game, while Virginia Tech has allowed 15 ½. Stating the obvious, Kansas isn't scoring 44 this time out. But they're not going to be held to 15 either. The top three scoring offenses VT has seen are LSU (12th at 39/game), Clemson (22nd at 34/game) and BC (55th at 29/game). Not exactly a murderer's row of supermen. When VT played these teams, they were humiliated by LSU for 48 points and it could have been worse. But they held Clemson and BC (both times) below their averages. To Clemson they yielded 23 and to BC they allowed 14 and 16. All three are very solid performances, but I don't think there is any doubt that Kansas has a much more dynamic and productive offense than BC and you'd have a tough time convincing anyone that they aren't at the very least Clemson's equal. Maybe I'm wrong here, but per my analysis yesterday, if Kansas puts up 23+ I think they are in great shape. (Note: Ohio (45) and ECU (47) are ranked ahead of BC in scoring, but were excluded for obvious reasons.)
So the obvious question is; how are they getting to 23? For now we're going to discuss total offense, but I'll give you a hint: Hot Toddy is involved. Both units are again top ranked with Kansas coming in at 6th and VT 5th. To get there the KU offense has accounted for 491 yards (6.45 per) leading to 64 touchdowns. And the VT defense has held opponents to 292 yards (4.3 per) and 24 TDs. Again it makes the most sense to look at their best opponents, who were LSU (20th at 448), BC (27th at 437) and Clemson (47th at 412). They were again bludgeoned by LSU for 598, but were much better in the others. They held BC to 317 the first time and 387 the second and they held Clemson to 380. So nothing that really blows your hair back, but solid outside of Baton Rouge. My argument again would be that Kansas is every bit as good if not better than BC/Clemson and getting at/near 400 yards would likely be enough good for the aforementioned 23ish points.
Now for the bad news. I'm not sure how well the Hawks are running in this game, as the Hokies are a bit stingy here. Statistically, Kansas is 27th with 197 per game (5/carry) and 29 touchdowns. But if you saw the Methzou game, you are worried. Especially when you consider that VT is ranked 5th and only allows 87 per game (2.75/carry). Fortunately, they again have not faced the stiffest of competition. Their top three opponents in terms of rushing offense were LSU (11th at 219), Georgia Tech (18th at 203) and Clemson (50th at 159). And similarly, they were raped by LSU for 297 yards, but were solid against GT and extraordinary against Clemson (though aided by Tommy Bowden). Against GT they allowed a very acceptable 105 yards, nearly 100 below their season average. Against Clemson on the other hand, they yielded a staggering 8 yards, or 151 below their average and if you've watched James Davis or C.J. Spiller, this is no small feat. You do have to consider that after falling behind 17-0 very early (Pick 6, FG, Punt Return TD), Bobby's son forgot he could still run the ball, giving it to each back only 6 times, while letting Cullen Harper throw 66 times. So I'm impressed but it's not quite as astonishing at the core of it. So as you may have guessed, Kansas is going to have to be quite a bit more diverse with their play calling on the ground and they are definitely going to need to pass to open up the run.
Fortunately, that seems rather doable. Needless to say, they're a bit more promiscuous here. That is not to say that VT doesn't defend the pass well, but it's certainly less of a fortress than their run defense. On the year they rank 27th, allowing a 53% completion rate for 207 yards. More specifically, they allow 5.6/attempt and 10.5/completion. So calling it a chink in the armor might be a bit much, but it's unquestionably vulnerable. The Kansas passing attack is ranked 14th on account of 295 yards per game and 35 touchdowns. They've averaged 8 yards per attempt and 13/completion, which they do 64% of the time. These are the statistics I would argue are by no means inflated – and I think you could easily dispute that they are somewhat deflated. Whereas the defense was able to beef up its stats against the poor early competition, Reesing was always on the sideline by the 4th quarter as Kansas' backup running backs were grinding out the clock.
There are two things I primarily like about this match-up and one that I don't. First the latter, I'm concerned about Kansas' ability to protect Reesing. On the year, they've allowed 22 sacks (47th), while VT has gotten to its opposing QB on 43 occasions (8th). Specifically, three players worry me. First, DE Chris Ellis is a thrill to watch unless you're facing his team. And from the linebacking corps, Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall are both extremely active, instinctive and just plain fast. The Kansas O-line had trouble with players not nearly as skilled as these three against Methzou and the coaches forgot to roll Todd out until the 2nd half. If the same occurs, I'd hope they have learned from their mistake.
But onto the positives, Virginia Tech has not seen an offense anything like Kansas' all year. As you've noticed, they haven't played too many offensive juggernauts at all and certainly none that spread the field or throw it as well as the Jayhawks. The top three passing attacks they faced were BC (6th at 329 yards), Clemson (40th at 254 yards) and LSU (59th at 229 yards). They held BC slightly below, giving up 285 the first time and 305 the second. They had no such luck against Clemson, allowing 372 or LSU, when they yielded 301 – both well above their respective averages. Take that for what you will, but the best equalizer in football right now is the ability to spread the field and Kansas does it much better than any of those teams.
The other thing I like here is Kansas' ball security. This has been an enormous advantage for the Jayhawks all year and can be in this game also. As you may remember from yesterday, the VT offense is beyond bad and as a team they're extremely dependant on getting points/field position from their defense and special teams (preview to come soon), so holding onto the ball is essential. And fortunately, Hot Toddy usually doesn't have a problem doing so. Aside from his 32:6 TD: INT ratio, he also went 6+ games without a turnover of any kind. His six turnovers have come in 3 games, which means he has been turnover free in 75% of them – bump that up to 77% and he'll be shocking at least one lass later that evening. It's not a stretch to say that his 2 picks against Methzou were the difference and if he avoids those same mistakes, I like their chances to move the ball through the air.
Which brings us to the little things - where Kansas also has the edge. Most notably, the only teams that have been as disciplined as Kansas are made of up members of a service academy, as Kansas, Army, and Navy tied for fewest penalties on the year. In a game where yards may be hard to come by, not shooting yourself in the dick with a stupid penalty will be a key to sustaining drives. And just as importantly, Kansas needs to find a way to convert a decent percentage of their 3rd downs. They currently rank 28th, converting 44% of their chances, while VT is 3rd, only allowing a conversion 29% of the time. Anything over 35% would be well received by yours truly.
As was the case yesterday, I'm not sure if I told you much you didn't know here – but it's always nice to confirm suspicions with numbers. Although in this case, maybe I would have been better off having not known what VT can do to a running game. Contrarily, it was rather refreshing to reaffirm my belief that they haven't played against an offense that would be in the top half of the Big 12 (LSU aside, but I think even VT would rather I not analyze that one too much). As clichéd as it sounds, I really think this game will ultimately come down to the Kansas QB play. If Todd can spread the field and take care of the ball, there is no reason they can't get into the 20s and as I mentioned yesterday, I'm inclined to think that will be enough. For those of you scoring at home, though…
Edge: Virginia Tech
And since we all enjoyed them yesterday, here are a few links to bide the time…
First, courtesy of The Big Lead, enjoy the wonderful world of hate mail – which apparently was written by someone with no familiarity to the English language and how it is presented in writing.
And another from TBL, wondering about D-Mac's Cotton Bowl Availability?
For the second straight day, here is some Alamo Bowl discussion. More than anything, I just like the picture of these hellacious d-bags.
And for those that care, Bobby Frasor is gone for the season with a torn ACL. I'm not in the camp that thinks this is make or break for Roy's boys, but he their biggest weakness is from beyond the arc and he was one of their best. He was also one of their best perimeter defenders.
Even though it's been beaten to death already, I just want to thank Texas for overcoming the efforts of Mack's red-headed stepchild Chris Jessie and ensuring that I will finish over .500 this college football season.