First off, congrats to Todd for earning KJ-IBT player of the week honors. Amazingly, some of you threw some votes out for Kerry and Johnathon Wilson, but Todd still ran away with the award, as he should have (p.s. You're welcome, Anne).
As you may have surmised by now, we like to provide you with a Tuesday Q&A, offering some insight to the unknown. And Sam Houston State is surely unknown. Unfortunately, our repeated attempts to track down the elusive Cody Stark, Assistant Sports Editor (read: beat reporter) of the Huntsville Item have turned up empty. Seems the young lad doesn't have time for our lowly blog. (Note: If you enjoy them, he did contribute to a podcast on KUSports.com, that was strangely posted right after the USF game. I guess they thought people really wanted to move on?)
Does anybody want to be Jay Mariotti more than Bob Lutz?
Before we get to our feature today I thought I'd send a few of you the way of Brett McMurphy, our friend from the Tampa Tribune. Apparently, some (or many) USF fans didn't treat the Jayhawk faithful in attendance with much respect. Not that it means much now, but USF, Brett, and several commenters have offered their apologies.
On that note, there has been some interesting discussion going on over at Rock Chalk Talk about how this Kansas team will finish out the season (shit if I know). And really, though we know a lot more than we did at the start of the season about Kansas (mostly bad), other teams haven't shown us quite as much just yet. So even though we've seen 2 or 3 games from everyone, these are really no better than refined preseason predictions, with a tiny bit of hindsight as a base point.
For me, I'm now leaning 9-3 (6-2). And even that seems a bit optimistic. Given what we've seen from Oklahoma (and the KU lines), that one may not even be as close as I was originally hoping. Sure, the OU back seven is suspect and Todd will surely put a few points on the board. But it's pretty irrefutable that Kansas has one of the worst four man pass rushes around. To that same accord, OU just might have the best offensive line in the country. Know this: through 3 games Sam Bradford has yet to be sacked (or even hurried), which has allowed him to throw the ball 81 times, completing 64 of them (79%) for 882 yards, 12 TDs and an inexcusable 2 INTs. And this has been done without any dependence on the passing game, whatsoever. So there's that…
Counting the next four as foregone conclusions (W-W-W-L), the Hawks should be sitting 5-2 as of October 18th. To hit my mark, they'll then need to go 4-1 with a slate consisting of: Tech, KSU, @ Nebraska, UT, and MU at Arrowhead. No easy task, to be sure.
Call me crazy, but I just don't see this team losing a home game. I especially don't think they'll have a ton of trouble with KSU, so that's one. I've yet to see anything from Tech that tells me they're better than KU, let alone able to beat them on Homecoming in Memorial. Texas, on the other hand, is likely the better team. But with an extremely young secondary (and defense altogether), they aren't without their pitfalls either. And while they've looked pretty solid offensively (McCoy especially), they were out-gained by UTEP, despite the ultimate margin of victory. By no means am I chalking this up as a win, and if it were in Austin I'd call it almost a sure loss (not on the OU level, but pessimistic no less). But I know how Mack (and Greg) coach when they're in tough games and don't have VY. Call me a homer. Call me an optimist. Call me an idiot. I think Kansas is winning that game (albeit I'd feel a whole lot more confident if the O-line figures out how to block someone between now and then).
If they can truly run their home slate, that will leave them with a trip to Lincoln and the game in Arrowhead. I can tell you which one I'd rather them win. And I can tell you which one they're more likely to win. For one thing, we don't have a clue what Nebraska is all about just yet. They're offense looks fine, if unspectacular. And on the surface, their defense is without a doubt much improved and even looks to be decent. But like I said earlier, it was about this time last year that they were beating Nevada 52-7 and feeling pretty damn good about themselves. And we all know how far that took them. So while I'm sure KU is the better team, I still don't know by how much. And more than anything, since they haven't won in Lincoln in nearly 40 years, I'm not exactly ready to be writing it off as an easy win.
As for Arrowhead, what can I say? Methzou clearly looks to be the better of the two teams. Though they are not without their deficiencies, they seem to have enough offense that it typically won't matter. All else the same, on paper, they should win comfortably. They were as good as or better than KU a year ago. And while we don't know how their defense is this year, their offense seems to have found another gear. Meanwhile, the Hawks have fallen off a bit. They've improved in some areas and have some definite room for (expected) growth in others, but all in all, they just aren't quite as good to this point. But I've seen a lot of crazy shit in this rivalry (football and basketball), so there's not a chance I'll call this one a loss, let alone in September.
I suppose the crux of my rambling is this; the South Florida game hurts. I just don't think there's any way KU emerges from that league slate at anything better than 6-2. And while plenty attainable, that is admittedly optimistic. But I also know how much better this team is at home. So while 9-3 is on the optimistic side, I think anything worse than 8-4 is overly pessimistic. All that being true, it sure looks like this team is headed for the Alamo Bowl at worst and the Cotton at best, with the Holiday somewhere in between. And while I enjoyed being spoiled a year ago, I can't complain about any of those outcomes. Rock Chalk.