Today we have a little KJ-IBT roundtable for you all. The participants include all three of us business-timers, as well as a member of last year's Orange Bowl Champion (who we will call White Buffalo).
1. What one thing worries you the most about this game?
GingerBalls: The atmosphere and a pumped up crowd. I know we have played in and won in some tough places recently, but this is completely new and a different schedule to get prepped for a Friday game.
RoboBoogie: I know it is getting beat to death but of course the run game. I think with our passing performances so far this year USF will play the pass more and give us more opportunity to run the ball. In fact I am going to go on record as saying 100+ for Crawford and this is the break out game for the backfield. Also worries me a bit that we won't see Harper in there on the other side but I think Strozier will step up.
White Buffalo: Matt Grothe running around and creating plays on his own. Watching Louisiana Tech's quarterback scramble and convert third downs (granted this was one series in the first half) brings back bad memories of Chase Daniel's fat ass creating plays with feet and throwing downfield. Grothe is obviously a competitor and he will be ready to play in order to put his team in a position to win. However, while there are some health issues, KU's D as a whole is a veteran group and will be ready to compete. Grothe is a worry, but it will be fun to watch the defense step up and stop him.
Another possible worry could be the shortened practice week and first road trip for some of the young guys on the offensive side of the ball. Reesing's confidence is contagious though and you know all of the guys are pumped about playing a big time game on national T.V. in the state of Florida...last time KU played there things turned out pretty well.
Hiphopopotamus: I think the crowd is part of it, but mostly I’m afraid of what the crowd might create. It’s undeniable that we made some horribly uncharacteristic mistakes through the first 35 minutes at Arrowhead last year. That is what I don’t want happening.
2. Aside from Todd (by the way, good story on him the the KC Star today), who do you expect to step up if Kansas is going to win this game?
GB: Cheap answer, but Warinner and the play calling. If we can't run like we need to he needs to buy Todd time to make plays and win the game for us. Picking a player I would go with Strozier stepping in for Kendrick.
RB: I think other than Crawford mentioned above that the normal receiving suspects will be a high point. Steady performance from Kerry and Briscoe but I feel a breakout game (if LT wasn't) from Patterson (both on O and special teams). I also think we will see Stuckey have another big game on the other side.
WB: After watching the first two games, Todd and the receivers are going to get their yards each game...O-Coordinator Warinner will put the offense in a position to score every series. Aside from Todd, I expect the linebacker core to step and help KU win this game. They're a group of seniors who know how to win. Wild Card: Phillip Strozier...wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of him as nickel and corner.
HH: Offensive Line. I’m sure USF is going to get their points, but I have plenty of confidence in the defense to keep things in check. And I’m sure Todd will have no trouble moving the ball. But when I think of USF I think about how they have controlled WVA, but lost to Rutgers both of the last two years. They have the speed to stay with KU, but they can’t handle being run at; unfortunately, I don’t know if KU can run right at them.
3. How thankful are you that you got to go to KU and not USF?
GB: I am sure it is beautiful down there, but I think all I need to say here is a breathtaking campus with amazing women, Orange Bowl and BB Championship....that is enough.
RB: After seeing the Sun Dolls this is a tough one. However we can sellout against Flordia International and they can't sellout v. a top 20 team so that should tell you something (yes I know RJ holds more, but still). That and our uni's don't look like Phil Knight designed them (quack!). Also KU USNews #89 USF USNews #NA Tier 3 so I can get a job and not at a call center. Raymond James is nice but can't touch the backdrop of Memorial. Also the Crimson Girls compared to the Sun Dolls... It stops right there.
WB: Very thankful....tornadoes are a hell of a lot cooler than hurricanes as well.
HH: I love beaches. And I love nice weather. But I’m just not a Florida kind of guy. And I can’t imagine going to school on a commuter campus. Factor in my inherent love for Lawrence, Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium and we probably better stop before I get a little hot and bothered.
4. How many rushing yards will Kansas have? Will that be more than USF?
GB: Something tells me this will be about even, since I know they won't run all over us. I believe that we will have the edge in passing yards but it will come down the TO battle.
RB: And it continues right here. I really think so. This is the breakout game. We know they have it in them. 220 Rushing.
WB: I'll go with 150...and it will be more than USF. USF's leading rusher will be Grothe and if he runs for over 100 then KU will be in some trouble. KU's lack of running game really doesn't concern me as much as others...the offense is designed to take whatever the defense gives them. I have no problem with Reesing throwing for over 400 yards every game.
HH: I'm thinking somewhere in the 180 area. I'm still not convinced that this is the breakout game, but I do question USF's ability to stop the power run and I'm planning on KU playing from ahead. And If they're to play from ahead, the 180 will be more than USF, though I’m also pretty worried about covering the USF receivers and having Grothe scramble for lots of first downs (maybe have Jimmy Holt play a spy on him?).
5. And finally, how does it play out? Score?
GB: I want to go with something high scoring, and probably should. But, something tells me more like 31-21 Kansas. I know, not real low scoring...but lower than some would think.
RB: KU with a come from behind victory. Reverse of the UCF USF score. KU 31, USF 24 no OT though and Grothe goes out hurt in 3rd Quarter.
WB: I'm a homer...no way will I ever pick KU to lose. My Final is 28 - 17...good game in a good atmosphere.
HH: Well, if you have the energy, I think I’ll use this one as my game preview (I promise it will be abridged). Offensively, I'll be very surprised if Kansas isn't able to move the ball. It may all be through the air, but they're going to move the ball and score some points. To be candid, I don't think the USF defense is exponentially better than La Tech's. I'm overstating that a bit, but despite being their strength a year ago, they have some definite weaknesses. Namely, against the power running game. Ray Rice and others have completely decimated them by running right at them. KU hasn't proved to be especially good at this so far, but I'm thinking some holes may open up because of their other issue; new corners. Aside from George Selvie tackling everyone in the backfield last year, the strength of the defense was their corners, both of whom were drafted. I'm not too worried about Selvie, because the TE has been a very tiny part of the offense so far anyway that if Spikes can't handle him I'm sure they'll just leave Biere in to double up. Now, back to the corners, replacing those draft picks are two newbies (safety is quite the opposite, with a combined 60+ starts among 4 guys). Given that Todd has been tearing up opposing defenses through the air, I don't think Leavitt is going to want to leave these corners out there on their own. Assuming he doesn't, running lanes should open. Right?
Defensively, I'm really at a loss right now. Obviously they've looked great so far, going two games without scoring a touchdown. But factor in the road environment and the step up in competition and that is going to change. And despite it ending well, that 9+ minute, 22 play drive that La Tech had last week is still way too fresh in my mind. I don't think USF can dink and dunk like that, which helps, but they have a much more capable creator in Grothe. The guy is basically a faster, taller, less accurate version of Todd. And that scares me a bit. But per that last difference, he is much less accurate and has a propensity for throwing a few up for grabs. If the DBs can capitalize on his mistakes, it could be a great night for the Jayhawks.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say whoever wins the TO battle (as of now KU is +2, USF is -5) will win the game. If the Hawks can handle the atmosphere (see # 1) and play mistake free, while finding a way to force Grothe's hand a bit, I think they should cruise. In this guy's humble opinion, there are probably only two things USF does better than KU; run the ball and rush the passer. KU is more disciplined. They're more consistent. And overall, they're just the better football team. But they're also playing on the road. For the first time this year, in what could be a very hostile environment. So in no way is this going to be easy. I think the perfect comparison from last year is the game in Stillwater: an explosive opponent, a hostile crowd, and a true primetime audience. Obviously we all know how that one turned out, so I guess we'll see if this year's team is up to handling a similar task. As of now, I'll say they are.
Kansas: 27 USF: 21
p.s. We're taking Baylor with a semi-easy win tonight over Wazzu and we'll be back tomorrow to get in our picks for the rest of the league.