Sunday, November 30, 2008

Missouri React

Well, that was euphoric. Like I said yesterday, that really had to be the best game I have ever attended. Great offense. Opportunistic defense. Not sloppy at all (6 total penalties). All in all, just two teams laying it in the line in a rivalry game. In reality, these two offenses are so filled with playmakers, it was likely going to come down to who had the ball last. For all intents and purposes, that was us, and I couldn’t be happier for it.

Offensive MVP was: Todd Reesing. You just can’t say enough about the job he did yesterday. And now knowing that he couldn’t lift his right arm a week ago, I’m even more impressed. His pocket presence is uncanny, his determination is relentless and his confidence is infectious. Let’s just say I’m pretty ecstatic about him returning alongside Dez Briscoe and Kerry Meier for one more year.

Defensive MVP was: Darrell Stuckey. And calling this one a no-brainer doesn’t do it justice. Two interceptions and forcing & recovering Booger’s fumble – simply incredible. I said we needed to force the issue and Stuckey was a bigger part of that than anyone else. Hats off to Clint and the entire defense for generally doing a good job on a great offense (especially confusing them early), but Stuckey was without a doubt the catalyst of it all.

Note: We won’t be selecting LVP’s this week, because candidly, this was an entire team effort in every sense of the phrase. There were mistakes on both sides, sure, but to point a least valuable finger would not be doing justice to the overall effort and execution put forth by everyone.

Unsung heroes include: Alonso Rojas, Jacob Branstetter, James Holt, Jake Sharp and the entire offensive line. Rojas’ punting helped contain the unreal talent that is Maclin and led to the safety. Branstetter’s kickoffs were actually pretty shitty, but he tackled Maclin twice, made his only FG attempt and drilled home all 5 PATs. Holt only registered 6 tackles, one of which was a six yard sack, but what didn’t show up statistically was the emphasis (and overall good job) their o-line put on him, but also the push he provided forcing Booger to move in the pocket a little more than he likes.  Jake's 20 carries for 48 yards and a TD was nothing great, but making Eberflus account for him, especially on the outside spread out the field for everyone else. To carry 20 times in that game with broken ribs is nothing short of incredible. While the o-line struggled to consistently make holes for Jake, they generally did a great job forming a pocket for Todd. Sulak got to him twice and Todd obviously did some scrambling, but all in all, the pocket was there all day.

The special teams: were as much to credit as anything for the win. You simply can’t underestimate the effect Briscoe’s returns had on the offense. Field position has been an issue for us all year and yesterday it was not. Just as importantly, we never let Maclin break free and credit there goes to Rojas and both coverage teams as they were solid all day. We turned what was a decided disadvantage going in, into an advantage that played a big part in us coming out with a win.

Congrats to: Missouri.  For earning a second straight co-championship of the Big XII north.  And to Nebraska for fighting back to share it with them after that embarrassing loss early.  I get the sense that these two teams, along with Kansas, may be the only three in contention in the near future. 

Thanks: to Gary Pinkel. For not using a time out after the completion to Perry, resulting in a loss of two important seconds and not letting them run an extra play to get it closer than the 36.  Also, thanks for running Alexander on an out route even though you still had 2 timeouts and we were pretty much conceding the middle of the field.  We knew you still had it in you.  Much appreciated.

The uniform battle: was another win for Kansas.  I've been asking for white on white for a while and I was not disappointed.  Very cool.  As for the golds they brought out - what were they thinking?  The front was bright, while 3/4 of the back were darker and both were a different shade than the gold on their helmet.  It really is a shame they didn't bring out the gold pants too, but it was hideous all the same.  And yet I'm not surprised in the least bit.

Fear factor: can’t really be determined without an opponent. But operating under the assumption that we’ll head to the Insight Bowl and be paired with the sixth selection from the Big 11, I feel pretty confident. A quick glance at the standings has Wisconsin occupying that spot, so that’s my best guess. And since there are exactly two teams in the entire conference that I’m not sure we would beat, I’m pretty confident as of now. Obviously much more on this later.

Going into next month I feel: ecstatic. Look, any idiot that understands football realizes that even a 6-6 season would not have invalidated what happened a year ago. We lost four draft picks and a couple other all-conference selections. We were going to drop off. And while it’s being written off as a product of the schedule change – which is obvious – everyone seems to be forgetting that while those three teams are all top 5 caliber this year, they all had three losses a year ago, with five of those nine coming to unranked teams. But with all of that said, this loss saved our season. On a national level it saved us from a perception standpoint. And on a local level, it saved us on an interest standpoint. Disappointing as it is, there are still a lot of fair-weather fans with this newfound football success and to beat Missouri, especially in that fashion, a lot of them will come crawling back. But most important of all, it does a lot for the program. Now a winning season is guaranteed and with a win in the bowl game this becomes an 8-5 season. Eight wins with one of the toughest schedules in the country shows that you’re building a program of continuity. While not as flashy as 12-1 and Orange Bowl champions, that is just as important if we’re interested in any sort of prolonged success. Which we are.

Rock Chalk!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I've seen a lot of things in my life...

But that was...AWESOME!! Obviously much more to come on this later, but that really had to be about the best game I've ever attended. Just incredibly well played by both teams with an unbelievable 4 TDs in the last 7 minutes. And obviously good triumphing over evil is always a bonus. Talk amongst yourselves...

Rock Chalk!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Q&A Time: Missouri

Our question and answer subject this week is Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune. His blog Behind the Stripes, while vile, always proves to be an excellent source of information. I'm not sure if he still stands behind this, but earlier in the year he actually stated that if he were to pick a QB to run the spread offense, he would pick Booger first, Tebow second and Todd third. Just food for thought. Anyway, in addition to his answers, you may find my retort in brackets following.

1. We'll get this out of the way first. We're adamantly opposed to the continuation of the series at Arrowhead, what are your thoughts?
It's a no-brainer financially for Missouri, and any chance the Tigers have to cut out a trip to Lawrence and keep the series within the state border makes sense for now. On one hand, some Columbia businesses might be unhappy with losing the KU home game locally, but then again, the student crowds tend to be sparse during Thanksgiving weekend. For Missouri, I think the plusses outweigh the negatives.
[This argument is just never going to make sense to me. Obviously you make more money this way as you rake in revenue every year as opposed to every other. But that is the only plus. Part of what makes college sports so much more enjoyable is the campus/student atmosphere. By playing one hour from one campus and nearly two from the other, that is lost. I could go for way too long on this, so I'll stop there, but I'd welcome your input.]

2. With Missouri having already clinched representing the north and Kansas basically locked into the Insight Bowl, which team would you say has more pressure Saturday?
I'd say Kansas. After visiting with both Missouri and KU players this week, it was plain to see the Tigers are much looser. They know they're playing with house money on Saturday. Lose and their best-case scenario doesn't change much, just some rivalry pride gets damaged. Kansas is staring at a .500 season if they lose, and I got the sense its players are feeling like last year's breakthrough seems more hollow with each loss this year.
[This makes sense to me. Though from an optimist's perspective, one could easily take this as KU is much more focused...]

3. Missouri's defense has NFL-caliber talent at each level, yet they really haven't played well against a good offense yet this year. Why do you think this is?
There have been some moments for this defense. The Tigers did a good job against Nebraska, the No. 3 offense in the Big 12 since the start of conference play. And the defense put MU in position to beat Oklahoma State, creating stops and takeaways in the second half. (The offense couldn't capitalize on the favorable field position the defense handed them several times in that game.) Against North teams, MU's starters on defense have given up just four touchdowns in four games. The real lapses came early against Illinois when the cornerbacks had no luck in single coverage situations on deep routes and against Texas when UT's offensive line and receivers did whatever they wanted against the Tigers. Other than that, the defense hasn't been as strong as I expected, but in conference play it ranks among the top four Big 12 teams in most categories.
[They did keep NU down and it was likely their best showing on the year, but they also gave up nearly 400 yards. And let's not forget that Nebraska's offense wasn't what it is now. Just two weeks before they were held to barely 300 yards by San Jose St. and were sitting with only 14 points a few minutes into the 4th quarter. Against OSU, they did force some turnovers, which shouldn't be minimized. But they also gave up over 400 yards and nearly 6 per play. I think we're actually on the same page here, but I wanted to highlight the other side of what he's mentioning.]

4. Keeping with their defense, what would you say is their primary strength? Weakness?
Strengths: The linebackers tackle well. Sean Weatherspoon has been virtually unblockable at the point of attack. They buckle down in the red zone. Their corners aren't particularly fast but they're physical tacklers. Free safety William Moore is starting to show some signs of the player who made some All-America lists last year.
Weaknesses: The pass rush is inconsistent, especially up the middle. Coverage breakdowns in the secondary have led to some long passes. They're vulnerable against quick, short passing games.
[Very much agree here. I think the biggest thing to be excited about here is the lack of inside pressure. If this holds true, our offense will reap the benefits.]

5. Obviously the biggest key to disrupting any spread is getting pressure on the quarterback and Missouri is no different. Assuming Kansas can't count on doing this consistently, what do you think they need to do to slow the Tiger offense?
If a defensive line can't get pressure on Chase Daniel, then you better hope he has an off day with his accuracy or his receivers struggle to make catches. The only defenses that have really given Daniel trouble over the last few years (Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State to a degree) generated a potent pass rush without having to blitz linebackers and safeties. No pass rush, no chance against Daniel. He's too smart with his reads and too accurate when he has time.
[Too true.]

6. On that same note, what one thing must Kansas do to win this game?
Force turnovers and put Missouri's offense into third-and-long situations. The Tigers have really only stopped themselves on offense this year with interceptions and the occasional fumble.
[Couldn't agree more. We have to force the issue here. Like most quarterbacks, Booger doesn't really flourish under pressure. But can we get any?]

7. And what one thing must Missouri do to win this game?
Cover receivers downfield. Reesing will buy time against the pass rush and keep plays alive with his feet. The Tigers' defensive line's best ally will be tight coverage downfield on KU's dangerous receivers.
[Again, I very much agree. No matter how well our D plays, their offense is too good not to get its share of points. But if their D isn't up to snuff, our offense will put up plenty as well.]

8. Finally, the score will be?
55-28, Missouri. The Tigers will forget about the Big 12 championship for a few hours and complete its second straight 5-0 season against the Big 12 North.
[Wow. This one surprised me. I'm not saying it can't happen. But MU has scored 55+ points exactly twice this year (Nevada (69) & Colorado (58)), so that seems a little high to me. And they've only given up less than twenty 4 times (SEMO (3), Nevada (17), Nebraska (17), CU (0)) so the 28 there seems a little low, especially if this is going to be a high scoring game as the 55 would suggest.]

Thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer our questions. Despite my need to interject my own opinion, his is greatly appreciated and likely well informed. Let's hope he's wrong, especially on that last one. Rock Chalk!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Big XII Picks: Week Nine

I'm still working on the picks and I'll add to this shortly, but I wanted to get in my Texas/Texas A&M pick in before it was too late.

Texas A&M @ Texas (-36.5)
I'm sure the Longhorns will win this handily as they're far superior and looking for style points (despite what Mack says) for the BCS voters. But 37 points is a lot to cover for an offense that really doesn't even look for the big play. And as worthless s A&M is, they do have a couple playmakers on offense to be able to score some points. But they'll get it done anyway.UT 49 A&M 10

The rest are on their way...

Game of the week

Oklahoma (-7) @ Oklahoma State
I was the last one on the Cowboy bandwagon and as soon as I got behind them full tilt, they went to Lubbock, quickly went up 7-0 and did absolutely nothing the rest of the evening. Since then the Sooners returned the favor to Tech in even more embarrassing fashion. And while that shouldn’t mean anything – and to an extent won’t – it makes it pretty hard to trust the Pokes this weekend. If Hunter is available, they really should be able to run the ball pretty effectively. As good as OU looked last week, we still haven’t seen them overcome what appears to be their biggest weakness, conditioning. In a close game, they seem to wear down badly (which is exactly what happened in the Cotton Bowl and was even starting to happen v. KU) and can’t sustain on either side for the duration. So if OSU is picking up first downs on the ground and Dez Bryant is doing what he usually does in Stillwater, things could get interesting. But as much as I underestimated them early, I think we all need to accept that OSU simply outplayed MU and caught Texas on a bit of a downswing. They’re a good team, but they’re not elite. Bradford will have all day and the Pokes just won’t be able to keep up. OU 45 OSU 31

Baylor @ Texas Tech (-21.5)
Tough line here as Baylor has just enough to keep things interesting if Tech hasn’t put last week behind them. Frankly, I think I’m making a mistake leaning towards Tech, but this just seems like the kind of game where they might try to run it up to make themselves feel a little better about the humiliation they endured Saturday. If you haven’t guessed, I don’t have much in the way of analysis here. Tech 51 Baylor 24

Colorado @ Nebraska (-18)
The Buffs need this one to become bowl eligible. But with the way Nebraska is playing and with how unbelievably bad the Colorado offense has looked, I just don’t see it happening. Eighteen seems a little higher than I would have expected, but also seems doable if they protect the ball (no sure thing). For some reason, I’ll trust the Huskers here to exact a little revenge from last year. NU 38 CU 17

Kansas (+16) v. Missouri
If you haven’t heard, the powers that be at these two institutions have decided to prolong the mistake that is having this game at the concrete hell that is Arrowhead. I’m all for making money, but this is just ridiculous. There are exactly two games in the nation that play on neutral fields with consistency: UT/OU and Florida/Georgia, and it should stay that way. But since I could go on about this for hours and it doesn’t really matter anyway, I’ll just leave it be for now.

As for this game, I guess you never know what you’re gonna get, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see some points. Just as was the case a year ago, the Tigers have a slight edge on paper. Both offenses have an overwhelming advantage over the opposing defense, but theirs is slightly larger. But as we’ve seen many times in this rivalry and others, that often means very little. Consider the fact that Terry Allen actually went 3-2 against the urine ad black. Consider that in the last 10 years, the mark stands at 5-5, though KU has arguably never had the more talented team. So anything can happen. And honestly, I’d argue that the disparity between these two teams is not nearly what the record would indicate. Their people like to point out that Kansas isn’t winning this year because we’re playing an actual schedule – yet their three biggest wins over the last 2 seasons would be: 1) over what they like to call a fraudulent Kansas team, 2) a Tech team that couldn’t beat OSU or Colorado, & 3) Illinois. You could probably throw Arkansas in there somewhere, but considering they played without a coach and their only two players were already looking toward the NFL Combine and, well, you get the idea.

Long story short, I think we need to create some breaks for ourselves, but I think a win is plenty within reach. Like I said, we’ll have plenty of chances to score some points. Hopefully the weather permits for us to go down the field a little as the Tigers have proven to be very susceptible to the big play. But really, we just need to play to our strengths. Run the ball against one guy, not four. Find soft spots in their zone or exploit their corners in man. Protect our defense and make the most of our opportunities and we’ll keep the pressure on them to keep scoring too.

Defensively, we need to maintain intensity. They don’t get held to a three and out very often – almost never against teams outside of the South – and they often find a way to punch it in for six. We by no means have a wall of a defense, so we’re going to give up points too. It will be imperative to have a short memory and keep fighting for the full sixty minutes. And as far as that will get us, we also need to do a little extra. We need to get pressure on Booger. We need to press the receivers and make breaks on balls. Force the issue. Booger isn’t good under pressure and he will force throws if we make him. When that happens, turnovers happen and the Tigers lose. This sounds like fun. Make it happen, Hawks. KU 38 MU 34

Happy Thanksgiving

We here at KJ-IBT would like to wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving. As I'm sure you have many things to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving day, there is one thing to not forget (and I'm sure you won't). In the midst of all the thanks you are giving, take a moment to be thankful that you are not from Missouri. And thus, do not have to live amongst those who look like this...
Wishing you a belated Happy Mullet Wednesday on this beautiful Thanksgiving day!

p.s. If you haven't already, be sure to check out the revised forecast for Saturday morning. And also make sure to check out the Border War documentary that has pretty much been running non-stop on Metro Sports. It's very well done and will definitely get you in the mood for Saturday. Happy turkey day and Rock Chalk!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Throws Again

A tough loss, indeed. It's really amazing how much easier that pill is to swallow after last season's conclusion though. We all realize that expectations need to be dramatically tempered, but it still sucks to lose, especially when you control the entire game.

The bad…

- Free throws. They haven't been a problem until last night, so I'm not ready to declare it an issue just yet. But really, the 11-20 isn't doing it justice, because if memory serves they missed at least 2 and maybe 3 front ends of a 1-and-1. That's just a controlled turnover right there. This wasn't quite another 12-30 (more like the 6-19 v. St. Jospeh's in MSG or 21-35 in Columbia), but it was definitely another game where it's easist the singular thing to describe the difference between winning and losing.

- The comeback. I said from the beginning of this tournament that I wanted to see how this team reacted when they faced some adversity and a team made a run at them. Well, leading 51-38 they got a little comfortable, Syracuse punched them and by the time we collected ourselves it was a tie game. I love that they bounced back from this and built up another decent lead (67-60), but it doesn't excuse the sloppiness and lazy possessions that let 'Cuse back in the game.

- Flynn's three. Not the one you're thinking of, though I think switching on that ball screen was a bad decision and I think we have pretty firsthand evidence that a foul is not a bad idea in that situation. But I digress. I was much more angry about his first one, that started bring Syracuse back a second time. Again, we built the lead up to 7, got comfortable (and lazy) and simply let him dribble under the basket, down the baseline and turn around for an uncontested three. 67-63 and they're right back in the game.

-Defense out of a TO. For some reason, everyone keeps acting as if Syracuse ran away with the overtime. Those people watched a different game than me. I watched one where Kansas still had a lead with under 3 minutes. But what bothered me last night was as soon as 'Cuse built it up to 3 and called a timeout, we should have known they were setting up a play to get a good look. So what happens, they inbound, take 2 dribbles and kick to Rautins (who has a very interesting momullet) for a three and all of a sudden it's a six point game with 1:39 to play. Tyrel's follow-up 3 somehow doesn't go down and the game is effectively over. Credit the Orange for executing the play Boeheim drew up, but we have to be more aware of what they're trying to do.

- Sherron Collins. The first half he was brilliant. And he did some great things in the second as well. But when they started making their run, he was as much to fault as anyone with two straight turnovers leading to fast break points. Instead of being a calming force that the young guys could emulate, he got careless and tried to stop the run by himself. He also got a little caught up in trying to best Flynn. And the problem here is that I can see the exact same thing happening again. Sherron has taken these kids under his wing and is relishing his new role, but he's not exactly a slow-it-down kind of guy.

The good…

- Tyshawn Taylor. Did anyone see this coming? I had heard good things and you always like it when someone comes from a real basketball program as opposed to the AAU circuit, but I never expected what we're getting. He's still prone to mental lapses on both ends of the court and will likely be good for a charge a game, but he does a lot of things well. I really can't express just how impressed I have been with him thus far, but I think Bill letting him bring the ball up with Sherron on the court pretty much says it all.

- Morris twins. One of these days I'll stop analyzing them as one in the same, because they are plenty different. Marcus did a little bit of everything last night with 11 points, 11 boards, 6 assists and a steal. He crashed the offensive glass, was efficient from the floor (5-10) and generally stayed active on both ends. Markieff didn't have the same type of stats or PT, but was still able to chip in 5 points, 4 boards and an assist. His brother is pretty entrenched in the starting lineup, but he's clearly the third option on the inside and we don't have much of a dropoff when he's in.

- Cole Aldrich. We have a bona fide big man. I'm not sure if Cole will hang around another couple of years, but if he does the sky is the limit for him at Kansas. Last night wasn't his best shooting night (5-13), but he still managed to rack up 15 points. Perhaps even more impressive was his 16 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. And maybe the most encouraging part of these last two games was that he went up against big time front lines and didn't get into foul trouble in either game.

- Ball movement. Can you believe how well a team this young carved up their zone? And what about when Syracuse went to a surprise press and we barely had to dribble to get a layup at the other end? Truly amazing when you consider that in 2005 we couldn't get the ball past half court against Arizona. What's even more impressive is that they seem to have improved from this standpoint each and every game.

All in all we have to be pleased. That's a good team we lost to and while a loss should never be accepted, it's understandable. Even more meaningful to me, though, is that at this early stage in the season we are good enough to beat a team that good. And honestly, after watching Washington put up 84 on Florida, the win on Monday looks a little more impressive to me as well. Expectations still need to remain in check, but this team is battling hard and improving on a daily basis. With the talent that's in place, that's all you can ask for – and it has the makings of a very fun season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Five Reasons Kansas Could Win

First things first, I'd like to direct your attention to Burnt Orange Nation for a recap of a Longhorn's trip to Lawrence. Sounds like they enjoyed themselves, which is always nice to hear. I always feel very fortunate that I was able to fall in love with a team that resided on such a beautiful campus in such a great town. That's called having your cake and eating it too. With that, we're on to the five reasons Kansas could win Saturday.

1. 268. Just like Kansas, the Tigers have proven to be completely inept when it comes to stopping the pass. And just imagine what that number would look like had they played Tech (427) and Oklahoma (353) instead of Baylor (189) and Okie State (231) as Kansas did. And really, the results are much the same on the ground with Kansas only slightly better – leading to a nearly identical total yardage allowed of 393 for MU and 395 for KU. The difference lies in that KU is simply marginal across the board, whereas MU has some playmakers, yet they continue to offer up very little resistance as a whole.

Will it help us? Absolutely. I wish I could compare their defense to an opponent we've seen this year, but the most suitable comparison is our own unit. Both cause turnovers at roughly the same pace (KU = 1.91, MU = 1.73), both give up roughly the same amount of total yards and it's even strikingly similar broken down by tactic. They are probably a little more conventional when rushing the passer, but we're more gap sound. Truthfully, neither team has orchestrated one good defensive performance against a capable offense yet this year with the closest attempts coming in their win over Nebraska and our loss to Texas. Long story short, if we're assignment sound and valuing the ball, we're going to put up some points.

2. Dezmon Briscoe. If Dez has proven one thing this year, it's that he cannot by single covered. So I wouldn't expect them to even try this week. Castine Bridges (6'2") would really be their only option and Dez would beat him 10 out of 10 times. So expect them to help over the top with either Moore or Garrett. Assuming Kerry is healthy again and either Dexton or Jonathan Wilson came to play (preferably both), there should be a lot of space to expose with Dez drawing this extra attention.

Will it helps us? Certainly. Even if Dezmon doesn't have a great game, he will undoubtedly draw a lot of attention from the defense and I'm sure has given Eberflus a ton of headaches over the past few weeks. Having a receiver like him completely changes the dynamic of an offense and his presence alone will open up some opportunities.

3. Bye week. Over the last three plus years, Mangino's record after a bye week is 6-1 with the lone loss coming in Lubbock in 2005 when they held the Raiders to 30 points (7 from the defense), but had such a shit offense at the time that they couldn't capitalize.

Will it help? The proof is in the pudding. And while past performance does not guarantee future results (also a good investing tip), they can be used as a pretty good indicator. Combine this with the opponent and the implications from a season standpoint and it seems safe to assume that the team will come out fired up and ready. [It should also be noted that while MU is 3-0 over the past two years (2-0 v. NU and the bowl win over Ark.), they were much less impressive in the years prior going 0-2 in 2006 and 1-1 in 2005.]

4. James Holt. Though it hasn't led to any late season resurgence and the defense has still continued to struggle, James Holt has changed the dynamic. His pressure off the edge has proven that when needed we can get to the quarterback. And all year, he has had a nose for the ball leading the nation with 6 forced fumbles and also notching an interception.

Will it help us? Yes, but how much remains to be seen. I think we'll use him off the edge more often than we have so as not to be quite so transparent and because of the enormous amount of time Booger had a year ago. But I also think we'll need to keep him in a base set to keep him fresh enough that any time he comes off the edge, he's able to come full tilt. Even more than that, I think he'll be much needed as a tackler in the screen game and covering inside receivers and/or Coffman. Ideally we'll be able to play a lot of nickel and still stop the run, but if not, James is much needed as a LB because he's the only one that moves well in space.

5. Turnovers. Statistically, this is pretty much a wash. We've each gained two more than we've lost. Like they were a year ago these teams are incredibly similar both in makeup and performance. And like a year ago, MU seems slightly better. So it will probably take winning the turnover battle to come out with a win.

Will it helps us? Obviously. If it happens, that is. And luckily, the Tigers have turned it over at least once every game since their trip to Lincoln. Booger especially has become somewhat careless with the ball throwing 10 picks in the last six games and only once going against a legitimate defense (1 INT @ Texas). And while our defense hasn't generated the consistent pressure it needs to succeed, we have been at least a little opportunistic lately causing 9 TOs in the last 3 games. Alternately, we did not force any against OU, Tech's was meaningless and Texas' wasn't really caused so we've had our struggles here as well. Last year, we chose to play conservative and make them score on us monotonous fashion; and they did. This year, we need to force the issue. In every game he's ever been pressured Chase has turned the ball over and the Tigers have lost. Saturday's outcome may very well come down to the very simple question of whether or not Kansas can pressure him.

Washington React

Well that was nice. Truth be told, Washington wasn't as good as I expected them to be. But that was still a very solid performance, outside of forgetting the rebound throughout the first half. Sherron was great. Cole was just as good. And everyone else contributed. We gave you five things to watch for and mostly, we thought each stood out.

1. How do we play Brockman? Pretty well, I thought. For one thing, he only had 7 points. And despite his 18 rebounds, you never felt like he was too much to handle. I mentioned to a friend before the game that I thought our length would bother him and that turned out to be the case. I still think we'd be in a world of hurt against Griffin because he's taller, more athletic and just better at everything with the possible exception of offensive rebounding. But overall, I was extremely pleased with how the big men moved their feet & held their ground and how timely the perimeter players collapsed on him when we doubled down or in the zone.

2. How does Sherron handle the focus? Washington isn't an elite level defense, so maybe we still haven't seen how he'll handle this, but I didn't even notice a difference. He was just as confident with the ball, created for others and hit shots. If he can break down Syracuse's zone tonight and the other guys can hit some shots, I'll be even more excited. We're definitely watching one of the premier guards in the country.

3. How do Tyrel and Brady defend? As expected, these two were pretty much treated as one in the same with Brady getting the start and the majority of the minutes (led the team with 36, in fact). They both seemed to defend relatively well, despite giving up size and athleticism. Part of that was from the zone and part was from moving their feet and staying in position. I still think we need more from this position (likely as soon as tonight), but when we get 5 assists, four boards, two steals and 0 TOs out of Brady, I'm happy. And Tyrel gave us a similar line with 4 boards, 1 assist, 2 steals and 0 TOs. However, Brady scored 3 points and Tyrel scored 2 on a combined 2-9 (0-4) shooting. We've got to get more than that, specifically from the three point line.

4. How do the freshmen react? Again, I was pleasantly surprised. I expected Washington's physical nature to have a big effect on the Morris'. This was true from a rebounding perspective (Marcus had 2, Markieff had 6), but overall they held their ground on defense and used their athleticism to make some shots on the other end. Marcus put in 13 on 6-9 and Markieff scored 4 on 2-4. Neither is very adept at moving the ball within the offense yet (5 combined TOs), but both have shown rapid improvement and the ability to score the ball. Staying on the inside, Quintrell looked a little out of sorts – much better on D than O, but clearly the fourth option on the interior. From the guard spot, we really only got an extended look at Tyshawn and I thought he played great. He of course had another charge and he had an awful entry pass that led to a turnover, but he recovered to chase down Thomas and block his layup from behind, which was the play of the night. Aside from that he had an efficient 10 points on 4-5 shooting, 2 rebounds, an assist and one other turnover. He wasn't credited with a steal, but I thought he was a good presence defensively, moving his feet and disrupting much dribble penetration. He was beat on occasion, but he really uses his feet and his length well to recover – very much like our last #15 in this capacity.

5. How does Bill approach this team? He seems to have a pretty good handle on them. I questioned the zone early, especially with how badly we were already rebounding, but it seemed to work out well. As for his rotation, he's definitely trimmed it more than I anticipated with basically 7 guys getting the majority of the minutes. The biggest surprise here is that we still aren't seeing much Travis Releford. I keep trying to rationalize why this is, but I can't quite convince myself of anything. My best guess is that Bill is actually trading what he gives us in athleticism for what Brady and Tyrel give us in consistency/dependability (i.e. no turnovers, good ball movement). And I can't argue with that at all, though I really think he needs to be getting a few more minutes, if for nothing other than his size and energy. All in all, I was extremely pleased with how Bill coached the team last night. I thought they looked prepared, I thought they handled adversity well and I thought they adjusted well out of both timeouts and halftime. With such a young team, these are all huge question marks and will remain so from night to night, but yesterday they were passed with adulation from my perspective.

Looking towards tonight's game against the hated Orangemen, I have some concerns. Specifically, the zone defense we're about to face. With the way we're shooting from the outside, I can't imagine why every team we play wouldn't exclusively zone us until we prove we can score against it. Factor in our at times questionable ball movement and we may struggle a bit more tonight, though Syracuse didn't exactly close out on the wings or at the elbow very well last night, so we'll see. Defensively, I'm not sure what to expect. I would expect to start out in man and only go to a zone if it's either not working or we're again in foul trouble. Florida played a lot of it last night and I could never quite figure out why. If this is the case, we may have some trouble containing Flynn's dribble drive. I think we'll have a tough time matching up with Harris and I'll be interested to see how we come off screens to contest the three. Without question, both Syracuse and Florida are better than Washington and it's going to take a performance as good as or better than we got last night to win. At this time yesterday, I had no clue if this was possible. And while that's a lot to ask and we should never start expecting too much on a night to night basis, I think it's plenty within reach.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Five Reasons Kansas Could Lose

After a week's hiatus, the start of basketball and the impending holiday, this game kind of snuck on me. So without further ado, here are five reasons Kansas could lose.

1. 274. That's the amount of passing yards we're giving up each game. And perhaps even more concerning is the 62% completion rate we're allowing. Or the 6.8 yards/attempt or the 11.05 yards/completion. Actually, those last numbers aren't too bad. We've had our slip-ups, but we've generally been pretty good about keeping plays in front of us and making teams keep moving the chains. Unfortunately, nearly all of them do and it ultimately just leads to tiring out our defense even more.

Will it hurt us? Yep. I like to believe that Clint has been working on some choreographed blitzes and that James Holt will be able to keeping getting pressure like he has the last few weeks. But even if those things happen (no sure thing), the Tigers still have a very good offense against anyone outside of the Big XII south. We don't have anyone nearly fast enough to cover Maclin, so they can be sure to pick up yards on screens at will and will likely hit him on a crossing route or four. And more than that, it's not just Maclin. He's the threat that makes them an elite offense, but Coffman, Saunders, Perry and Alexander are plenty good targets and have allowed Booger to complete 76% of his passes for roughly 326 ypg on nearly 9/completion and 11/attempt.

2. Derrick Washington. He's by no means the elite runner he was being made out to be early on this year. But that doesn't really matter. He picks up 6.4/carry and has put the ball in the end zone 18 times. As much as we may want to concentrate on doing everything to stop Chase, it will be extremely important to keep a watchful eye on Washington as well.

Will it hurt us? This one could go either way. I certainly wouldn't expect him to have any sort of a career day, but I also wouldn't expect him to be completely bottled up either. And perhaps what worries me more is him catching passes out of the backfield. He's proven to be a very capable receiver with 24 catches on the year and this has been a big issue for the Kansas defense at times this year. As well as both Texas and Tech moved it against Kansas, the true backbreakers in both games were on screens. Every time we seemed to have something covered, they'd dump off a screen and pick up 20 yards. This is what happens when you have one linebacker that moves well in space.

3. Injuries. Kansas is obviously a much different team when Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp are healthy. Thus far, the only indication we've received is that neither are right now. Though I completely believe they aren't healthy, I'm not yet ready to believe they won't play. For one thing, Mangino rarely comments on any injury, let alone two weeks prior to kickoff. And secondly, they'll have a full month to heal before a bowl game. Given the opponent and their birth state, I think they'll do what they can to get on the field.

Will it hurt us? Probably, in some capacity. If they don't play, it's obviously a huge detriment. And even if they do play, it remains to be seen how effective they'll be. Kerry really hasn't been the same since the Colorado game, so depending on how much worse his injury got last week or how much the extra week off to heal has helped him, we really have no idea what we're getting. And since Jake just got hurt, we have no idea how he'll respond or how much Angus and Jocques are up to the task of replacing him. Furthermore, we don't know what other injuries may still be lingering. Richard Johnson, for instance.

4. They have the blueprint. Not only have they seen OU, Tech, Nebraska and Texas execute it this year, but Dave Christensen has a pretty good idea what he did a year ago. No matter what you think of this defense's ability compared to last year's, it's pretty obvious that they generally have the same schemes. And last year about this time, Dave Christensen sat back, relaxed, and let Booger pick it apart as we never even forced them to take a chance down the field. For reference, Six different Jayhawks recorded double-digit tackle totals against Missouri last year, including S Justin Thornton (16), LB Mike Rivera (14), LB Joe Mortensen (13), LB James Holt (13), CB Chris Harris (12) and S Darrell Stuckey (12). That is not a good thing.

Will it hurt us? Presumably. Hopefully Clint has been working on some variations for this one, but until we see it work there's no sense counting on it. For one thing, we really don't have the athletes up front to generate consistent pressure against high level lines. And the same can likely be said about our defense as a whole, though not to the same extent. Daymond Patterson making a break on Colt's 4th down attempt was probably the most encouraging sign I've seen from a corner all season, so we'll see how they decide to play it Saturday.

5. Gold uniforms. Who knows, they might even have a gold out in their sections. Quite frankly, I don't know how we can be expected to compete against that.

Will it hurt us? Can you imagine a team losing in these? Me neither. R Kelly approves.

What to watch for tonight

Since I haven't seen Washington play yet this year, a preview seems a little out of my league. But I can't let my readers go into a game blind so here are a few things to keep an eye on.

1. How do we play Brockman? Bill has said himself that Brockman plays a lot like Blake Griffin (though he's a lot less skilled) so it will be a good gauge, if nothing else. But more importantly, I'm interested to see how we guard an elite big man. Cole is obviously our best interior defender and the guy most suited for this assignment. But he's also the guy we obviously need to keep on the floor, so I'll be pretty surprised if he draws the task. Assuming that's the case, will Bill let either of the Morris' or Quintrell play him straight up or will we double down? I'm betting on the latter, but that will definitely free up some shots from the outside and it will be on Washington to knock them down.

2. How does Sherron handle the focus? Absolutely everyone knows that as Sherron goes, so goes Kansas this year. And so far, Sherron has gone quite well, as has Kansas, relatively speaking. But the one common theme in all of those games was that Sherron was able to do whatever he wanted. Tonight and even more so tomorrow maybe, things won't be so easy for him. Not only will the coaches have had more time to devise a strategy, but more importantly, the athletes match up exponentially better. He's still probably the best player on the court, but the gap is not so large anymore.

3. How do Tyrel & Brady defend? From the looks of it, one of these two guys is going to be a starter for quite a while, if not the season. From my perspective, Tyrel is much better offensively because of what he gives us from beyond the arc. But Brady has shown the ability to foster ball movement, not force things and occasionally put the ball in the hole as well. So as long as Bill doesn't think of him as a detriment to the offense, it will likely come down to who defends better. This will be their first shot at some high level guards in Dentmon and Thomas.

4. How do the freshman react? Admittedly, this is a bit of a cop out key, but imperative all the same. As we learned a few years ago, the process is never-ending for young guys and this will be their first real test against comparable athletes. So it will be very telling to see how they react from the get-go and more so how they adjust as the game goes along. Will they play within themselves or will they force things? Will they play smart or get frustrated? How will the handle late-game, pressure situations? Will any of thems step up and separate from the pack (as Tyshawn has to this point)? It's also important to remember that a certain team three years ago failed miserably in all of these objectives at the start of the season, but became exponentially better as the season wore on. So if that happens, keep it in your mind, but don't dwell too much – just watch for how they handle it the next time, which could be as soon as tomorrow.

5. How does Bill approach this team? And I mean this from both a strategy and attitude standpoint. What's his rotation? Has he trimmed it? If so, who got left out and who has the spotlight on them? Does he pull someone after a stupid mistake or foul? How actively does he coach them during a possession? Do we come out of timeouts knowing exactly what to do? As much as Bill has endeared himself to every Jayhawk for life and as much as he's proven that he can coach up talent, he's still incredibly stubborn and at times makes some questionable decisions. This will be as tough a year for him as anyone and I'll be interested to see how he handles the first real test with this young team.

They make it so easy

Well, it's officially Methzou week. Doesn't quite have the same "how could I possibly be expected to get anything done this entire week?!?" feel to it as a year ago. But that's fine. They're still slave promoting insurgents that have never won anything of any significance or contributed positively to society. Ever. And we're still Kansas. So yea, it's pretty much Evil vs. Good. Worthless vs. Worthwhile. Hideous vs. Angelic. Tigers vs. Jayhawks.

In an attempt to add to the "what the hell goes on over there" stigma that the nation has slapped their state with, it seems Methzou will be showing me the gold this weekend. Yes, you read that right. According the resident bloggers over at Methzourah - a credible source if ever there was one – Chase will actually look like that come Saturday morning. And you thought clipping was stupid.

Speaking of stupid, it seems our purple neighbors from the destitute west have re-hired The Bill. I can understand why he wants to come back (it was always pretty obvious how he really felt about his family) after watching what Ron Prince was doing to the program he built. Unfortunately, for him and the university, he wasn't having much more success in his last few years. I'll give him all the credit in the world for what he did over there, but until I see someone succeed with these recruiting rules in place I won't believe that it can happen. Unless that happens (or they get them changed back and start firing that private jet back up) I won't believe that KSU can recruit elite talent. I guess we'll see though.

Since we've already gotten off topic, I might as well switch my attention to the Big XII south. I'm not quite stupid enough to think that Tech was exposed for what they really are on Saturday (though a ton of people in a Denver bar would disagree), but it does eliminate them from MNC discussion. Even a Big XII champion Tech cannot go to Miami. As I see it, there are really only a few reasonable possibilities…

OU loses, Tech & Texas win: Tech goes to Big XII championship. Regardless of outcome, Texas goes to MNC.

OU, Tech & Texas win: OU goes to Big XII championship. Win and they're in. Lose and Texas heads to Miami.

OU, Tech & Texas win: Texas goes to Big XII championship. Win and they're in. Lose and Big Game Bob makes his plans for South Beach.

Whether or not you think Oklahoma is better really seems irrelevant to me. But the voters are rarely very logical with these things. Not only does Texas have a better overall resume, but they actually beat the Sooners somewhat decisively (10 points) on a neutral field. In my humble opinion, there really is no rationalizing it any other way. Which probably means exactly the opposite will happen.

Keeping with the Big XII south, they played a part in taking me under .500 ATS for the season this week as I went 0-2 ATS and 1-1 TGS. For the year, I now stand at 33-10 TGS & 21-22 ATS. There's still time to salvage this mess, but it's safe to say that this is one of my worst year's ever.

And lastly, there's a basketball game tonight. I'd love to preview it, but I really don't know much about Washington. They've got several great players and have shown the ability to play with anyone in years past, yet somehow they always find a way to under-achieve. I may try and get something posted later today, but for the time being, check out Rock Chalk Talk and their Q&A with resident Husky blogger John Berkowitz of the UW Dawg Pound. And if you're in the area, try and make your way over to the Sprint Center the next two evenings. Given that the other three teams hail from 3 corners of the United States, we really should be able to foster a home environment for the young Jayhawks. And since they may need it, get off your ass go cheer for them. Rock Chalk!

Thought for the day: "Cockgobbler" is one of the finest words around. Use it in reference to a Tiger at least twice a day this week. Preferably in face-to-face fashion.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big XII Picks: Week 8

With only two games on the docket this week, my stray from the mean will have to live on for at least another week. For those keeping track, we're 32-9 TGS and 21-20 ATS. Two big ones would go a long way towards finishing the year above .500. But with arguably the best two teams playing in one game and arguably the worst two in the other, it won't be easy.

Iowa State @ KSU (-10)
In a nice twist of fate, both of these teams get to end their seasons long before anyone else. And really, this should probably become an annual thing. Neither the teams nor the fans really want to endure much more, so it's probably best to just end things as soon as possible. As for the game, both teams seem to have completely thrown in the proverbial towel so it's hard to know how they'll come out. On the one hand, you'd like to think some KSU seniors will come out fired up for their last game at (channeling my inner Chris Berman) Bill Snyder "I didn't know I had a" Family Stadium. And J-Free might be looking for one last signature performance against a nothing opponent for which to aid his draft stock. On the other, ISU may just come out and lay it all out on the line trying to build on something for next year. Though I wouldn't bet on it. And by it, I mean everything I just said. KSU 42 ISU 30

Texas Tech (+7) @ Oklahoma
For some reason, everyone seems to have conceded this game to the Sooners. And honestly, I feel like I should be doing the same. But why? I've been racking my brain for a good twenty to thirty seconds and I can't think of one thing Oklahoma does better than Tech (or Texas, for that matter). And lest we forget, this is the same Oklahoma team that let J-Free throw for nearly 500 yards on them. Can you even imagine Graham Harrell's schoolgirl excitement when he watched that film? With all of that said, I am in no way expecting Tech to destroy the Sooners as they did the Pokes. But I certainly won't blink if they beat them and I'll be especially surprised if they aren't enough in the game to keep it within a touchdown. Like I said, they do absolutely everything better than Oklahoma - though I'm sure most Raider fans are hoping this doesn't come down to a kick - and I think they're on enough of a roll to get the win. Tech 49 OU 45

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Baby Mangino

The identity of the illustrious Baby Mangino has been identified.

Two Games In

Today's analysis may be about as worthless as yesterday's pitch for a starting lineup. But with a few days off and a couple MUCH tougher games approaching, it seems opportune if nothing else. I want to examine the status of each player and where we see them going from here. As we all know, expectations need to be drastically tempered, but there's plenty of talent and potential to develop here for the long run.

Sherron Collins: looks better than ever. We always knew he had this in him, but the visual evidence is still extremely reassuring. Perhaps even more impressive than his play to date is his evidence of leadership. It seems that he's really taken to the role both vocally and by example, which will be extremely imperative as some tougher times approach. And they will.

Cole Aldrich: needs to stop fouling. But man, you really can't say enough about his progress. Again, we all saw this coming, but the visual evidence has been extraordinary. Sure, some of his points have come on account of mismatched opposition, but the vast majority have been real points, be it from position, a post-move, or his surprisingly dependable 18 footer from the top of the key. Back to the fouling, Bill says he's not ready to call it a tendency (so I'll concede to him on that) and it better not be, because this team just looks entirely different with him on the floor. His presence alone commands so much attention that it seems to take a ton of pressure off the other guys.

Tyrel Reed: is coming along. I was pretty surprised that he didn't get the start last night, because I think this team (like any) needs an outside shooter. And aside from Sherron, no one else in the top tier of players really gives us that right now. Besides that, he really has a good understanding of ball movement and the offense in general. We still need to get him moving his feet better on defense, but I'd expect to see him get a few more minutes next week.

Brady Morningstar: is doing what he needs to. For one thing, any time he has six assists against no turnovers, I'll be happy. But I'm pretty confused as to what he gives us that Tyrel doesn't, though knowing Bill's style, it's probably defense. From my viewpoint, though, I don't notice a huge disparity between his guarding and Tyrel's. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Tyshawn Taylor: is damn fast. If he can figure out a way to harness that speed a little (and he did in the first half), he's going to be really tough to guard. And without taking anything away from Mario, Tyshawn reminds me of him defensively. He hasn't gotten out in the passing lanes like Mario did, but his long arms and quick hands really seem to make it hard to dribble around him. I still think he's a better fit off the bench for the spark he could provide (and positionally), but I can understand why Bill has him starting for now.

The Morris twins: are one in the same. Which really shouldn't be all that surprising. I wanted to evaluate them differently, but so far they really have looked pretty much identical. They both look good in the open court. They both have shown flashes of being great rebounders. They've both bothered some people with their length. And they both look completely lost offensively. Whether it's a herky-jerky inside move or an ill-advised shot from the outside, neither looks comfortable in the offense at all. Of anyone on the team, I think these two will be the most volatile, but they both are oozing with talent and potential. All that said, I expect both to have a lot of trouble next week.

Travis Releford: does a little bit of everything. He really reminds me of a young Keith Langford. Incredible athlete, tons of energy, ability to steal us possessions, the best slasher on the team, but a horrifically bad outside shot. With all that, perhaps his biggest attribute is his ability to defend. He's not quite there yet, but he has all the makings of a great defender in the very near term. I was advocating him as a starter as recently as yesterday – and to an extent I still believe that – but I can see why he's more suited as an energy guy off the bench.

Quintrell Thomas: is extremely raw. I'm told he's a sponge at practice and you can see how hard he works. Combine that with his athletic ability, general build and basketball instincts and the Darnell Jackson comparisons are impossible to ignore. He's definitely further along than Darnell was at this point, but I'd still expect him to improve substantially as the time goes by. I was optimistic before the season, but having watched him a few times, I think I had him slightly undervalued.

Conner Teahan: finally hit a three. As you are all well aware, Teahan went though the longest drought of his life (not in the least bit documented) from three in the early going this year, but he finally got one to fall last night. Let's hope that gets the monkey off his back and he can go back to draining them as he did a year ago. With Bill's claim that he'll be trimming the rotation next week, I think we may see a little less of Conner, but don't forget about him because he's still got a role on this team if he's making shots.

Tyrone Appleton: is having a little trouble adjusting. There's not much to analyze here, because his PT has been so limited, but it's safe to say that the transition hasn't gone quite as smoothly as anyone would have hoped. If he's going to get any meaningful minutes, he's going to have to earn it in practice, because his court time during games is going to be extremely minimal in the near term.

Mario Little: needs to get healthy. Obviously I can't analyze what I haven't seen, but from what I know he stands to be a very important piece of this team.

And yes, I will of course be wishing you a very HAPPY MULLET WEDNESDAY!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Simply Gorgeous

Of course the damn speaker had to be in my way, but other than that, there simply aren't words to describe how beautiful that looks. As always, it was another great night to be at Allen. Here's to hoping for a few more.

Rock Chalk!

The Starting Five

First things first, it's imperative that we don't get too caught up in single performances. Since we're dealing with a bunch of 18 year olds new to the college ranks, it's a pretty safe assumption that their performances will be pretty volatile. But since I'd rather not practice what I preach, I'd like to submit my nomination as our starting lineup going forward.

1 – Sherron Collins. Obviously. What I like about Sherron this year is that 1) he really seems to be embracing the role as leader; and 2) he looks to be moving great. The latter will prove to be more and more important as we get into the meat of the schedule. We're also going to need him to get up more than 11 shots a game and take better care of the ball than we saw on Sunday.

2 – Tyrel Reed. Don't get used to seeing him go 0/5 from three point range, because it's not going to happen very often. I still question his ability to guard against better competition, but what he gives us from in scoring and ball movement is more than enough reason to keep him in the starting lineup.

3 – Travis Releford. This is probably my most controversial pick, seeing as he was the 10th guy off the bench on Sunday. Watching him, it's pretty evident that he really hasn't played in very complicated offensive sets much and he doesn't have the purest shooting stroke around. But what he lacks there, he makes up for with athleticism and defense. He probably won't lead us in scoring very often and he certainly won't replicate what Brandon gave us on the outside, but he's capable of making some big time contributions on both ends of the court.

4 – Markieff Morris. This one could also be considered questionable and could easily be a product of the sample size I'm using. Brother Marcus was supposed to be better and Quintrell Thomas has done plenty to retain the spot, but Markieff seems to be a good fit here. His defense is still incredibly questionable (especially once we're playing real teams), but his length can really bother some people. And if those 15 rebounds were a sign of things to come, Bill will really have a tough time keeping him off the court.

5 – Cole Aldrich. Another no-brainer. It really is incredible what kind of a difference it makes having him on the floor. There may not be a less competent twosome than Reid Gettys and Dave Armstrong and even they seemed to realize the disparity. Obviously we all knew what Cole could do near the basket on both ends, but what's really impressed me is his mid-range game. If he can continue to knock down that shot from the top of the key like he has, he'll be as tough to guard as anyone. And defensively, there's really no comparison on the entire roster.

I may feel completely different as soon as 9:00 PM CST, but for now I'm sticking to it. Which reminds me, if you're heading to Allen this evening, make sure to get there plenty early for the unveiling of the banner. May be a bit of a tear jerker.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Injury Update

Fuck. The. Heck.

Big XII RoundUp: Week Seven

As was mandated, I'm finally off the mediocrity fence and will remain that we even with an even split next week with only two league games on the slate. For the weekend, I was 5-0 TGS and a semi-disappointing 3-2 ATS. For the season that runs the totals to 32-9 TGS and 21-20 ATS. Let's just say my Kansas allegiance has likely cost me a few wins here – never bet with your heart.

1. Texas Tech (10-0, 6-0) – Idle. After having seen Kansas play all three right now, it's clear from only those that Tech was the strongest foe. Which surprises me to no end. And yet I still can't shake the feeling of thinking Texas is the better team. Up next: @ Oklahoma, a chance to clinch the South and take one more step toward the MNC.

2. Texas (10-1, 6-1) – won @ Kansas 35-7. Sure, Kansas had their chances to make this more of a game. But that's a great team they've got there and I expect they'll have a lot of fun exacting revenge on A&M for the losses Fran gave them the past two seasons.

3. Oklahoma (10-1, 6-1) – Idle. I'm bumping them up on account of OSU's rather pedestrian win in Boulder and Kendall Hunter's apparent injury. It may just be the fact that we were able to play with them in Norman, but I can't shake the feeling that the two teams above them are noticeably better. Up next: Tech.

4. Oklahoma State (9-2, 5-2) – won @ Colorado 30-17. No shame in winning in the road, especially after the confidence shaker they went through a week prior. But I'd keep an eye on that Hunter injury if they have any chance to beat OU.

5. MU (9-2, 5-2) – won @ ISU 52-20. I guess Pinkel was serious about that "no more Mr. Nice Guy assertion." After letting KSU cover with a garbage TD a week earlier, Pinkel's boys put in a late TD of their own letting them cover the spread and take away what should have been a good week of picks on my part.

6. Nebraska (7-4, 4-3) – won @ KSU 56-28. I guess that "What the fuck?!" instinct I had when I saw that line at 6 was substantiated. I still don't know what Vegas or the betting public was thinking with that one.

7. Kansas (6-5, 3-4) – lost v. Texas 35-7. There is but one silver lining and that is the optimism. I'm pretty comfortable saying that if we'd had that defensive performance in Tampa and Lincoln, we'd be sitting at 8-3 right now. Furthermore, if it can be replicated or even bettered in two weeks, 7-5 with a Big 11 opponent waiting in Tempe is increasingly possible.

8. Baylor (4-7, 2-5) – won v. A&M 41-21. Not that anyone ever argued me, but I still told you so. Despite the numbers and the large gap between them and Kansas, this is the 8th best team in the league.

9. Colorado (5-6, 2-5) – lost v. OSU 30-17. Not a bad effort, really. Injuries have certainly played a part, but I can't help but really start to think that Chris Peterson was the guy pulling the strings in Boise all along.

10. KSU (4-7, 1-6) – lost v. NU 56-28. That Brandon Banks is a player. But he's the only one.

11. Texas A&M (4-7, 2-5) – lost @ Baylor 41-21. Have fun with Texas in a couple weeks.

12. Iowa State (2-9, 0-7) – lost v. MU 52-20. My goodness that's a bad team. Last chance for a win comes in Manhattan – that's been enough of a recipe for everyone else this year.

I really hope this isn't true.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Texas React

I’m going to break up the format of the react today, for no good reason at all. Let’s just talk about the good and the bad. Contrry to what you might think,, there’s plenty of both. We’ll get the ad out of the way first.

What I didn’t like…

- Play-calling: I like Ed Warinner. I think he’s a creative offensive mind and he’s got balls; both are imperative when coordinating an offense. But he’s missing what’s right in front of him. Just like Tech did, Texas forced Todd to stay in the pocket and counted on enough of a push to not give him lanes for either throwing or running. And again, we let them. The easiest way to help both Todd and his line would be to roll him out. And yet it just didn’t happen. This was also the case with the running game. Sure, Texas is plenty fast that we can’t expect to get the edge all game, but we’re a lot better in space when we have to beat one man than inside where we have to beat four. It’s hard to complain here because the sample size was too small as we only had about 15 – 20 designed runs, but I can’t shake the feeling that we still haven’t accepted that we don’t run the ball well inside.

- Fumbles: Angus was running hard yesterday – always great to see. That hit he put on Gideon was pure gold. But hold onto the damn ball. On a day where mistakes had to be kept to a minimum, Quigley fumbled twice inside our own 40, both of which ended the only two drives other than our score where we actually seemed to have Muschamp off balance. That can’t happen.

- Officiating: This wasn’t Freeman Johns all over again. And in all likelihood, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. But there were four calls made and a decision made that undeniably played a huge part. The first was the 3rd down PI call on Patterson. While I don’t think he was early and it was an easy no call, I can live with that one – Texas would go on to score. The second was the awful chop block call on Jocques Crawford in which the defender was never engaged – inexcusable and it would back KU up to 2nd and 25 and ultimately lead to them punting. The third was the PI call on Thornton down the east sideline – you can’t play defense much better than that – Texas would go on to score and make it 14-0. And the last was the other 3rd down PI call on Thornton in which he and Crosby pressed for five yards, and released even before Colt threw the eight yard route out of bounds – Texas would go on to score and make it 28-7. Obviously shit happens and you’ve got to play through it – it’s just amazing that all four judgment calls went their way. And I’m still dumbfounded as to how Texas’ coaches can hold up play for several minutes arguing Angus’ first fumble (initially ruled down) and yet they never had to take a timeout or actually challenge the play. Yet it was reviewed and overturned.

- Missed opportunities: When you’re down 7-0 and you are given a gift of a fumble in Texas’ territory, you have to capitalize. Instead, we took over at their 46 and moved it to the 25 for 3rd & 1 and ran the option to the short side of the field, lost a yard and threw incomplete on 4th and 2. On Texas’ very next possession, we force a quick punt that is shanked out of bounds and we take over at their 47. Sal gets a false start, we pick up 14 yards and throw incomplete on 4th & 1. This game very easily could have been 14-14 at half and yet we went in without even crossing the threshold of the red zone. It’s 21-7, we’ve moved into Texas territory and have all the momentum we could ask for; and we have three straight incompletions leading to a punt that nets us all of 22 yards. You’re playing the #3 team in the nation that’s better than you in every aspect of the game and not only are you wasting opportunities, but you aren’t playing with enough balls to try and take advantage of one of your first drives moving the ball.

- Fake FG: The play itself was a great call and better execution - holy shit can Shipley jump! What upsets me is that two weeks in a row our defense has got an important second half stop only to have the drive extended on a fake FG being converted. They made a helluva play and you tip your cap to that, but it doesn't take away much of the sting.

- Line play: I won’t harp on it, because we knew they’d be overmatched. But it really goes without saying at this point that line play on both sides of the ball is the single biggest disappointment this year.

What I liked…

- The fire on defense: I’m pretty comfortable saying that was our best defensive effort of the year. Colt is probably the best quarterback in the country and while we by no means stifled him, we certainly held him in check through the entire first half. Of their six possessions, our defense dominated on four of them and allowed scores on two others – though both were aided by the aforementioned PI calls. We were pretty much out-manned at every position on the field and our defense gave us a plenty big window to make a game of this. If they can play that well in two weeks, an upset is increasingly possible.

- Dezmon Briscoe: 9 for 115. What a stud. Muschamp had a safety inching over to help Beasley all game and it just didn’t matter. Give him another year and All-American consideration is not out of the question. It was plenty apparent last year that he had the talent and now we can definitely see that he had the drive and the head to go with it. It’s not too early to start calling him the best receiver in Kansas history, which is a little embarrassing, but still no slight against him.

- Corners: This goes back to #1, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that our new corners are our best two. Both Patterson and Thornton looked the part, rarely were beaten, and Daymond even made a break on a ball. If we can ever generate any sort of a pass rush, our defense will take a gigantic leap forward, because our back four are plenty capable.

- Texas’ team: While I was obviously hoping they’d play awful, I can still tip my cap to a good team and a great quarterback. I hate pretty much all things Texas, but I can’t help but like how this team plays. I’m not sure they’re the best team in the country or even the league, but they come to play week in and week out.

And finally, something completely different. I have no idea if there is any substance at all to this, but I found it a little thought provoking all the same. I really can't even explain my reaction, for a variety of reasons. But I'd be very curious to see what you all think?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Big XII Picks: Week Seven

In honor of my Kerry Meier piece, Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman wrote on of his own. I think we know whose is better. Also, this week's Rock Chalk Roundtable has been posted over at Rock Chalk Talk, so be sure to check that out.

But you're here for the picks. And with only five league games this week, I'll have no choice but to stray from my recent stretch being mired in mediocrity. To review, I stand at 27-9 TGS and 18-18 ATS. The time for improvement is now.

Oklahoma State @ Colorado (+16.5)
For some reason, I'm tempted to take Colorado here. Obviously we all know that their offense is beyond awful. And while their defense is respectable, it can't carry them, especially against superior teams. But don't they always win one game like this? And couldn't the Pokes still be a little shell-shocked from the raping they took in Lubbock last week? I may be way off here and Okie State may come out and run all over them (they'll have to since Dez Bryant doesn't score outside of Stillwater), but I'm going to lean the way of Ralphie. I don't have the balls to take them for the outright W, but I'll let them cover. OSU 35 CU 24

Nebraska (-6) @ KSU
This line seems so far off that I'm a little scared to take it – just seems like someone knows something that I don't. K-State has only been competitive ONCE in Big XII play. Meanwhile, Nebraska has been steadily improving week by week (aside from that little trip down to Norman), ultimately leading up to their monumental win last week – after all, it was enough to bring out the blackshirts. Nebraska's still questionable defense aside, if they don't win this by at least a touchdown, I really want a do-over. NU 42 KSU 27

Methzou @ ISU (+28)
Tim Griffin wants to know whatever happened to Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes? As dumb of a question as it is, he does put together a nice little stat box in there comparing his first five games to his last five. Pretty astonishing, really, how much worse he is in every category listed. All that aside, the Tigers should roll this week. But unless Pinkel meant business saying that he's done playing nice (didn't they run a fake FG up by like 50 points in the non-conference?), ISU should be able to score enough late to cover. MU 48 ISU 24

Texas A&M @ Baylor (-8)
If that doesn't tell you all you need to know about A&M football right now, I don't know what does. Hey, at least Todd McShay things Stephen McGee is a great pro prospect! But actually, this line makes me a little nervous. I think Baylor is the better team – and really, I don't think it's debatable. But A&M can put up some points and it's pretty safe to say that Baylor isn't very familiar with the "favorite" role. I might not be basing this on anything more than sentiment, but I'm going to say Baylor covers. Baylor 38 A&M 28

Game of the Week: Texas @ Kansas (+13)
Is this really the game of the week? Well, you may remember once upon a time when it was conceivable that Gameday would be in Lawrence instead of FAMU this week. Of course that required Kansas to beat Tech or at least remain competitive and go on to beat K-State and Nebraska as well. Meanwhile, Texas would either be right where they are or Michael Crabtree wouldn't have scored and they'd be sitting pretty at #1. Suffice it to say, only one team held up their end of the bargain. Yet it remains far and away the best game of the week and really it's not that close.

On paper, Kansas really doesn't have a case. If Texas has two strengths on defense it's: 1) their d-line and everything it does well & 2) the speed of their linebackers, primarily Muckelroy. The two things that cause the most trouble for Kansas' offense are: 1) a good pass rush & 2) not being able to get the corner. Obviously, both of those look to be issues heading into tomorrow.

Defensively, well, you know what the problems are. We can't generate a pass rush. With the exception of Holt, our linebackers look lost whenever they have to play in space. And our entire secondary (aside from Stuckey) has been reconfigured throughout the season. And this week we get to face an offense racking up nearly 500 yards and over 44 points a game with a QB completing roughly 80% of his passes. Like I said, on paper, there's no argument. And special teams are just more of the same.

With all that said, all we've got to hang our hat on is the little somethings that add up to upsets. Maybe Colt and the rest of the team are affected by the cold weather and wind (wind chill expected to be in upper 20's through most of the game). Maybe this leads to some turnovers. Maybe Mangino, Warinner and Reesing say 'Fuck It' and just cut things loose. Maybe Texas' 3rd string center messes up a couple line calls and our typically bondaged d-line breaks free and makes a play. Maybe someone slips a little estrogen in Orakpo's "vitamins." Maybe Mack's hands are too cold to clap. Then what? I won't go so far as to call the all out win, but I'm just not ready to give up hope that this team is still good enough to play with anyone. And if that's the case, there's no reason they can't keep it close. Texas 42 Kansas 34

This Must Happen

We've got to get Kerry Meier going again. And we've got to do it now. We shouldn't expect the same type of production out of our offense as we got last year for a variety of reasons, namely, the competition has improved and we can't consistently run between the tackles. Combine those two factors and the consistency just isn't going to be there unless you have dominant pass protection. We don't.

But there's more than one way to skin a tiger. Just because we can't expect the same type of production, doesn't mean we can't accomplish the same things. If you look at the first six games of this year, you'll notice two things; 1) the lack of a top 5 team, & 2) Kerry Meier was catching a ton of passes. In the last four, the latter hasn't been happening. Many would point to the increase in competition as being the reason for that. But remember, Colorado's pass defense is as good as anyone's in this league and the production was still there that week (9 for 94).

In regards to the Colorado game, that was the week Kerry took an early hit and looked to be limping through the rest of the game. So when he only caught 4 for 24 the next week in Norman, we all just assumed he was still hurt. But then he came back and caught 6 for 70 (TD) against Tech so his health looked to be fine. Then he came out against K-State and we had him in motion the first five plays. He looked to be moving fine, yet we only got him the ball 3 times for 40 yards. And finally, last week in Nebraska had all the makings of a huge game for him. We're all plenty aware of Nebraska's awful linebacker play. So this was a match-up that had to be exploited. And yet he caught 3 balls for 52 yards.

So for six games he averaged 6 catches for 101 yards. In the last four he's averaged 4 grabs for 47 yards. And quite noticeably, our offense hasn't looked very consistent. In Norman, it was basically Todd and Dezmon hooking up for big plays, outside of letting Jake dominate one drive. Against Tech, Kerry had five catches and a TD in the first half – when our offense was moving well – and only one thereafter. The low production against K-State is plenty excusable because our RB carried 21 times for 182 yards and 4 TDs. When you get that type of production on the ground, you don't need many possession receptions. And then in Nebraska, we got him the ball a paltry 3 times – it's also worth noting that we scored on all three of those drives.

I could be wrong on this, but I don't think he's hurt. And if he is, it isn't bad enough to warrant this kind of drop. Quite simply, I think he's just being underutilized. Part of that is game plan – I don't think we're designing enough for him. Part of it is strategy – how he's not on the field for every third down is beyond me. And I think the biggest part is protection. Kerry is plenty capable of catching a quick slant or seam route, but it's not his strength. He's invaluable when he has a second or two to get to an open area and move the chains. Unfortunately, (and again, discount the K-State game), Todd hasn't had the time to let that happen. Because not only does it take Kerry a couple seconds to find and get to the space, but then Todd has to find him and get him the ball. Quite simply, the time hasn't been there for plays like this to develop.

So why bother talking about it – it's not like time will be readily available this week. Because there are ways to combat this once you recognize the problem. It's quite apparent that our line is not up to the task of pocket protecting on a consistent basis. So recognize your deficiencies and limit them. Start pulling a tackle and rolling Todd out. Let Kerry run a drag route from the opposite side or a corner route from the near side. We all know Todd can throw on the run, so let's start him out there – beside that, the easiest way to hide an inexperienced line is to put them on the move. Spikes, and to a lesser extent, Hatch simply aren't quick enough back into their stance to get their feet properly set against an all out rush. Make Texas start respecting the roll out so they can't pin their ears back and come full tilt and some pocket passing may open up.

We have no reason to believe we'll be able to pick up big chunks of yardage on the ground, so we have to find a way to duplicate that production with high percentage passing. No one is better suited for that than Kerry Meier. And we all know Todd can get him the ball if he's given some daylight. If we get this done, both the offense and defense will reap the benefits. And given the opponent, both could use to help.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nada Mucho

Don't have much for you this evening - just a few quick links.
First, and it's a bit old now, but Scipio Tex over at Barking Carnival has his Scouting Kansas post up. It's entirely too accurate for someone that doesn't follow Kansas football with any sense of obsession.

Secondly, Burnt Orange Nation hasn't done a ton of scouting, though some does exist in this post. It also includes a rough list of the many key injuries hampering the Horns lately. The Dude abides.

Also, for those interested, Tim Griffin has a few Kansas posts up lately - one on the difference we've experienced by playing better South opponents (it obviously has nothing to do with all three of those teams being increasingly better this year), one on Todd and how he grew up rooting for Texas, and another with his predictions; suffice it to say he's not too confident in the slumping Jayhawks this weekend.

And lastly, it was kind of buried in the LJW feature article today, so if you missed it you'll be happy to hear that both Daymond Patterson and Richard Johnson, Jr. are expected back Saturday. I'm not going to say they were the difference between winning and losing, but let's just say it was pretty noticeable that they were missing. Both are welcomed back with open arms (more of this please).

Rock Chalk!
(p.s. I kind of saw it coming, but this still breaks my heart a little bit.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What we lack in substance, we make up for in mullets

First off, thanks to The Big Lead for linking to our basketball preview in their Morning Roundup. Always appreciated.

One of our other links, Tim Griffin, says that the 2004 loss to Texas helped transfor the Kansas program. I wouldn't say he's wrong.

**UPDATE** It seems starting center Chris hall will miss the game this week. True freshman David Snow will start in his place. That's a start, at least. Guess that Buck Burnette Facebook fiasco came back to bite them pretty quickly. Any chance we could get RJJ back to welcome him?

A quick spin on the rumor mill has Clemson in talks with Brent Venables. Really? This would probably be the best thing that could ever happen to OU though as Bobby would be able to bring back brother Mike once he's escorted out of the desert.

Speaking of OU. The sex on this week's regional cover of SI will melt your face.

Great news out of Lincoln. The blackshirts were handed out. Taking nothing away from their performance this weekend, if this isn't a microcosm of how far that program has fallen, I don't know what is. Finally, in week 10, Nebraska is able to hold off the mighty Kansas Jayhawks while limiting them to a paltry 35 points (in their defense, it is less than half of the 76 they gave up in basically 3 quarters last year). The blackshirts are back! Watch out world.

Here we have Todd McShay's Draft Buzz. If you want to take this link, please be my guest. But the only reason I'm bringing it to your attention is on account of the #10 rated quarterback. Stephen Fucking McGee. Are you shitting me? The same SFM that couldn't lead his team to victory over Arkansas State? The same SFM that lost his job to semi-talented Jerrod Johnson? The same SFM that would almost assuredly not even be rated the 10th best QB in his own league? As unwarranted as all the Josh Freeman talk obviously is, I get that. He's tall and has a good arm. SFM has neither. And really, shouldn't this be the tipping point on Todd McShay's employment? I think so.

And finally, we have the best news of all. It's MULLET WEDNESDAY! Have a happy and a healthy. ****edit...just for fun