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.