Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Five Reasons Kansas Could Win

After enjoying a scintillating start to our first conference game week, we've decided to come back today with the five reasons Kansas could win. Granted, we weren't all that pessimistic yesterday; those were the notable weaknesses we think ISU will need to exploit to win. And while we don't think they'll be able to do so (at least not on all 5), these five may outweigh them even if they can. With that, we're off…

1. The bye week: Any idea what Mangino's record in games after a bye week (bowl games included) is over the last three years? 5-1, with the lone loss coming in 2005 in Lubbock, when they held the Raiders to 30 points (7 of which were scored by the defense), but had such a shit offense they couldn't capitalize. That's pretty damn good, especially for a team that was nothing more than competitive (if that) prior to last year.
Will it help? Well the proof is in the pudding and while past results do not guarantee future outcomes (remember that when you're investing), they can be a good indicator. Combine that with: Mangino's overall displeasure with how his team has played, the fact that it's a conference opener, on the road, and I think at the very least the team is going to come out prepared and ready.

2. Returning personnel: This is entirely speculation at this point (maybe we'll find out at the presser today), but supposedly Mangino has said it's likely that both Dexton and Kendrick will play this weekend. I had heard different on the latter, but after the performance of the freshman triumvirate, I can't imagine they aren't considering Kendrick if he's been cleared.
Will it help? Absolutely. If it actually comes to fruition. While Dexton hasn't been noticeably missed in the passing game, it's hard to believe he hasn't been extremely missed as a run blocker. And considering he's been out since August (presumably with turf toe), it seems likely we'll see him Saturday. All we can do is speculate on Kendrick. I haven't heard anything that wasn't released outright, so I don't even know the extent of his injury. Having him on the field would undoubtedly be a bonus, though.
**UPDATE** - Dugan is now reporting that they'll both play. And when Dugan says something, it comes to be.

3. The match-up: This really just isn't a good match-up for the Cyclones. As we know it, Kansas' defensive weakness seems to be their lack of a pass rush and susceptibility to a strong passing game. Offensively, they are having trouble running the ball and (to an extent) protecting the quarterback. ISU is not equipped to take advantage of either of these deficiencies.
Will it help? Obviously. While ISU has been solid against the pass (176, 6.9/att.), they have been woeful against the run (188, 5.24). And they get almost no pressure at all (5 sacks). So while Kansas may not be suited to completely expose their poor run defense, they aren't likely to have much trouble moving the ball. On the other side, ISU has actually been decent (though I think they're better defensively), and at the very least has capitalized on their opportunities. Despite averaging less than 350 ypg, they have been able to put up 32 per game, and that's with a 5 spot included. I'm not convinced KU is going to come out and dominate them, but ISU can't succeed as a pass-only offense and if there's one thing KU's defense has shown it's that they can stop the run (93, 3.87), especially if they're geared primarily to do so.

4. Todd Reesing: I'm sure Mangino would hate me singling him out as a reason, but you just have to. He's 15-2 as a starter and his two losses have come by a combined 11 points against legitimate top 10 teams.
Will it help: There are no guarantees, but if I'm confident about anything heading into this game, it's that Todd will show up to play. He may be forcing things more this year than last (and this is a concern), but he's still getting the job done. He'll need to be careful with the ball as ISU has been able to cause a lot of TOs in Ames, but I expect him to get some much needed help on the ground in order to do so (see: Big XII record 213 straight passes without INT).

5. They're just better: In sports the best team does not always win. This is increasingly true in the world of college football. But it certainly never hurts to be the superior team on the field. And this week, Kansas is just that.
Will it help? Of course. As you know, it guarantees nothing, but in the Mark Mangino era, KU has lost very few games in which they were the better team (though Toledo comes to mind), because he always has them ready to play no matter the opponent. Saturday, they will be the better team. If they also show up prepared and focused, they should have no trouble executing and leaving Ames 4-1.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Five Reasons Kansas Could Lose

First off, for those of you that haven't heard, the kick time for Colorado was announced as 11:30 with ESPN2 picking up the broadcast. I'm not one to complain (and I won't), but consider me disappointed that we'll be opposite OU/UT as I was looking forward to that one even more than most years (not to mention what it will do to the ratings). Moving on…

Damn it feels good to be back in game week. Don't get me wrong, last week's bye probably couldn't have come at a better time, what with all the upsets and the personnel issues that need addressing. But as much as I accept them, it stills leaves Saturday a little less fulfilling. Ideally, we'd all be coming back to Memorial this Saturday to kick off the conference season with an always joyous tailgate, but instead the team heads to Ames. And given the early kick time and the televised status, they will travel without me this time, so the barbecuing will have to wait. The drinking is another story, but I digress.

As you know, the Hawks will travel to Ames this weekend to take on one of the worst teams in the league. But as we saw last week with USC (in Corvallis) and Florida (in the Swamp), that shit doesn't always matter come conference time. So as will become our Monday feature, we'd like to take a look at five reasons Kansas could lose this game.

1. Complacency: It's hard to imagine a team being complacent for a conference opener, especially after not exactly tearing it up during the non-conference. But as well know, human nature can set in and it would be very easy to overlook this one with the gauntlet of games approaching over the next couple months.
Will it happen? Consider me shocked if it does. If there's one thing Mangino has been known for, it's his innate ability to make sure his team is up for every game. And bearing in mind his overall road success at KU, I can't envision him letting the Hawks come into this one with anything other than their best effort.

2. Transparency: As it stands now, Kansas is without a running game. If they're unable to run early against ISU and abandon as they've been prone to do, how will the line (and Todd) hold up against an all out pass rush. This is what happened during the third quarter in Tampa and it wasn't pretty.
Will it happen? Not this week. For starters, against less than stellar competition, ISU is allowing 188 (95th) per game on the ground (for the record, FIU is at 162 (80th), La Tech 93 (20th) & USF 59 (4th)), so it's reasonable to assume we can expect at least some success there. And for another, they sure as hell don't have the same pass rush as USF. Combine the two and this isn't the week that this issue catches up to the Hawks.

3. Getting the defense off the field: We all know everyone (Tech excluded) wants balance, but typically there is a preference. ISU would like to run the ball (153 per game – 59th). This bodes well for the Hawks as they've stopped the run fairly well outside of the 3rd quarter in Tampa. That said, Bates, Robinson and even Arnaud are all pretty solid runners and it will be critical to keep them in 3rd and long situations with Arnaud's scrambling ability.
Will it happen? I'm not sure. By no means do I expect the Cyclones to have a field day with the Jayhawks. In fact, I don't expect them to be able to run very well at all. But with the lack of pressure KU generates, mobile quarterbacks always worry me, a category Arnaud fits right into.

4. Turnovers: It sounds like a cop out reason and in a sense it is. But the numbers don't lie. And though I don't have any for you, I can only imagine that in league games (even more so for the road team), there is a huge correlation between taking care of the ball and coming out victorious.
Will it happen? I'm a little wary. Obviously a big part of last year's success came from taking care of the ball. And mostly, the hawks have done a good job of that this year, with only a couple fumbles and a couple picks. However, they also haven't taken it away very often with only 7 caused, good for 31st nationally in TO margin. ISU is currently 9th with 13 caused and 7 given. 10 of those they took were in their 2 home games (San Jose and Kent St.), so obviously the competition played a part, but the home field likely did as well. I certainly don't expect Todd to give it away very often, but it will be important to limit the fumbles as well.

5. Composure: This is pretty much the same as #1, but given the road environment I think it merits its own consideration. Call me over-confident, but Iowa State won't beat Kansas this weekend. Only Kansas will beat Kansas and when you're on the road, that becomes a concern.
Will it happen? Obviously USF was a much better team than gene Chizik's crew, but that third quarter was abysmal. And as much as it was due to the changes made by USF (and not by KU), the crowd and energy also played a factor. One would like to think KU will come out and dominate like they did the last time in Ames, but if that doesn't happen and the Cyclone faithful start getting a little chipper, KU (and their young line) will need to handle the noise and pressure. So far they're 0-1 in this situation, so we'll see.

In closing, it may sound like I'm not giving ISU much credit here and am pretty much counting this as a win. This is not the case. But as pretty much anyone knows, Kansas is just a better team than the Cyclones. Ames is not an easy place to win and I always think an early start favors the home team, but ultimately, I just don't think the pieces are in place for ISU to be able to exploit enough of Kansas' weaknesses.

Random note: How weird is it that all six games feature one ranked team and one unranked team to start league play? That can't have happened too often, right?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

One last week of sanity in the Big XII


I’m starting to think I may have underestimated Alabama just a tad. But seriously, how good of a coach is Nick Saban?! Georgia may have been a bit over-rated (and I really don’t know what they’re trying to do on offense) but to go into Athens and win like that against even a good Georgia team would have been impressive. That was downright shocking.

The end result of yesterday’s upsets will almost assuredly land 3 Big XII teams in the top five (OU 1, Methzou 3, UT 4 or 5). Granted, this can’t last too long as OU and UT play in two weeks, with Methzou traveling to Austin the week after. Throw in Tech, KU and the possibility that OSU slides in and you have the makings of one damn good conference. Speaking of…

**EDIT** The rankings have been released. All three did make the top 5 and OSU did make it in, becoming the sixth ranked team in the league. As of these rankings, Kansas has games against 4 of the top 7 teams in the AP poll on their schedule. Yikes.

On a day full of surprises, could yesterday have been any more predictable in the league? I certainly would have been off on some scores, but as far as performance and end result, that could not have been any more foreseeable.

Texas destroyed Arkansas (52-10) and as much as I saw that coming, I really think people better start taking them seriously. I’m not positive they are national championship level, but they are damn good and (if they didn’t have such a tough schedule) could definitely win this conference.

OU hammered TCU (35-10) and it wasn’t nearly that close. They will without a doubt be the #1 team in the country entering conference play and even if USC had managed to win that game, they would have had to get some serious consideration. But in better news, he did finally get touched. Actually, even sacked, 3 times, to be precise.

Nebraska “hung tough” (35-30) with Virginia Tech, but were pretty much outplayed from the start. Without the late punt return it wouldn’t have been quite as close as the score indicated and perhaps even more worrisome for the Huskers is the nearly 400 yards allowed to a woeful VT offense. Have fun with Methzou next week.

Colorado went down to Jacksonville and, a week after Wake held them to three points, allowed the Noles to score 39 points in beating the Buffaloes soundly (39-24). As was suspected here, Colorado's win over WVU proved nothing more than Bill Stewart's incompetence. They're a fine team and they'll win some games, but they are by no means a top half team in the league.

Keeping with the poor performances, A&M was barely able to knock off Army (21-17) and have pretty much finished with their winning for the season (as predicted here). This pretty much says it all, "We had to take a big step today," Sherman said. "It didn't matter if we were playing Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the Dallas Cowboys. We had to take a big step." (AP) Yikes.

KSU was similarly pathetic (though not quite as much so) in needing to convert a late fake punt to hold off Louisiana Lafayette (45-37). Freeman and the offense looked ok I guess, but as a team they were outgained by the Ragin Cajuns (507 to 490) on the way to allowing 335 rushing yards (second straight week allowing 300+). This team has a long way to go toward bowl eligibility, and actually, I think 4 or 5 wins is about their ceiling.

And in closing, in a revenge game v. Troy, Oklahoma State continued to play exactly as they have in every game this year (55-24). Their offense dominated (612 yards), but their defense did very little (416 allowed). My guess here is that they’ll make a little noise, especially with that offense, but still aren’t ready to really contend with a defense that can’t stop anyone.

So there you have it, the uber-predictable week in the Big XII conference. But as this week showed us throughout the country, this was about the only place predictability reigned supreme. So consider this your warning that we’re all in for a year a lot like last year, when no one has a fucking clue what’s going to happen from week to week. It should be a hell of a ride. Rock Chalk!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Big XII Banter

The conference slate gets a little better this week. In fact, a lot better. There aren't even any FCS opponents on the slate. That's progress, my friends. Now, as long as everyone can avoid shitting the bed (that includes you Aggies), the league just may escape non-conference play without being completely embarrassed (you know, Arkansas State aside).

Game of the Week (I guess)

Virginia Tech @ Nebraska – I'm calling this one the game of the week, despite being sure that the one in Norman has more on the line and will likely be better played. But since I think this one will be closer, it gets the nod. At first I thought the Huskers would be able to handle the Hokies semi-comfortably. But since they wised up and got Glennon the hell out of the way, now I'm thinking the Bugeaters may not be able to handle Tyrod (mistkae prone as he may be). VT is not their typical self (as ECU proved), but they're plenty capable of turning Ganz over. And since we know Nebraska can't really run the ball, this game figures to stay well below thirty. Advantage: Hokies.

TCU @ OU – Like I said, this will likely be the best played game of the week. Unfortunately, I just don't see any way TCU can stay with the Sooners in Norman. While I think the Horned Frogs have a pretty solid team and likely a good defense, they just don't have the firepower to keep up with OU on the scoreboard. Things happen, as we saw last night, but this isn't January so I wouldn't expect Bobby S to be soiling himself just yet.

Colorado @ Florida State – Another very intriguing match-up. If for no other reason that everyone seems to all of a sudden believe in Colorado because they beat West Virginia. Apparently, they didn't remember that WVU was being coached by Bill Stewart and was destroyed by ECU (24-3) just a fortnight prior. Seriously, CU might be good (I'd lean toward decent), but just because Bill Stewart can't manage a clock (let alone a game), their 3rd string QB can't even near a wide open receiver, their kicker can't hit a chippy (23 yards) of a field goal doesn't excuse that CU went 10 straight possessions without a score and only finally managed a FG when they got to start at the 25. Lest we forget they also needed a pick six the game before just to beat Eastern Washington. Excuse me if I'm not on the bandwagon just yet.

With all of that said, Florida State again has one of the worst offenses in the country. How this continues to happen I'll never know. Either way, CU certainly has more than a chance of escaping with a W. But in the end, both of these teams look a lot like they did last year to me and since FSU won that beauty contest (16-6) in Colorado, I'm thinking they'll be ok in Florida this time around.

Arkansas @ Texas – Unless Bobby Petrino has been saving up for this one, it could get pretty ugly. I'm not even sure the Hogs could beat A&M right now, so Texas seems like a pretty tall task. Let the Colt McCoy Heisman talk continue another week.

University of Louisiana Lafayette @ KSU – Honestly, I was surprised how bad the purple looked in Louisville. In fact, I even entertained the notion that they could win. But after watching that game, I find it hard to believe that they're 21 point favorites tomorrow. Don't get me wrong, ULL is awful (they lost 51-21 to Southern Miss) but Mike Desormeaux is a decent passer and a good runner. And after watching KSU's tackling "attempts" the other night, I'm not ruling out his ability to give them a hell of a lot of trouble.

Troy @ Oklahoma State – Getting embarrassed by Troy last year may have been the best thing to ever happen to OSU, because it was the final straw in getting Zac Robinson the starting job. Plus, it led to Jenni Carlson's column, which I think one of the OSU coaches may have noticed, and even responded to. Back to this game, I doubt OSU has a ton of trouble winning, but it will be interesting to see how their defense holds up against a (likely) decent offense. I actually think they aren't too bad and will be tough in Stillwater, but I can't even imagine how many Methzou is going to put on them in the ZOU.

Army @ Texas A&M – Like I've been saying, they better win this one because there aren't a lot more Ws on the schedule.

Sorry for the pretty slow week. Sometimes the job I get paid to do gets in the way. And I'm usually pretty lost when there isn’t a game to prepare for, but we intend on being back in full force next week as we ready for conference play. Oh her? That's Miranda Kerr; I didn't think you would mind if she joined us for our Friday discussion. Rock Chalk!

Trojans fail to pound Beavers

So apparently USC isn't all that infallible. So how bad exactly does this make A ohio state university? I kid. But really, how good does this make Penn State look right now? They're a team I've been keeping an eye on anyway – now I'll be sure to.

Along those same lines, I need to get a quick rant in before we move to discussion of a real football conference. I don't necessarily subscribe to the "Carroll can't win without Norm Chow" theory. And honestly, I've always thought Sarkisian was a pretty good OC, and a damn good QB coach. But that play calling last night was Nick Quartaroesque. Just atrocious. I think we'd all accept the notion that USC has as good or better athletes than possibly anyone in the country. Without a doubt they'd be in the discussion. In all likelihood, Oregon State has a couple as well. But given that the safety who made the game-sealing INT was a 5'10" 205 pound Caucasian that wasn't exactly blazing, I think it's safe to assume that USC had the advantage.

Now, USC doesn't run a spread offense and that's obviously worked just fine for them. But since they dug themselves a 21-0 hole and couldn't really stop a 5'6" guy from running straight up the middle, they couldn't necessarily rely on Stafon Johnson running for 7 per carry (which he was doing). Granted, if Joe McKnight had either brought along his brain or stayed behind altogether, the Trojans probably win semi-handily. But since that wasn't the case, why in the shit would they not try to get their receivers in space?! It may be hard to believe for those that only saw the late INT (or even that whole drive), but despite taking himself out of Heisman contention, Sanchez was looking pretty damn good. Clearly he's no Hot Toddy and likely not in the top half of Big XII QBs (why again doesn't everyone run the spread?), but as evidenced nearly every time they went down the field, he's plenty capable of getting his damn good receivers the ball.

Instead, on 3rd and 5 with 10 minutes left and only trailing by a TD, they tried a 3 yard out to their tight end. You serious, Clark? Then, on 3rd and 20 with 6 minutes left they try a little screen to Joe McKnight. He's an incredible athlete and sure, anything can happen, but you really thought that was your best chance to pick up 20 yards? I'd even agree with the call if they were playing it as four down territory. I mean, he did pick up 13 yards, allowing for a very manageable 4th and 7. I've gone on much longer than I intended, but it's worth noting that per catch the USC receivers averaged nearly 13 yards (no long flukes) and they were even averaging 8 per attempt. I don't know, to me, it seems like they may have had the upper hand here.

Since I ranted a bit longer than anticipated, I'm going to have to make this its own post and come back with a Big XII preview shortly. Besides, our conference doesn't deserve to be lumped in with the Pac 10. I'm ashamed I even considered the idea.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mullet Wedthurday


My most sincere apologies are in order for this belated mullet appearance. Golf tournaments have a way of making me forget what day it is, but there is no proper excuse for depriving you of your weekly mullet. However, as you can see, I have made it up to you only 9 hours late with a breathtaking photo, that may in fact, be a school picture. Some kids are just set up to fail. Anyway, HAPPY (BELATED) MULLET WEDNESDAY!

And as a added bonus, here is a link worth following.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Timmmmaay

We have all Tim Griffin post for you today. Generally, I think Sir Griffin does a fine job operating his blogs within the confines of the WWL. In fact, I really enjoyed the research he did for a post just yesterday in which he found that attendance across the Big XII is at an all-time high. As a Kansas fan I was extremely pleased to see that as a percentage of seats they were third, behind only Nebraska and Oklahoma. Granted, this still left them in 7th on straight attendance, but when you’re 10th in capacity, what can you do?

Then, later in the day he posted another feature that I enjoy; his mailbag. This question and answer is how he kicked things off…
Steve from Kansas City writes: Tim, I saw something in your chat last week that I wish you would expound on. Somebody asked you what your favorite stadiums were as far as game-day experiences. Could you give me a full list and how you rank the Big 12 schools?
Tim Griffin: I'll try. To be honest, I don't think there's a bad stop along the Big 12. I can legitimately be excited about watching a game in any stadium in the league. But that's just how I am, I'm easily satisfied.
But if you asked me to come up with a critical list, here's my rankings.

1. Texas A&M: Unmatched atmosphere from fans. Kyle Field reeks of tradition and it's always been that way -- whether the Aggies were good or not.

2. Texas: The best of everything in press box accommodations and other creature comforts.

3. Oklahoma: What they are missing in plushness, the Sooners' stellar sports information office makes up for the rest with their dedication.

4. Nebraska: Memorial Stadium has the best "big-game feel" in the conference. The excitement is palpable in a walk around the stadium before the game. And I also loved the grilled sausages sold by the vendors outside the stadium. Kind of reminds me of walking into a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

5. Colorado: While I might struggle getting used to the altitude, Folsom Field has a picturesque quality that sets it apart from most stadiums.

6. Texas Tech: It's the only game in town and you can tell it with the excitement generated by Mike Leach's recent success. The Tech athletic people also make you feel like a long-lost friend when you arrive.

7. Oklahoma State: You never know what will happen in the interview room after the game here.

8. Kansas State: The best tailgating in the league and a nice comfortable press box. Who could ask for more?

9. Missouri: After a couple of early trips there a few years ago, I wondered if Faurot Field could ever be exciting. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin are changing those perceptions pretty quickly. But I don't like driving there -- from either St. Louis or Kansas City.

10. Baylor: One of the most hospitable places to watch a game -- at least when the press box is closed rather than open for a hot summer afternoon. Sportswriters will always vote for cool air over football pageantry any day.

11. Kansas: Mark Mangino has pumped more life into Memorial Stadium than I ever could have imagined. But it still feels a little sterile at times.

12. Iowa State: The smell of brats and hamburgers wafting from the tailgaters makes Jack Trice Stadium's press box the most appetizing place. Now if Gene Chizik could only develop a competitive, contending program.

Now, I haven’t been to all 12 stadiums and I’ll be shocked if I ever see Waco in this lifetime or the next. Because of that, I won’t try to contend his rankings, as wholeheartedly as I might disagree. What I will do is blatantly call him out for his ranking/justification of Kansas’ Memorial Stadium at 11th. Per his description it would seem very reasonable to believe that he used to attend games in Lawrence on occasion, never once enjoyed them, but in the last couple years he has found himself liking it much more, just not quite on the level of the traditional powerhouses. Fair enough.

My question to him is; which games has he attended? Last year the home slate consisted of the four non-conference teams, Baylor, Nebraska, & ISU. I’m pretty damn sure he wasn’t at a non-conference tilt. Schlabach was at Baylor, so I doubt the WWL sent TG as well. He could have been at NU or ISU, in which case my point is moot. I just find it hard to believe that he was. And if that’s the case, just what games has he watched where “it still [felt] sterile at times,” since he hasn’t yet attended one this year either? (Note: I put an e-mail in; we’ll see if we get a response…)

Another couple quick notes on his rankings… is OSU at 7th solely because of Gundy’s rant? Only Baylor currently fills less of their stadium as a percentage…Speaking of Baylor, are they 10th because the people in the press box treat him nicely? You’re in Waco and only 60% of the stadium is full! Who cares if the staff is nice, you're there for football and entertainment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Revised Big Boards

About six weeks ago I stole a nice idea from Barking Carnival and listed how I think the Kansas Big Boards would look. With no regard to position, depth, etc., I simply tried to rank the best players on the team. By doing this (and I believe Mangino does, at least to an extent) it makes you find ways to get the players that will help you win on the field. Through four games it appears I was more wrong than even I had anticipated. So in an effort to stay up to date, I've revised said lists in abbreviated fashion…

Offense (previous)

1. Todd Reesing (1)
2. Kerry Meier (5)
3. Dezmon Briscoe (4)
4. Dexton Fields (2)
5. Johnathan Wilson (10)
6. Angus Quigley (11)
7. Daymond Patterson (NR)
8. Jocques Crawford (3)
9. Ryan Cantrell (7)
10. Tim Biere (NR)

Comments: Think they've been pass happy? I don't think I have to defend numero uno. And really, I can't imagine getting any argument from two or three. Some may argue they need to be flipped, and while Dez may have more skill, Kerry has shown more ability to block and is currently leading the nation in receptions. Despite losing Dex to injury so early this year, we've seen plenty from him to know that this can't be very inaccurate, if at all. Wilson obviously needs work blocking, but has turned into a very reliable receiver and even a big play threat. Quigley & Crawford have not done a ton yet, but I don't think it's because they lack the ability. Patterson exploded in his first two games and we haven't seen much since – that may continue with Dexton's return, but at this point I think he's plenty deserving and with his punt return abilities, he still helps the offensive out quite a bit (though if he becomes solely a punt returner I'm not sure he belongs).

Finally, we have our only two interior blockers that crack the top 10. And quite frankly, I may be reaching. I believe Spikes should be here on talent, but his hands aren't nearly as good as his feet. And I have high hopes for Thorson (and I know I'm supposed to disregard position), but I haven't yet seen the guy play. The real disappointment here is Darton – 6'6" 310 pounds and he's been in the program five years and he can't beat out a redshirt freshman that should be playing guard. I mentioned earlier that I hoped Hatch winning the tackle spot was because he was too good to keep off the field and not that Darton was too bad to put on it; let's just say that it doesn't look good...

Defense (previous)

1. Darrell Stuckey (4)
2. James Holt (3)
3. Joe Mortensen (2)
4. Mike Rivera (1)
5. Chris Harris (5)
6. Justin Thornton (6)
7. Arist Wright (7)
8. Justin Springer (16)
9. Russell Brorsen (8)
10. Richard Johnson, Jr. (15)

Comments: The first four remain the same, though scrambled. And while most people would rank the LBs in the exact opposite order, I really think that through these four games this is the way they've played. So far I think I was pretty accurate with Harris, Thornton and Wright. The big jump goes to Springer (although we've barely seen him) simply because it's pretty clear the only reason we're not seeing him is because JoMo occupies his spot. As for the d-line members rounding out this shortened list, I think Brorsen and RJJ have consistently been the best to date. The big difference here is that while I was hesitant to add either Cantrell or Biere to my top 10, there were plenty of other defenders I wanted to throw in here at the end.

Clearly the offense has been the better unit over the past two games, despite the lack of a running game. But honestly, I think while the defense doesn't have the star power of the offense they have much more serviceable depth. The other name I didn't even get on here (because we haven't seen him) is Kendrick Harper. And from the looks of the freshman trio stepping in for him, we better hope he's good enough to crack this list sooner rather than later.

Your thoughts? Your lists?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sam Houston State React

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we were all hoping for a little more out of the non-conference slate. That’s what an Orange Bowl win and a lot of returning starters will do for you. But when you take a step back and look at what’s going on, you have to admit, we got spoiled really fast. There are plenty of unresolved issues, and I’m still not positive what to expect the rest of the way, but don’t go jumping ship just yet.

The outcome was: underwhelming. you’re facing a FCS team that hasn’t played in three weeks you expect to beat them by more than 24. You expect to score more than 38. And you certainly don’t expect to allow them over 300 yards passing. Like I said, there’s plenty to shore up before the competition stiffens. But on the other side of that, (and believe me, I know nothing about FCS teams), there’s plenty of reason to believe that Sam Houston State will compete for the national championship of their division. I would all but guarantee they have a better offense than we’ll see in Ames. There’s a reason Rhett Bomar was the highest rated QB in his class and it was on display last night (not so much on Stuckey’s pick, but you get the point). And let’s be honest, we didn’t see Kansas take them very seriously last night. In fact, given the personnel and play calling we saw, I’d guess last week was spent concentrating 95% on Kansas and 5% on SHSU. So while we all hoped for more, I think it’s also worth noting that we didn’t exactly see KU lay it all out there either.

The offensive MVP was: Todd Reesing. Are you starting to feel like we may not see another name in this space all year? Through 4 games, he is on pace (in 12 games) to throw for nearly 4200 yards, 33 TDs and 6 INTs. He was more off last night than he’s been all year and he still completed 23-38 (61%) for 356 yards and 2 TDs (+1 running). The pass to Dez may have been the single best play I’ve ever seen. But unfortunately, he needs some help. As you saw last week, he can certainly keep the points coming by himself, but he can’t necessarily win by himself (and he’s already trying to do too much). Last year, he averaged 34 attempts per game. This year, he’s averaging 32 completions (on 45 att.). That’s too much and it’s not going to work in the Big XII.

The Defensive MVP was: Darrell Stuckey. While Todd has been the guy on offense, Darrell has certainly been the most consistent on his side of the ball. Last night was no exception as he grabbed an interception for himself, while also punching one loose for Thornton to grab. He also racked up 7 tackles, though that number should have been higher but he let a couple get away from him. As did pretty much everyone else on defense last night.

The offensive LVP was: the o-line. I really hope I can put someone else in this spot sometime soon. And I don’t think the backs are free from fault. But they’ve shown plenty of ability to break some tackles and do some things in space, especially at the second level. Unfortunately, they don’t see a lot of space and they almost never see the second level. 3.4 yards per carry on Sam Houston State is unacceptable and changes may be imminent (pure speculation). You should be able to pick up 4th and inches on USC, let alone the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Similarly, I really have to wonder what Ed Warinner is doing here. Is there a logical explanation why we rarely see a run outside of the tackles. While Jocques and Angus might be built to bounce off a few inside, they’re both plenty capable of hitting the corner. Perhaps they’re holding back. Perhaps they’re trying things out on the inside. Perhaps they have even less faith in the receivers than the line. Whatever the reason, we need to see more here and I’d prefer it be sooner than later.

The defensive LVP was: the 2nd corner trio of Barfield, Murphy and Powell. I knew losing Kendrick would hurt. I didn’t realize it would have this kind of impact. Not one of them is challenging the receiver, yet they’re also all getting beat deep. None of them are nearly up to speed and you can almost see them thinking through their assignments. Meanwhile, their man is either sitting in front of them and making a catch or running right by them. We either need one to figure it out or Kendrick to get back in there or we’re in for a lot of shootouts this year.

Running game watch: remained a disappointment. We’ve covered this plenty already, but suffice it to say that 3.4 yards per carry is not going to work, regardless of the opponent.

The skill position blocking was: hard to gauge. It was pretty apparent that Mangino wanted to send a message to Dez and Daymond (by starting Brown and Pendleton), but to be honest I really didn’t notice a huge difference either way (though I did see a few downfield blocks), because we really didn’t ever run behind the receivers (was that a record for least bubble screens thrown?). We’re obviously going to see an improvement here once Dex gets back, but until we really run on the outside or into the second level, it’s hard to tell.

The pass rush was: still pretty non-existent. Russell and RJJ combined for a sack and Laptad got one of his own. But in reality, Jake appears to be the only one capable of generating one consistently. Much like these other items we’ve been addressing, this issue only figures to increase exponentially as the competition does the same. Perhaps more alarming is that many of the others seem fixable; I’m not sure that’s the case here.

Iowa State Fear Factor is: 4 out of 10. Base line of 5. (+1) for having to go to Ames. (-1) because they’re Iowa State. (+1) because of our line play. (-1) because of this. And (-1) for this. Gotta love a Hot Toddy!

Going into next week I feel: ecstatic that it’s a bye week. Unlike last year at this time when there was nary a chink in the armor, this year the sky is falling. You think expectations have changed much around Lawrence? But expectations aside, some issues have definitely surfaced and don’t appear to be easily rectified. That said, we’ve seen enough over the last 17 games to know that this team is plenty capable of putting together another great season. Heading into Big XII play I’m happy to know the Big Man has two weeks to tinker with things and get some shit straightened out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Game Preview: SHSU


Before we get on with our game preview, thanks are in order to Bill Stewart for perfecting the patented Herm Edwards strategy of clock (and game) management. A job well done, sir. You truly are finding new and improved ways to utterly waste the insane talents of Pat White and Noel Devine. Quite impressive. By the way, Bobby Stoops…how in the shit did you get humiliated by this guy?

But that's neither here nor there. As we Kansas fans are much more concerned with getting back on track against the Sam Houston State Bearkats. And as "Rhett Bomar" told us, they're talented and eager to play after a three week hiatus. Or at the very least, they're planning to make the trip to Lawrence.

In all seriousness, I actually think they're going to be a bit better than everyone is suspecting. Yes, the FCS opponent last year, Southeastern Louisiana, was a tremendous slouch, getting pummeled on the way to a "it was much worse than that" 62-0 beat down (75 total yards). I would expect a much sterner test from SHSU. If for no other reason than our venerated interview subject, Mr. Bomar. This will likely be the first and last time I see SHSU play, but if I had to guess, they’ve got some athletes at the skill positions. Add in a quarterback that can create plays on his own as well as get the ball to said skill position players and you have a team that can at the very least put a scare into you.

That being said, there's no excuse for not absolutely dominating this team in the trenches. If there's one enormous difference between FBS and FCS (and there are several), it is line play. Rhett may be a talented quarterback, but like most of them, he struggles when he's on his ass. Similarly, James Aston may be a shifty little back, but not many guys not named Barry Sanders can come up with much yardage without proper blocking. Last year, SELA had -31 yards rushing. And it wasn't because they were throwing the ball all over the field (106 yards). That kind of futility comes from line domination. And if Kansas has any hope of getting production out of their d-line this year, it should take over tomorrow.

Offensively, I really don't see a great need to analyze anything. Obviously Todd will be able to pick this team apart at will and points will not be of much concern. However, as useless a gauge as it may be, I really think we need to see a great game on the ground. Perhaps I put too much stock into momentum and confidence, but I think the O-line/RBs need a little bit heading into conference play. Obviously, even if they run for 500 yards tomorrow, no one internally or nationally is going to put much stock into the performance. And neither will I. For it to mean something, they'll have to do it against a real opponent. But something I'll put a lot of stock into is if they can't run against this team. Can you imagine how low the confidence level will be if they find out they can't run the ball against the Sam Houston State Bearkats? Quite frankly, I don't want to.

I hate that KU always plays an FCS team. I mean, why not just schedule Michigan? Like I said, I expect SHSU to put up a much better fight than SELA (and probably better than Michigan would). But in reality, we won't find out much tomorrow about this team. And if we do, it won't be good. Because anything good we see needs to be semi-written off due to the opposition. Anything bad, on the other hand, becomes a cause for concern if it's not already. With all of that said, I expect the team to come out pretty fired up and ready to put the USF loss behind them as best they can. Get back on track the right way tomorrow and there's no reason not to go down to Norman at 5-1.

Kansas 55 Sam Houston State 10

Since I didn't offer you much of a preview, we might as well take a gander around the league…

Texas A&M welcomes in Miami in a battle of fallen programs, though A&M has never been half of what they think they are and Miami couldn't attract Schiano away from Rutgers. So call it what you will. Either way, I would expect a very low scoring, extremely uninteresting game that Miami will ultimately win 17-7. p.s. Good luck, Coach Young.

ISU has to travel out to the desert to take on UNLV, fresh off their win in Tempe. I don't know a thing about the Rebels, but I'm going to guess if they can beat a decent (albeit overrated) ASU team on the road, they should be able to handle the Cyclones in Vegas. Call it 24-17.

Tech plays UMASS and that's all I plan to say about that one.

Texas welcomes in the Rice Owls and to be honest, I'll be interested to see how this plays out. I'm sure Texas will win comfortably and score at will, but Rice seems to have a decent offense this year so I'll be curious to see how Texas' young secondary handles them.

Probably the game I'm most interested in though is the Baylor game. You think Robert Griffin has been good for their program? Personally, I'm not that high on UCONN. But they should be pretty decent defensively, so it will be a good test for Griffin to play against someone a little more competent than Wazzu. Ultimately, I have to say that I give the edge to the Huskies, mostly because I just can't imagine Baylor winning a real road game. 27 – 21?

Other than that, KSU already embarrassed the league (I won't even comment on this) while Colorado did some salvaging last night, so as is pretty typical this time of year there really isn't that much exciting going on in the conference. Around the country though, I would definitely be leaning Georgia and Florida, if for no other reason than their inept opponents. The real game, which I'll unfortunately have to mostly miss, is LSU @ Auburn. Right now I'm thinking Auburn, but I have no idea why, after seeing them struggle to put up 3 points on Mississippi State. Yes, the same MSU that was beaten by Louisiana Tech.

Rock Chalk and I'll see you at the field.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Embarrassing


I'm not sure if KSU will find a way to win this game (right now they're down 28-14 just over halfway through the 3rd quarter), but as it stands now I think I'm going to have to seriously reconsider my upset pick of having them take down Tech. If it weren't for a great punt return (more terrible attempts at tackling, this time by Louisville) by Deon Murphy, they would be being run off the field by a team that couldn't even score on Kentucky (safeties on intentional grounding penalties don't count).

J-Free looks like his old self with a fumble and two picks. And that is to say nothing of his shaved head, which I had yet to see, which makes him look a whole lot like his coach. Coach Prince that is (not to mention Donald Faison).

They're making the Kansas running game look competent (right now they have 23 yards).

And they just might be the worst tackling team in all of football (certainly the worst I've seen so far).

[UPDATE] KSU continued with their pathetic display, losing 38-29. But the real embarrassment comes in the rushing department: 340 for Louisville to just 30 for the Wildcats. Ouch. Be prepared (if WVA and/or UCONN win) to hear how the Big East dominated the Big XII. Never mind that Kansas is the only top half team in the Big XII that played, while the top 4 Big East teams (USF, WVA, UCONN, UL) were their participants.

And in honor of the Wildcats embarrassing themselves, we have this strapping lad who would like to wish you a very HAPPY MULLET WEDNESDAY!

Q&A Time

As mentioned yesterday, Cody Stark is apparently unwilling to grace us with his knowledge of Bearkat football. Perhaps he's not a very nice guy, though he comes off as chummy. Perhaps he accidentally deleted our e-mails. Perhaps he hates blogs. Perhaps Huntsville is only 60 miles from Houston and is mostly still without power to due that bastard of a hurricane, Ike. Whatever the reason may be, we can wait no longer for our Q&A fix. In lieu of Cody we instead decided to interview one Rhett Bomar. Rhett is the quarterback of the Sam Houston State Bearkats, and coincidentally, this week's opponent for Kansas.

HH: So Rhett, it looks like you really had some fun throwing the ball around against East Central (12-22 for 198 yards and 4 TDs in the 1st half), most notably to Catron Houston. You actually built up a 52-0 lead by halftime. Is this a sign of things to come for the SHSU offense this year?

RB: Well we certainly like to think so. You know, we have some great talent here at SHSU and we feel like if we come out focused, we can play with anyone.

HH: Speaking of which, it sure looks like you guys ran the ball pretty well too. 261 yards on the ground is nothing to sneeze at – I know we Kansas fans would damn near kill for a performance like that right about now.

RB: Like I said, we have some great athletes here. James (Aston) is as good as any back I've ever seen and I wouldn't trade him for anybody.

HH: Just out of curiosity, are you aware that you did at one time play with Adrian Peterson?

RB: Oh sure, and AD was a helluva player. Crazy kid wanted to turn pro out of high school. But pound for pound, I'm not sure there's a better player than James Aston.
(Note: Aston is listed at 5'8" 203, Peterson at 6'1" 217)

HH: Oh ok, I didn't realize we were speaking in terms of relative performance. Personally, I've always valued the "on-the-field" performance as opposed to the hypothetical "if they were the same size" performance, but I see where you're coming from. I have to ask though, per your depth chart, TyMagic Robinson is listed as the starter. Is this guy some sort of a Pandora's Box you're waiting to unleash on KU? Why didn't we see him in the first game?

RB: No comment.

HH: Don't be coy with me, Rhett.

RB: No comment.

HH: Fine. Fine. I understand. Keeping with your depth chart, it looks like you have some tanks on your offensive line, but all of your receivers are noticeably smaller than me. I take it the former is incredibly slow and the latter incredibly fast?

RB: You could say that.

HH: What about you; could you say that?

RB: I could. But I won't. Even though none of our receivers are 6 feet tall, they can all fly and they work perfectly for our offense. And yeah, our o-line is mostly made up of guys that are huge and slow. But what line isn't?

HH: Rhett, just because you elaborate as opposed to saying exactly what I said doesn't make it untrue. But that's beside the point. I notice your starting center is Justin Bowersox from Wichita Heights HS. I've got to be honest, Rhett. I've never heard of the lad and that doesn't bode well for you.

RB: I have all the confidence in the world in Justin. He was a fantastic player in HS and he's only gotten better since coming down here to Huntsville. I wouldn't trade him for anyone.

HH: You're telling me you wouldn't rather have someone, anyone, from OU's line that has yet to allow a defender to breathe on Sam Bradford? And more than that, you'd rather have a guy from my home state that I've never heard of instead of said All-Americans?

RB: Absolutely. Listen, OU seems to be playing pretty well. And Sam has looked great behind their line, but right now we're sitting at 1-0, we put up 52 points in a half and I've got no reason to doubt these guys.

HH: Just so you know, East Central did also lose to Texas A&M Kingsville (44-14) and Tarleton State (38-6), so you may want to reserve your judgment for another week or two. Just saying.

RB: Oh yeah, both the Javelinas (TAMK) and the Texans (TS) have great squads this year. Maybe EC hasn't quite grabbed a W yet, but you watch, they're a tough team and we were glad to get out of there with a win.

HH: I have no doubt. On that note, take me back to your last game against Kansas. You won that one 19-3, do you expect a similar outcome?

RB: Well anytime you go into a game, you go into it expecting to win. If I didn't, what kind of competitor would I be? I surely wouldn't be where I am today (Huntsville). But I do remember that game in Arrowhead. That wasn't exactly my best game ever (16-31 for 206 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs) as Reid, Floodman and keith seemed to be in my face every snap. But fortunately, Ronnie Amadi subbed in for a play and we were able to burn him for a quick touchdown. Other than that, I just sat back and let our defense (read: Brian Luke) take care of things and we were glad to come away with a W.

HH: Yes, I remember it well myself (read: Fuck off). Speaking of that game, you've obviously shown that you have the talent to be a FBS quarterback with professional aspirations. Talk about that.

RB: I've always had a ton of confidence in myself and know what I'm capable of, which is why I'm looking forward to showing it off in front of a national audience (FCS Midwest). As far as the pro game, all I can do is what I've always done: work hard, make good decisions (Auto Dealer says what?) and leave it all on the field. I mean, if Alex Smith can be the #1 pick and J-Free can be discussed as a possible #1, why can't I have my day too?

HH: I couldn't agree more, Rhett. Thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing you in action Saturday.

RB: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

Editor's Note: I have elected not to use quotation marks for this interview as I cannot be sure that I actually spoke with Rhett Bomar, though it sure sounded a lot like him. Either way, I found it to be very informative and revealing, two things Rhett is known for. The decision is yours. (Call it even, annyong?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday Predictions

First off, congrats to Todd for earning KJ-IBT player of the week honors. Amazingly, some of you threw some votes out for Kerry and Johnathon Wilson, but Todd still ran away with the award, as he should have (p.s. You're welcome, Anne).

As you may have surmised by now, we like to provide you with a Tuesday Q&A, offering some insight to the unknown. And Sam Houston State is surely unknown. Unfortunately, our repeated attempts to track down the elusive Cody Stark, Assistant Sports Editor (read: beat reporter) of the Huntsville Item have turned up empty. Seems the young lad doesn't have time for our lowly blog. (Note: If you enjoy them, he did contribute to a podcast on KUSports.com, that was strangely posted right after the USF game. I guess they thought people really wanted to move on?)

Does anybody want to be Jay Mariotti more than Bob Lutz?

Before we get to our feature today I thought I'd send a few of you the way of Brett McMurphy, our friend from the Tampa Tribune. Apparently, some (or many) USF fans didn't treat the Jayhawk faithful in attendance with much respect. Not that it means much now, but USF, Brett, and several commenters have offered their apologies.

On that note, there has been some interesting discussion going on over at Rock Chalk Talk about how this Kansas team will finish out the season (shit if I know). And really, though we know a lot more than we did at the start of the season about Kansas (mostly bad), other teams haven't shown us quite as much just yet. So even though we've seen 2 or 3 games from everyone, these are really no better than refined preseason predictions, with a tiny bit of hindsight as a base point.

For me, I'm now leaning 9-3 (6-2). And even that seems a bit optimistic. Given what we've seen from Oklahoma (and the KU lines), that one may not even be as close as I was originally hoping. Sure, the OU back seven is suspect and Todd will surely put a few points on the board. But it's pretty irrefutable that Kansas has one of the worst four man pass rushes around. To that same accord, OU just might have the best offensive line in the country. Know this: through 3 games Sam Bradford has yet to be sacked (or even hurried), which has allowed him to throw the ball 81 times, completing 64 of them (79%) for 882 yards, 12 TDs and an inexcusable 2 INTs. And this has been done without any dependence on the passing game, whatsoever. So there's that…

Counting the next four as foregone conclusions (W-W-W-L), the Hawks should be sitting 5-2 as of October 18th. To hit my mark, they'll then need to go 4-1 with a slate consisting of: Tech, KSU, @ Nebraska, UT, and MU at Arrowhead. No easy task, to be sure.

Call me crazy, but I just don't see this team losing a home game. I especially don't think they'll have a ton of trouble with KSU, so that's one. I've yet to see anything from Tech that tells me they're better than KU, let alone able to beat them on Homecoming in Memorial. Texas, on the other hand, is likely the better team. But with an extremely young secondary (and defense altogether), they aren't without their pitfalls either. And while they've looked pretty solid offensively (McCoy especially), they were out-gained by UTEP, despite the ultimate margin of victory. By no means am I chalking this up as a win, and if it were in Austin I'd call it almost a sure loss (not on the OU level, but pessimistic no less). But I know how Mack (and Greg) coach when they're in tough games and don't have VY. Call me a homer. Call me an optimist. Call me an idiot. I think Kansas is winning that game (albeit I'd feel a whole lot more confident if the O-line figures out how to block someone between now and then).

If they can truly run their home slate, that will leave them with a trip to Lincoln and the game in Arrowhead. I can tell you which one I'd rather them win. And I can tell you which one they're more likely to win. For one thing, we don't have a clue what Nebraska is all about just yet. They're offense looks fine, if unspectacular. And on the surface, their defense is without a doubt much improved and even looks to be decent. But like I said earlier, it was about this time last year that they were beating Nevada 52-7 and feeling pretty damn good about themselves. And we all know how far that took them. So while I'm sure KU is the better team, I still don't know by how much. And more than anything, since they haven't won in Lincoln in nearly 40 years, I'm not exactly ready to be writing it off as an easy win.

As for Arrowhead, what can I say? Methzou clearly looks to be the better of the two teams. Though they are not without their deficiencies, they seem to have enough offense that it typically won't matter. All else the same, on paper, they should win comfortably. They were as good as or better than KU a year ago. And while we don't know how their defense is this year, their offense seems to have found another gear. Meanwhile, the Hawks have fallen off a bit. They've improved in some areas and have some definite room for (expected) growth in others, but all in all, they just aren't quite as good to this point. But I've seen a lot of crazy shit in this rivalry (football and basketball), so there's not a chance I'll call this one a loss, let alone in September.

I suppose the crux of my rambling is this; the South Florida game hurts. I just don't think there's any way KU emerges from that league slate at anything better than 6-2. And while plenty attainable, that is admittedly optimistic. But I also know how much better this team is at home. So while 9-3 is on the optimistic side, I think anything worse than 8-4 is overly pessimistic. All that being true, it sure looks like this team is headed for the Alamo Bowl at worst and the Cotton at best, with the Holiday somewhere in between. And while I enjoyed being spoiled a year ago, I can't complain about any of those outcomes. Rock Chalk.

Your thoughts?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Big XII Banter (and a question for you)

It was another strong week for the league, with Friday's end result being the only disappointment (no offense, Cyclones - it was expected). OU and MU have been nothing short of spectacular and could be heading toward a battle of unbeatens in Arrowhead, while UT (though idle), KU, & Tech have proven very deserving of their ranking. Hell, even OSU, Nebraska and KSU are banging on the door. Even Baylor is above .500, in impressive fashion no less. Now if we could just get rid of those Aggies...

First, for the good…

Oklahoma (1): I probably could throw them in the expected column and not be called out for doing so. However, when you go on the road to face a BCS opponent (albeit one that wouldn't finish in the top 12 in the Big XII) and you dominate like they did, you get a gold star. Also pushing them here was the line of Sam Bradford (who still hasn’t been breathed on): 18-21 for 304 and 5TDs (+1 running) and their absurd (and deflated) 5.8 yards per rush without ever breaking off a long run or anything resembling a sweat.

Methzou (2): Obviously they won't score on their first 10 possessions once they play a defense that has an idea of how to play football. But in all honesty, they aren't going to see a ton of those even once they get into Big XII play. I still have a hunch they're losing in Austin (see: Mack Brown's record following a loss to OU) and I still have very little confidence in their defense, but jesus tits, what an offense. In the last two weeks, Booger has more touchdown passes than incompletions.

Baylor (10): That's right, two straight weeks for Baylor in the good column. Thank you, Robert Griffin. 11 carries, 217 yards and 2 TDs. You know he's their quarterback, right? So yes, he did also throw the ball; for 127 yards and another TD. If he can figure out how to do something similar (or at least pull out a W) at Connecticut this week, he'll really make a statement for both Baylor and the league.

Now, to the bad…

Kansas (4): The result isn't anything too bad. Even nationally they don't seem to be being written off just yet. But despite their ability to comeback after blowing what should have been a plenty comfortable lead, they still showed some horrible gaffs that are sure to catch up to them again. Obviously there still isn't a running game, and from the looks of it, the line isn't exactly suited to match up against a good pass rush just yet either. Perhaps even more concerning was the stuck-in-molasses performance of the d-line. More than anything, I wish I had been wrong on this. But if you have seen any of the Big XII offenses yet this year, you'll know why this was my biggest fear heading into the season. And thus far, they've done nothing to invalidate that notion.

And finally, the expected…

Texas Tech (5): I didn't watch it, so I won't pretend to be able to analyze what happened with anything other than the numbers. Obviously, their offense clicked as they put up nearly 700 yards. And it's very hard to complain when you put up 43 points. Especially when you only give up a meaningless 7. But just know that Rice also beat SMU this year and they beat them 56-27. Rice. For now, they're still on upset alert in Manhattan.

Oklahoma State (6) Balance considered, there aren't ten better offenses in the country. But we have seen nothing from the defense far and they've yet to play anyone remotely capable. I have a feeling they're in for a pretty rough day on 10/11. Talk about an offensive show though – that's a game I want to watch.

Nebraska (8): They get the bump over Colorado simply because they're taking care of business. Personally, if I were a Husker fan, I'd be pretty worried about allowing NMSU 339 yards (6 per pass and 4 per rush), even if they only converted it into 7 points. And despite that worry, I actually think they'll beat VT. But if the defense intends to play like that against Big XII offenses, they better be damn sure they can keep putting up 500+ themselves or they're in for a similar collapse.

Iowa State (12): I didn't want to watch this game. So I didn't watch this game. And now I'm ecstatic that I chose not to watch this game. Remember when these two teams were perpetually overrated and always disappointing. Now they're just the latter. I can't wait for that trip to Lames.

And now for those that didn't play…

Texas (3): Schedule change sure sucked for them. Still, they'll have two easy ones until we get a chance to see what they're all about.

KSU (7): I think I have them a little overrated, but all they can do is beat the teams in front of them and thus far they’ve done that. Sure, there have been some glaring weaknesses (anything resembling tackling and offensive line play, to name a couple big ones), but J-Free finally looks competent (we'll see if that holds) and for the time being they're unbeaten. Embarrass the league in Louisville on Wednesday and it's time to take a tumble.

Colorado (9): They fell for basically no reason this week, other than the lingering of their piss poor performance against EWU. They'll have a couple of chances over the next 2 weeks to disprove me though (v. West Virginia and @ FSU).

Texas A&M (11): Yep, they're below Baylor. And they're probably going to get murdered against Miami on Saturday. Not actually murdered, because they’ll still be in College Station, but you know, the figurative type that happens on the football field. I'm still not convinced they win another game against a team not named Army.

And that concludes our Big XII banter for the day. But before we go, we'd like to pose you one question: How many Big XII quarterbacks could manage a game better than anyone on the Chiefs roster? Our guess: 7 (Bradford, McCoy, Daniel, Reesing, Robinson, Harrell and J-Free).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

USF React

Well obviously last night was a tough pill to swallow. But given that there were some bad breaks (I am a big proponent for replay, but I operate under the premise that the guys using it are competent), an awful 20+ minutes where they saw a 17 point lead turn into a two touchdown deficit, and they still had a chance to win, we shouldn't go jumping ship just yet. We were playing a ranked team, on the road, in a hostile environment and only lost by a last second field goal. Two years ago that was unheard of. Now, we're disappointed.

The outcome was: awful. There’s just no way to feel otherwise. Losing after holding a 20-3 lead is inexcusable. Losing (in regulation) when you have the ball with 40 seconds left is inexcusable. And more than either of those things, it’s just damn frustrating when an opportunity like that slips away and you’re left wondering why. Especially when it ends on a kick that had to hook substantially just to get inside the uprights.

You can’t say enough about Todd’s game. Which is why the third quarter still baffles me so much. When you see your QB laying it all on the line like that, how do you not find a way to help him out. I know these are new, young tackles, but that was pitiful. Defensively, wha happened?!?! I knew USF would get some points and I’ve been harping on the lack of a pass rush for a while now. But again, that was pitiful.

The offensive MVP was: Todd Reesing. You can’t say enough about Kerry’s 11 catches (29 on the year) or Johnathon Wilson’s incredible game (which should have had a third TD, had Daymond not jumped in front). But Todd is this offense. I can’t even imagine what his numbers would look like if he didn’t have to scramble around and throw across his body over half the game. And even doing those things he still found a way to complete 34 of 51 passes (67%) for 373 yards and three TDs, while also running one in. Unfortunately, it all ended with his one mistake when he under-threw Raymond Brown. It was the right read and if he gets it there, KU is going to have a kick to win it, if they don’t put it in the zone. But it didn’t and sometimes that’s just how it goes.

The defensive MVP was: James Holt. He made great tackles on special teams. He was decent in coverage. And more than anything, he just found his way to the ball and made plays when he got there. He finished the night with 12.5 tackles, 3 of those for a loss.

The offensive LVP was: the offensive line. This is getting ridiculous. I know AC was great and Cesar was a veteran, but as good as they were, one was a 4th round pick and the other didn’t get a sniff. Good: yes. All-world: no. While the push (or lack threof) on the run game has been non-existent all year, last night they didn’t even show the ability to contain the pass rush. Which has me extremely excited for the game in Norman.

But honestly, what we saw is what we have. Presumably, they’re only going to get better. But this shit takes time, and they don’t have long if they want to compete in the Big XII. Perhaps even more disappointing is the play of the interior. True, Cantrell is the only really good one (and we knew that going in), but can Hartley and Mayes just do nothing without great, veteran tackles on their shoulder? When you have three returning seniors anchoring the center of your line, it should be a strength. Thus far, it’s a weakness.

The defensive LVP was: the defensive line. I hate to say I told you so (mostly because I wanted to be wrong), but I’ve long been convinced that we were not going to be able to count on any sort of a pass rush this year. And while it wasn’t great in the first couple of games, last night is when the indisputable evidence surfaced. Not too harp too heavily on the trip to Norman (as that game has always been considered a loss anyway), but Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt just might swallow this d-line the way it’s performing right now.

But if what you saw is what we have on the o-line, that is even more true on the defensive side. We haven’t generated a consistent four man rush since Keith and Ashley and it’s not going to come out of nowhere now. The tackles have been pretty solid this year, but the ends barely get off the ball faster than me. This is a big, big, problem. (Note: the facemask on Laptad’s sack was complete bullshit, and he remains my favorite option here.)

Running game watch: fuck. I truly don’t understand what’s going on here. But I do know that I can put blame on every facet of the running game. 1) Coaching: I really don’t think Warinner is putting them in great position to succeed. When the ground game sputters and Todd leads TD drives through the air, Ed falls in love with the pass and isn’t patient enough to let a running game develop. 2) Line: There’s really no sense in harping on this any longer, but even when plays are set up and hole is there it is closing immediately, because Cantrell is the only one getting to the second level. 3) Backs: I have nothing bad to say about Angus. His blocking wasn’t noticeable bad. He’s timing as he hits the hole (when there is one) is great and he’s made the most of his chances. Jake and Jocques, on the other hand, look worse by the game. Both had a few decent runs last night, but they both look awful blocking and Jake in particular looks to be forcing the issue, blindly missing obvious opportunities to bounce it out or cut it back. Simply, he looks indecisive. And that can’t happen with a RB, especially one playing behind a questionable line.

After the first two games, I pretty much gave up any hope that we’d ever see a game controlled on the ground. But with Todd’s accuracy that didn’t worry me all that much as long as we could keep a semblance of balance to keep the defense honest. Right now, I’m not sure that can happen.

The skill blocking: is becoming a bigger issue. Kerry and Biere look pretty good, though I don’t think Biere was used nearly enough. If you’re going to leave a RB in to block anyway, why not just trade him out for a TE so Selvie doesn’t get a running start? But aside from Biere, we’ve already mentioned the RB blocking issues. And as great as Daymond was in games 1 & 2 (not so much last night), we really can’t underestimate how much of a falloff it must be to go from your best blocking receiver (Dexton) to a 5’8” freshman. Briscoe and Wilson are decent, but certainly not great. Briscoe because of effort, Wilson because of size. This is something else that will need to improve if we’re ever going to see a running game.

Odds and ends: The DBs were not nearly aggressive enough. When you have a non-existent pass rush, you have to break up their timing as best you can. You also have to force your man inside when you’re playing cover two (something Barfield neglected to do on the last USF touchdown), because there’s no way a safety can cover a sideline route…lost in all this bitching I’m doing is the play of the receivers, who, along with Todd, are going to keep the team in every game this year…though it would help if the defense weren’t so susceptible to patient offenses – I’m all for safe, assignment sound football, but as competition gets better sometimes you have to force their hand a bit and that did not happen last night (see: 0 INTs for a TO prone QB)….if they play this way against Methzou, Chase will do exactly what he did a year ago.

Sam Houston State Fear Factor is: 2 out of 10. Baseline of 5. (+1) for Rhett and the 58 points they put up in week 1. (-2) for Memorial Stadium. (+1) for them having three weeks to prepare. (-1) for being a FCS team. (-1) for Todd. (-1) because this is a perfect get-back-on-track game and SHSU is simply the victim.

Heading into next week I feel: fine. Obviously I’m not worried about the upcoming game. But big picture wise, I don’t know how the team will respond to that loss. I feel a whole lot better knowing that they could bounce back from 31 straight points and have a chance to win in that environment. But I’ve long felt that this was an enormous game confidence-wise going forward. And perhaps more importantly, I think it lessens the margin for error. And when you’re facing a 5 week stretch of: @ OU, Tech, KSU, @ NU, UT (& of course Methzou two weeks later), you’ve dramatically lessened your margin for error by starting that stretch with a loss.

That said, this team is capable of winning all those games. Maybe only because they have Todd calling the signals, but capable no less. Now, capable as they may be, they aren’t winning in Norman. But if they can start sewing up some of these gaffs, the rest are doable. And with this loss, they’re now also necessary. If you haven't read our friend, Mr. Whitlock today, he's right, if not a bit optimistic. We’ll see…

FUCK

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's Business Time B*tches

Bret and Jemaine, both huge fans of this site and huge hawk fans wanted me to remind everyone out there that it is indeed almost business time.



They are a bit offended right now though as I told them when I asked one starting KU quarterback what he thought of FOTC he did not know who they were (nor did he know of this site which is also inexcusable but I guess he might have bigger things on his mind). Jemaine responded that the Todd's huge Kiwi fan base would be disappointed to learn he did not know the FOTC but that the FOTC jayhawk special on HBO would go ahead regardless.

Rock Chalk!

USF Roundtable Preview

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.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Quick Hitters

First, we must lead off with a link to EDSBS as it features a wonderful picture, courtesy of LSUFreek. And yes, I would love one as an early Christmas present if anyone is shopping yet (since we can't display that one, we've chosen another Mangino shot done by LSUFreek).

Next we have an interesting article about controversial officiating in college football from the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi. It seems this week's foe was the recipient of some favorable calls last week. One can only hope they'll be on the other end of that tomorrow.

News out of Tampa says that USF will be starting a place kicker and a new RG this week, the former on account of performance and the latter because of the injury we linked to yesterday.

This next link isn't to a specific post, but to Timmy G.'s blog that has a few Jayhawk features today. The one you might find most interesting is when he picks against the Hawks, saying USF wins it 23-20. Not surprisingly, Bruce Feldman is also picking against the Hawks.

While discussing picks, we should probably also alert you that ESPN has posted their Scouts.com preview. The people at Scouts like the Bulls to win it 35-34, which is not all that surprising. But for those of you without Insider, here's a real quick breakdown of which team they give the edge to, by position.

QB: Kansas
RB: USF
WR: Kansas
Ol: USF
DL: USF
LB: USF (WTF?!)
CB: USF
ST: Kansas
Coach: Kansas
Overall: USF

I can certainly understand the people at Scouts, or anyone for that matter, picking USF to win the game. For one thing, they may be just as good as KU for all we know. And more importantly, they'll be playing at home in front of a presumably raucous crowd. But bear with me for just one second, as I take a look at their ratings from above. First off, from everything I've heard and seen, the two best things South Florida has going for them are their coach and their quarterback. Obviously Kansas isn't lacking in either category; I just find it funny that Scouts realizes this in their breakdown. I say that only because, aside from Reesing, all I have read nationally about Kansas this year is how their defense is going to carry them. And given that they've allowed 3 points through two games, this has proved somewhat prophetic. Yet, despite giving up 24 to UCF last week, Scouts claims that South Florida is better at every position on the defensive side of the ball, including LB. I won't get into a huge thing here, but just found that amusing. (Also, for those of you that can't access the report, they also list Dedeaux as the first string tight end and cite Kansas' poor run defense as a reason that they'll have so much trouble with the USF offense. Just saying.)

Meanwhile, CFN labels it the Big XII game of the week and picks the Jayhawks in a tight one, 27-24. On that much happier note, we will leave you for now, but be sure to check back soon for something on the game that isn't just lifted from elsewhere.