LAWRENCE KS - NOVEMBER 20: Quarterback Quinn Mecham #8 of the Kansas Jayhawks is sacked by Richetti Jones #99 during the game on November 20 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Confused? Catch up with the BTBS Primer. And if you just don't like or care about numbers, skip them -- I always attempt to explain what they might be telling us afterward.
Okay, let's just get this out of the way right at the start: yes, the numbers are as bad as you think they are. For the season, Kansas has been simply terrible. They are 3-8, and it is actually a bit surprising that they're not worse (one win was a huge upset, and another was a huge comeback). But before you go throwing all your money on Mizzou, realize that a) three of Kansas' five best games of the season have come in the last three weeks, and b) this is still Mizzou-Kansas, a rivalry in which Mizzou only has two blowout wins in the last 14 years, despite almost always finishing with a better record (11 of 14 years). All that said, let's look at just how bad things have been for the Jayhawks this season.
Standard Downs S&P+: 106th
Redzone S&P+: 79th
Q1 S&P+: 72nd
1st Down S&P+: 101st
Rushing S&P+: 111th
Standard Downs: 100th
Adj. Line Yards: 58th
Passing S&P+: 117th
Standard Downs: 107th
Adj. Sack Rate: 120th
In the preseason, our projections at Football Outsiders whiffed pretty badly on a few teams with new coaches. Tennessee was projected 20th in our preseason F/+ rankings and is currently 62nd. Texas Tech was projected 18th and is currently 60th. Kansas ... oh, Kansas was worst of all. They were projected 51st and currently sit at 113th. They and Texas were by far the biggest swings-and-misses in the preseason projections. Turner Gill couldn't be a bigger stylistic change from Mark Mangino, and the departures of Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier, Darrell Stuckey, Justin Thornton, etc., created a scenario where either the bottom was going fall out of the program, or a major rebuilding year was in order. We'll find out which of these scenarios has really played out in the future, but things really could not have gone much worse for Gill this year, particularly on offense.
In a nutshell, Kansas is neither efficient nor explosive, can't run, can't pass, can't protect the passer, and is the worst team in the country on second downs and in the second quarter. The bright side? They're not awful in the first quarter, their run blocking has been solid, and ... they pass well in the redzone. That's about it. If you're a worrying sort, you can use this information to imagine a situation in which Kansas puts together a couple of decent early drives, builds confidence, and creates the ultimate "this should be a blowout, but instead it's a crazy rivalry game" scenario. But in the end, Kansas ranks poorly enough that an upset here would be like 1997 MU-KU at Hearnes times about 50.
The good news for Kansas is, when Jordan Webb and Kale Pick both got hurt, and Gill was forced to go to his third-stringer, it appears to have been a blessing in disguise. Mecham is far from spectacular, but he has been more of a steadying force for the offense, and as mentioned earlier, they haven't been great in the last three games, and they haven't even been good, but they've been less of a disaster.
James Sims (Fr.): 147 carries, 660 yards (4.5/carry), 8 TD; 18 catches, 130 yards (7.2/catch), 1 TD
Angus Quigley (Sr.): 70 carries, 257 yards (3.7/carry), 1 TD; 14 catches, 164 yards (11.7/catch)
D.J. Beshears (So.): 55 carries, 213 yards (3.6/carry), 2 TD; 10 catches, 69 yards (6.9/catch), 1 TD
Deshaun Sands (RSFr.): 49 carries, 176 yards (3.6/carry), 1 TD; 4 catches, 21 yards (5.3/catch)
They flashed a graphic during last week's Kansas-OSU game, saying that Kansas was one of three teams in the country with freshmen as their leading passer (Webb) and rusher (Sims). Predictably, all three teams on that list were god-awful. But while Sims has been handed a bit more of a leadership role than he probably needed to have this year as a true freshman, he's had his moments. When Kansas scored 35 points on Colorado in the fourth quarter of Dan Hawkins' final game, they did it mostly by handing to Sims and letting Colorado light themselves on fire. He has potential if nothing else, and he might have a couple of moments against the banged-up Mizzou front seven.
Beshears is an interesting player. He's listed as a receiver, but he has gotten the ball far more times on the ground than in the air this season. He is a solid all-around athlete and certainly looks like he knows what he's doing with the ball. His 65 touches have produced just 282 yards (4.3/touch), of course, so "looking like you know what you're doing" alone doesn't get you very far.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
To the extent that this offense has stars, it comes from the wideout position. Patterson is very quick and hard to bring down, while Johnathan Wilson has been perpetually underrated while playing in the shadow of Briscoe and Meier. On a good offense, with linemen who can protect the passer and quarterbacks who can deliver the ball, both of these players could put together a 70+ catch, 800+ yard season. (McDougald has his moments too.) Alas, they are not on that offense.
LT Tanner Hawkinson (6'6, 293, So.)
LG Sal Capra (6'5, 295, Sr.)
C Jeremiah Hatch (6'3, 332, Jr.)
RG Duane Zlatnik (6'4, 326, So.)
RT Brad Thorson (6'5, 310, Sr.)
While they have blocked well against the run (they should be expected to have at least a little bit of success against Mizzou in this regard), the Kansas line has done the Quarterback Du Jour no favors this year. When you see an Adj. Sack Rate as poor as Kansas', you can likely assign at least a little bit of the blame on the quarterbacks themselves -- they need to have a much better idea for when to flee or throw the ball away. But still, this was supposed to be the biggest strength the offense had this year, and while that may be technically true (they are not a "strength" per say, but they may be the smallest weakness), I expected more out of them than this. It likely goes without saying that Aldon Smith, Jacquies Smith, Brad Madison, Michael Sam and company should have a field day once Kansas falls from standard downs to passing downs.
Standard Downs S&P+: 91st
Redzone S&P+: 98th
Q1 S&P+: 96th
1st Down S&P+: 111th
Rushing S&P+: 95th
Standard Downs: 88th
Adj. Line Yards: 88th
Passing S&P+: 104th
Standard Downs: 109th
Adj. Sack Rate: 113th
Well, the defense has at least been better than the offense, I guess. They at least rank in the double digit in a lot more categories. Kansas seems better on passing downs than standard downs, better on third downs, better in the fourth quarter, and decent at avoiding big plays. Unfortunately, when I say "better", I just mean "better than they are at everything else." They are horrible against efficient offenses (especially through the air), horrible on standard downs, bad against the run in the red zone, horrid in the pass rush, horrid in the three quarters preceding the fourth quarter, and horrid on first and second downs. And worst of all, this is an experienced unit that will actually have to replace quite a few contributors next season. That's not the end of the world, of course -- replacing these types of contributors is not that hard to do -- but unlike the offense, the defense doesn't have the "inexperience" excuse going for them.
(They do, however, have the "Carl Torbush is our defensive coordinator" excuse. So there's that. Anybody notice how much Mississippi State's defense has improved this season after his departure?)
DE Jake Laptad (Sr.): 25.5 tackles, 7.0 TFL/sacks, 3 FF
DT Richard Johnson (Jr.): 23.0 tackles, 3.0 TFL/sacks
DT Patrick Dorsey (Jr.): 17.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL/sacks, 1 FF
DE Toben Opurum (So.): 13.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF, 3 PBU
So ... it appears that Kansas' three starting linebackers -- S. Johnson, Springer and Dudley -- have played virtually every snap this season. Their backups have barely registered a tackle. And considering two of the three are seniors, that's not the best way I've heard of for building depth. Huldon Tharp will return next season for the Jayhawks, and he, Steven Johnson and Random LB X should be able to duplicate this unit's production in 2011, but still.
Meanwhile, on the defensive line, Kansas fans and writers seem to be very excited about RB-turned-LB-turned-DE Toben Opurum's potential at end ... but while he's shown a knack for knocking down passes, that's really all he has to show for his time there so far. Jake Laptad has been amazingly mediocre despite starting for Kansas for what seems like 16 years, and Jeff City product (and former teammate of Terrell Resonno) Richard Johnson really hasn't built off of the potential he showed as a freshman. There are worse front sevens than this, but ... not many at the BCS level. Then again, Mizzou made ISU's front four look better than they had performed last week, so we'll see.
FS Chris Harris (Sr.): 62.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL/sacks
CB Isiah Barfield (Jr.): 48.0 tackles, 1 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 6 PBU
SS Olaitan Oguntodu (Sr.): 45.0 tackles, 2 PBU
N Tyler Patmon (RSFr.): 31.0 tackles, 4.5 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 1 FR, 10 PBU
CB Greg Brown (So.): 32.5 tackles, 1 FF, 4 PBU
CB Calvin Rubles (Sr.): 20.0 tackles
SS Prinz Kande (RSFr.): 16.0 tackles
Kansas' passing defense has been worse than its rushing defense this year, which, from a name recognition standpoint, seems a bit odd. Chris Harris has been a decent (if flaky) playmaker for a number of years, Isiah Barfield has had some stellar moments this year, and nickel back Tyler Patmon has been a budding playmaker. But with absolutely no pass rush to speak of, the secondary has been asked to do far too much, and they have come up short. There are some solid athletes here, and they could take advantage of carelessness from Blaine Gabbert or lapses of focus from the receivers, but ... considering Gabbert should have absolutely all day to pass (and you have to admit, his fight-or-flight reflex for when to leave the pocket has improved significantly over the last few weeks), this unit probably won't offer too much resistance when all is said and done.
Kansas Special Teams
Opp. Punt Returns
Opp. Kick Returns
Sometimes, bad teams get a refuge on special teams. A good field goal kicker can maximize a bad offense's effectiveness. A good kick/punt returner can set up good field position. A good punter can do massive favors for an iffy defense.
Alas ... Kansas appears to have none of these things. D.J. Beshears has returned a kickoff for a touchdown this year, and against Mizzou's iffy kick coverage, he could be dangerous. Otherwise ... nothing of which to speak. Daymond Patterson has averaged 3.7 yards per return (take out his long of 23, and that falls to 1.9 per return ... 1.9!). Jacob Branstetter is 8-for-13 on field goals (2-for-7 outside of 40 yards). Alonso Rojas has averaged a decent 42.5 yards per punt but apparently kicks a very returnable ball. In all, if Mizzou can contain Beshears, then there isn't a lot to worry about with this unit. Of course, if they can't contain Beshears, then the "Rivalry Upset Factor" goes up a notch.
We'll once again wrap this up with the table that I use for 7th Day Adventure columns at FO. FEI = Brian Fremeau's ratings, F/+ = the combination of FEI and S&P+, and FPA = Field Position Advantage.
Has the Ball...
Has the Ball...
|2010 F/+ Rk||113
|2010 FEI Rk||109
|2010 S&P+ Rk||114
|2010 FPA Rk||90
|2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk||111
|2010 Passing S&P+ Rk||117
|2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk||106
|2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk||116
Kansas' advantages: According to this table ... none. None!
Mizzou's advantages: All of them.
Let's face it: I'm still going to be a little paranoid heading into this game. Stupid, unexplainable things happen in rivalries, so I'm not going to feel completely safe until Mizzou has put the game out of reach (if they put the game out of reach). That said ... it really would take an incredible level of upset/rivalry karma for Mizzou to finish this game 9-3. Even in the worst-case scenario -- Kansas puts together a couple of nice early drives, and D.J. Beshears returns a kickoff a very long way -- Mizzou should still pull away in the second half. I may not feel safe here, but the numbers do -- they're projecting a 41.6 point win for the Tigers. So ... about 52-10 then? Sounds good. Let's just go ahead and say Mizzou won 52-10 and get ready for the bowl selections, huh?