You didn't think I forgot about the BTBS preview, did you?
|49.7%||50.3%||Field Position %||55.1%||44.9%|
|89.23||111.58||Total T/O Pts||82.34||117.36|
|+22.35||-22.35||T/O Pts Margin/Gm||+35.02||-35.02|
Thoughts after the jump...
- The first thing I notice on this large box score is just how average KU has been in a lot of areas. I'm still living a bit off of the KU '07 aura, I guess. But whereas MU is +0.339 in close-game S&P, KU is only +0.078. When they've been beaten, more often than not, they've been drubbed.
- That said, their running game really has improved recently. Jake Sharp is not necessarily a big-play threat, but he's quite solid, and KU's 3.35 line yards per carry are much better than I thought they'd manage at the beginning of the season. Also, KU's 49.4% success rate running the ball opens up an avenue of ball control success for them. Their big-play potential (i.e. PPP) is pretty crappy, but they can potentially move the chains a bit.
- Meanwhile, Mizzou's running game has the big-play threat that KU's lacks. Their 0.46 PPP rushing is over one-third better than KU's. They've been outstanding at preventing the big rushing play as well. It's a huge advantage to MU if KU can't manage at least a few healthy chunks of yards on the ground.
- Next window of opportunity for Mizzou: sack rates. KU allows a few too many, and MU is pretty decent at racking them up. If there is no big-play threat from the running game, Mizzou's rush ends (Stryker Sulak, Jacquies Smith, Brian Coulter) could have Todd Reesing running for his life. Reesing's a crafty SOB, and he can create the occasional out-of-nothing play...but he can only do that so many times.
- Both teams have managed positive turnover point differentials, and while Mizzou's is higher, it's only by about a point a game.
On to the situational stats...
- KU's offense gets progressively worse as the game advances (for the first three quarters, anyway). Their success rate falls from a solid 51.1% in Q1 to a 46.4% in Q2, and to a 40.1% in Q3. Keep this in mind. As I said above, KU's running game has some grind-it-out potential, but without the big play it's only a matter of time before grind-it-out stops working. Mizzou's bend-don't-break defense will get a stop more often than not--you can't expect an 18-play drive. And as they slowly put the clamps on the run, the passing yards will get harder to come by as well.
- Meanwhile, the KU defense gets better as a half progresses. They're better in Q2 than Q1 and better in Q4 than Q3. Overall, Q3 is their weakest quarter.
- KU's good at coming up with 3rd-down stops, though, so first-down yardage could be key for Mizzou.
- Sheesh. Mizzou's offensive numbers are staggeringly consistent down-to-down and quarter-to-quarter. That's ridiculous.
- It appears that the best time for KU to strike will be in Q1. Mizzou doesn't give up big plays, but they allow a pretty healthy success rate. Expect KU to have some success early on, but as long as Mizzou doesn't allow an easy score or two early, they should have a strong window opportunity to seize the game in Q2 and Q3.
This is just a quick refresher from Monday's BTBS Rankings/Projections post. The following numbers are conference-only stats.
|KU & MU '+' figures and conference ranking
|Category||KU Off.||KU Def.||MU Off.||MU Def.|
|Success Rates+||103.3 (#6)||103.8 (#5)||117.3 (#2)||102.2 (#6)|
|PPP+||95.2 (#7)||100.0 (#8)||115.5 (#5)||109.3 (#5)|
|S&P+||99.2 (#7)||102.0 (#9)||116.5 (#2)||105.4 (#3)|
|Rushing S&P+||106.0 (#5)||104.4 (#7)||116.2 (#1)||111.8 (#2)|
|Passing S&P+||94.4 (#7)||101.5 (#7)||113.7 (#5)||101.1 (#8)|
|Close-Game S&P+||102.2 (#7)||102.9 (#6)||109.1 (#5)||109.1 (#3)|
|Non-Passing Downs S&P+||100.1 (#7)||103.6 (#6)||118.0 (#1)||107.1 (#3)|
|Passing Downs S&P+||96.4 (#8)||97.2 (#8)||105.2 (#6)||96.9 (#9)|
|Redzone S&P+||113.4 (#2)||97.8 (#8)||107.7 (#5)||108.5 (#4)|
- Keep KU of the redzone, as they're pretty automatic once they get that far. Otherwise, as far as explosive Big 12 offenses go, they're pretty mediocre across the board.
- The one advantage they have in comparison to Mizzou's defensive numbers comes in the Success Rate figures. As I mentioned earlier, they probably won't be able to generate many huge plays, but they can potentially work the clock and keep the Mizzou offense off the field somewhat.
- Meanwhile, the line of thought from Mizzou's players and coaches this week has been that, while KU's defensive numbers aren't amazing, that has to do with all the good offenses they've played against. That's partially true, but as the '+' numbers suggest, this is still an average to above-average defense at best. And like the offense, they're not particularly great at any one thing.
Key Players: Kansas
RB Jake Sharp
He's hurt, but he's still by far KU's best and most consistent back, particularly between the tackles. If he can't go, the onus falls onto disappointing JUCO transfer Jocques Crawford, and I think that spells doom for KU. If KU's going to win, it's because Sharp was able to get some tough yards and take the pressure off of Todd Reesing.
WR Kerry Meier
He's also hurt. But here's the deal: a team has to have a secondary receiving threat to move the ball on Mizzou. Dezmon Briscoe is outstanding, and he'll probably get some yards, but he'll be getting the Carl Gettis Treatment™, and somebody else will have to step up on key plays. Meier has 73 catches and Briscoe has 69; after those two, the production falls considerably to Johnathan Wilson (38 catches). Wilson could be something of a secret weapon, but if KU's going to win, chances are it's because Meier had 4-5 third-down catches.
LB James Holt
While KU's defense hasn't performed as well as it did last year overall, and while fellow LBs Joe Mortensen and Mike Rivera have been solid but not spectacular, James Holt's play has been outstanding. He leads KU with 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and six forced fumbles. He plays well in pass coverage, he plays well close to the line, he blitzes well, and he was also the best defensive player on the field the last time Mizzou and Kansas played at Arrowhead. If KU's going to win, it's because they were coming up with third-down stops...and Holt was probably the guy making them.
K Jacob Branstetter
Last year at Arrowhead, KU kicker Scott Webb missed two first-half FGs and prevented the Jayhawks from getting any momentum whatsoever until the the scoring margin was too big to make up. He makes those two kicks, and it's a completely different ballgame down the stretch. Branstetter has been fine in the kicking game this year, but he hasn't been asked to do much--he's just 2-for-4 in conference play. If KU's going to win, Branstetter will not be able to take points off the board with shaky play.
Even if Branstetter isn't asked to do much, this spot on the Key Players list signifies special teams as a whole--if Marcus Herford can bust a big return, or if Branstetter makes a big kick, or if anything really good happens to KU in the special teams game, the outlook of the game as a whole could change instantly.
Key Players: Mizzou
QB Chase Daniel
In two starts against Kansas, Chase Daniel is 66-for-87 (76%) for 719 yards, 7 TDs and 0 INTs. Insane. From a completions and yards perspective, Daniel is even better this year than he was in 2006 or 2007, so in theory that means his numbers will be better this year, right?
Well, if they are, KU will get absolutely smoked. Kansas would like nothing more than to finally get to Daniel, and they better figure out how...fast.
FS William Moore
Willy Mo finally began playing like Willy Mo 2007 two weeks ago in Ames. No other player on Mizzou's defense can demoralize an opposing offense in a millisecond like Moore, and honestly...he's always the key player on the Mizzou defense.
LB Brock Christopher, DTs Ziggy Hood & Jaron Baston
While KU has somewhat forgotten how to pass block in recent weeks, their run blocking has gotten much better in conference play. Against OU, they had a ton of success running the ball because OU had a new middle linebacker, and the interior of KU's line took advantage. If the middle triangle of Mizzou's defense--Christopher, Hood, Baston--thrives, the game's over. Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford don't have the jets to consistently succeed running outside. They're going to have to be able to move the chains running between the tackles, and if they can't, it's open season on Todd Reesing.
William Clarke Quantrill
Quite simply, the main reason KU has a shot to win this game is because it's the Border War, and weird things happen. Just ask Brad Smith. Or Paul Pierce. Mizzou players and coaches have done a very convincing job this week of saying the right things--KU has a great team, this is a big game, we're not focused on the Big 12 title game, etc. Mizzou has the better team in this game, and if they come out with Quantrill fire to match KU's Jennison rage, they win this game.
Summary & Prediction
Things to pay attention to early in Saturday's game: 1) if KU is struggling to create holes for Jake Sharp, that's very bad for KU; 2) if KU can't generate any Q1 offense (like last year), that's very bad for KU; 3) if MU is only getting 2-4 yards on first down instead of 5-7, that's potentially bad for MU; 4) if Chase Daniel isn't knocked off his feet in Q1 (not even by a sack--just by any pressure of any kind), it's very bad for KU.
Oh yeah, and 5) if Jeremy Maclin is running free in the KU secondary (or on kick returns), it's very very bad for KU.
My Monday BTBS projections predicted a 34-25 win for Mizzou. That sounds about right. Mizzou has a special teams advantage, plus the slightest of edges in turnover margin. My gut is saying this will be about a 38-17 win for Mizzou. So in the end, we'll say that after an even Q1, Mizzou makes a move some time in Q2 and Q3 and withstands the Reesing Surge in Q4. Mizzou 35, Kansas 21.
If KU is able to work the clock and come up with some third-down stops, then this game can shift into "Rivalry Game--throw out the records/stats" mode, which would be very bad for Mizzou. But if stats and talent matter, Mizzou has a healthy edge. There are a lot more avenues to success for Missouri, and in the end they will likely win comfortably.