Archive for Monday, October 15, 2007

Keegan: Kansas balanced as can be

October 15, 2007

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KU cracks BCS standings after Baylor beatdown

One day after demolishing the Baylor Bears 58-10 at Memorial Stadium, the Kansas Jayhawk football team debuted in the 13th slot of the BCS standings. Enlarge video

Balance is the key to good mental and physical health, and in turn, happiness. That's what everyone always says anyway. Nutritionists, philosophers, shrinks, golf instructors, high-wire walkers, spiritual advisers, even a '70s-TV hippie who answers to "Grasshopper," all appreciate the value of balance.

So do football coaches.

Unfortunately for Kansas University's Mark Mangino, his first five teams couldn't strike a balance. When the offense hummed, the defense bummed. When the running game purred, the passing game stalled. When he had the horses to defend the run, the secondary routinely got torched.

Now the KU football team, tied with Missouri for 15th in the nation in the Associated Press poll and ranked 13th in the BCS standings, is nothing if not balanced.

Try answering these questions:

Is KU:

A better passing team or running team?

Better at defending the run or defending the pass?

Better at passing than defending the pass?

Better at running than defending the run?

A better offensive or defensive team?

Is Jake Sharp or Brandon McAnderson a more valuable running back?

Each unit on the defense and each on the offense rates above average.

Starting with the offense, the line has been the most pleasant surprise. Preseason All-Big 12 pick Anthony Collins has been even better than last year, thanks in part to improved stamina. Left guard Adrian Mayes, a former walk-on, thus far has calmed fears he would be overmatched. Center Ryan Cantrell routinely grades out well, as does beefy right guard Chet Hartley, a junior-college transfer. Right tackle Cesar Rodriguez had a rough game against Kansas State's Ian Campbell, which gives him something in common with many blockers. Tight end Derek Fine blocks well, also.

At running back, Sharp (6.42 yards per carry, five touchdowns) is on pace to rush for 1,070 yards in 13 games, and McAnderson (6.23, seven) is on pace for 999 yards.

Todd Reesing's mobility, accuracy and arm strength, and the speed of the receivers keep defenses from loading up against the run.

Defensively, preseason All-Big 12 pick James McClinton is getting more help up front than anticipated. In the secondary, vastly improved depth and speed at cornerback and safety join Aqib Talib.

Middle linebacker Joe Mortensen has been a menacing presence, and Mike Rivera also brings a nastiness. James Holt's speed makes him a perfect complement to them.

Statistics offer little help in answering the aforementioned questions.

KU's passing offense ranks 16th nationally, the rushing offense 13th. The rush defense ranks eighth, the pass defense sixth.

So which is it: Does KU have a better offense or defense?

Kansas is second to Hawaii with a scoring average of 50.3. Defensively, KU is second to Ohio State with a 9.5 average.

You know things are going well for your football team when all anybody can find to gripe about is the punting (103rd in the nation) and the punt returning (46th, and probably first in nervous moments for spectators).

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