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Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keegan: Kansas wins a shootout

October 23, 2008

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Sometimes, picking college football games has a lot in common with picking stocks. Both resemble crapshoots and the winners in both ventures are the ones who buy low and sell high.

Indicators suggest that now is the best time to sell your stock in 2008 Texas Tech football. The Red Raiders (7-0) are ranked No. 8 in the nation, yet Las Vegas has made Kansas the favorite in Saturday's 11 a.m. shootout at Memorial Stadium. The number crunchers who set the odds in Vegas tend to know what they are doing. So what is it they know about Mike Leach's team that makes it the underdog by just less than a field goal?

Well, for one thing, name the best team Tech has played this season. Give up? The answer is Nebraska, which seems to have been rejuvenated some by the coaching change from Bill Callahan to Bo Pelini, but hasn't yet defeated a decent team. The closest the Cornhuskers came was losing to Texas Tech in overtime in Lubbock.

Oddsmakers also give Kansas the advantage because it is at home, where the Jayhawks have won 13 games in a row. The homefield advantage usually is worth three points, but with a streak that long, call it more like a four-point advantage. Tech might be slightly better than Kansas, which hasn't beaten a good team yet, but not four points better.

Tech's rough schedule patch begins Saturday, kicking off a string of four consecutive games against ranked opponents. Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are up next for the Red Raiders. Here's guessing Tech won't be ranked No. 8 a month from now. Anyone care to take the other side of that guess? Sell high.

Now, making the argument that Kansas has bottomed out is tougher than making the case that Tech has topped out. Consider KU a hold at the moment.

The defense, which looked so slow against Oklahoma, isn't going to get appreciably faster in a week, but it could look faster by not being quite as exhausted. Oklahoma ran 97 plays. Kansas can ensure Tech doesn't approach that figure. Here's how: Now that Jake Sharp has given Kansas a running game, it's possible to sustain long drives that give the defense breathers.

In three Big 12 games, Sharp has carried the ball 62 times for 300 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The way Sharp ran on KU's second possession of the second half of the Oklahoma game, it looked as if the only way to stop him would be to stop giving him the ball, which Kansas did. In a six-play, 80-yard drive that ate just 1:52 off the clock, Sharp carried the ball four times for 58 yards. His 17-yard touchdown run came with more than 11 minutes left in the third quarter and Kansas trailing by a touchdown. Sharp didn't touch the ball again until the fourth quarter, a curious decision that isn't likely to be duplicated Saturday if Sharp encounters similar success running.

Meanwhile, the notion that Graham Harrell should be able to shred the Kansas secondary while reading War and Peace from cover to cover probably won't be too far off. Harrell has been sacked once all season and Kansas has just three sacks during Big 12 play, none on any of Oklahoma's 97 snaps.

This matchup has shootout written all over it. Give the home team the edge.

Kansas 45, Texas Tech 42.

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