Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
In an all orange auditorium tucked between Boone Pickens Stadium and Gallagher-Iba Arena a couple of weeks ago in Stillwater, Okla., Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis uttered a few words that hinted at the fact that he might be leaning toward changing his offense.
“I think we know where we'd like to go,” Weis said in reference to his offense, just moments after his team lost 42-6 to Oklahoma State and did so with true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart playing the entire second half.
Exactly one week later, Weis and the Jayhawks went there and the result was the program's first Big 12 victory since November 2010, a 31-19 whipping of West Virginia at happy-once-again Memorial Stadium.
The direction Weis has taken this offense — is less than two years in charge, remember — is about much more than just changing quarterbacks. It's about changing an old-school, ultra-successful, wildly accomplished ball coach's thought methodology altogether and making him squirm a little in the process.
When Weis arrived at Kansas, he brought with him years worth of success in the pro-style offense that features and makes stars out of drop-back passers like Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps and has put countless players in the NFL and worked wonders for many who already were there when Weis worked with them.
Because of that success and his confidence in his own ability, Weis spent the better part of two seasons believing that it could work at Kansas. But the Jayhawks do not have the offensive line nor the skill position players to make such a system work and, in the Big 12 Conference, where virtually every other team is throwing hay-makers week in and week out, Weis' inability to put points on the board put the Jayhawks in a hole.
Instead of being stubborn to the bitter end, Weis elected to change. If we've learned anything about the guy during his first two years in town it's that he's not afraid to check under every rock to see if he might find something, anything, that could help his team or heal his offense — all in the name of winning.
After tweaking the depth chart, moving players in and out of the lineup and replacing precious hours of sleep with more film breakdown, Weis reached the classic conclusion that states, “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,” and then went on to have a heck of a good time last Saturday, one that several Jayhawks and Jayhawk fans won't soon forget.
Cozart was a big part of it; and his ability and maturity beyond his years seem to have KU well positioned to take this idea and run with it (no pun intended) into the future.
But, to me, the biggest tip of the cap here goes to Weis. Yes, the players made the plays — the O-Linemen blocked their tails off, Cozart was nearly flawless and James Sims once again looked like one of the best backs in the Big 12. But executing the game plan the coaches come up with is what these guys do, and, for most of them, it's easy — even if it's a total overhaul in a short time — because they're so hungry for something good to happen.
Swallowing your pride, discarding 30-plus years of offensive wisdom with a proven track record and joining the masses in the wild and crazy spread movement is not as easy. But Weis did it. And the Jayhawks won.
More important than that, it looks like he's willing to do it for a long time.
Bill Self's weekly press conference just wrapped.
Here's a quick look back at some of the highlights, as the Jayhawks prepare to take on Iona at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.
• Self: It's not too early to have an idea of what kind of team you are, but it's too early to know what you have.
• Self: We didn't play great early, but I did like how our guys responded on big stage against Duke. I'm excited. I'm not thrilled where we're at, but I do see a lot of potential. I think you can use Duke game as a barometer because there's no question that Duke will be a Top 5 team when it's all said and done.
• Self: If teams are gonna shoot 50% against us, we've got no chance. There's a lot we can do to improve that. We've been fortunate because we've been exposed, but we've also won."
• Self: We've had a good week of practice. Took Sunday off. Guys are more confident and comfortable because of how they played — and the win — against Duke.
• Self: Tharpe has taken Mason under his wing. Naadir is one of Frank's biggest fans. Just like Tarik Black has taken Joel Embiid under his wing a little bit, as well.
• Self: If you've got a guy who can beat a guy off the bounce, you're probably ahead. And I do think we have some guys who can beat guys off the bounce.
• Self on Iona: We haven't gone against zone yet, so this'll be the first time we play a team that's predominantly a zone team. And they play faster than anybody we've played so far. They're also small, so we'll have bigs guarding on the perimeter.
• Self on Perry Ellis: I thought he got a lot of confidence toward end of last season and he's been terrific so far. I do think he needed that Duke game because that was against big-time guys and a big-time team. Especially true of the Parker-Ellis match-up. Those were two really good players going against each other.
• Self: If a guy played good in that game the other day, they're automatically a draft pick. I get a kick out of that. We're two games in and there are 90 guys who are going in the first round and their are only 30 teams. And that number will go to 120.
• Self on D: I'd really like to guard the ball better and our interior post D was really lacking against Louisiana Monroe. I think the mindset of not relaxing during possessions will be something we can improve on.
• Self on missing Withey: We miss Jeff. Of course, if the rules were the way last year that they are this year, a lot of fouls would've been called before they got to Jeff and it would've taken away a lot of his block opportunities.
• Self on Black: He's pressing. I do think you'll see a more relaxed and comfortable Tarik Black on Tuesday vs. Iona.
• Self: There's no stress in dividing minutes because I'm happy with who I'm starting. If anything, it's a good kind of stress because at least we have options. Do we know what we're gonna do 1-8, 1-9? No. We don't. A lot will depend on how guys play and it'll kind of clear itself out along the way. This isn't anything that unusual. We do have more guys, though.
• Self on Cliff Alexander: Without a doubt he's one of the best big men we've signed. His ceiling is remarkably high. If I say he's a monster then that'll be the headline: "Alexander a monster" so I'll say that he plays much more aggressive that most 18 year olds. Self said he's been recruiting Alexander since 9th grade and can remember seeing him run for conditioning in the halls of his school during winter months because it was too cold to go outside.
• Self on recruiting: We're really happy, but we're still recruiting. We're off to a good start because we've got two of the Top 10 guys (Alexander and Kelly Oubre) and that's a pretty good start.
• Self on latest poll, where KU is ranked No. 2: If you guys don't tell the guys, they won't know. Unless people are blowing them up on Twitter. How'd we move ahead of Louisville? That doesn't make any sense to me. But I like it.
• Self's Wayman Tisdale memory: Played together one time, didn't know who he was in their first game together, Self had 26 and Tisdale had 2. He remembered thinking, "Yes, I'm going to start getting recruited," but after the game not one coach talked to Self and Tisdale had a line 26 guys long waiting to tell him great game. It was like a receiving line at a wedding reception. It was recently announced that Self will receive the Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award at a banquet in April.
It was just one win and the Jayhawks still are 1-27 in their last 28 Big 12 Conference games, but there was just something about it that gave people the feeling that Saturday's 31-19 victory over West Virginia might have been the turning point for the KU football program.
Several things, actually.
The obvious items include the beginning of the ultra-promising Montell Cozart era, the fact that the Kansas offense finally threw up some legitimate points again and the continued impressive play of the KU defense.
But there are a few less obvious signs out there, too. And one of them slapped me across the face when I found it on my laptop Sunday evening.
According to the guys in Las Vegas, KU's next opponent, Iowa State, opens as a 6-point favorite over the Jayhawks, who will travel to Ames, Iowa, for a 7 p.m. kickoff next Saturday.
No big deal, right? Wrong. That Iowa State team that's favored over Kansas is 1-9 overall and 0-7 in Big 12 play.
Now I'm not saying that the Cyclones being favored is wrong. Believe me, I learned a long time ago that Vegas is a lot better at these kinds of things than I am. But I can't help but think about what a break this is for Charlie Weis and the Jayhawks. I mean, seriously. Could you have asked for anything more for the Jayhawks coming off of last week's emotional win?
Here they are feeling good about themselves, breathing easier and smiling brighter because that horrific 27-game conference losing streak is over, and, BOOM!, just like that, the odds makers give them an easy reason to put that huge chip back on their shoulders and move forward with the no-respect mentality.
Trust me. These guys don't really care who's favored or what the point spreads are. But I guarantee that being a touchdown underdog against a one-win team will be used as a major motivational tool this week, as the Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6) look to make it two victories in a row for the first time since opening the 2011 season with back-to-back wins and just the second time since 2009.
And I guarantee no one will like that more than Weis. OK, maybe junior linebacker Ben Heeney will come close, but I still think Weis will have more fun with it. Don't expect to hear about it, though.
We get great access to the Kansas University football team following its games on Saturday, but we don't get to go into the locker room. Our interviews take place in the auditorium and lounge at the Anderson Family Football Complex.
Thanks to the folks at KU Athletics, though, we were able to get a peek at the locker room celebration following yesterday's 31-19 victory over West Virginia.
Here's a look:
The Kansas University football team snapped a 27-game losing streak with a 31-19 victory over West Virginia on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Here are a few sights and sounds from the field following the victory, including the fall of the goal posts toward the end of the celebration.
As much as I'd like to think of it as a display of my genius when it comes to picking college football games, it's more likely that it was karma that cost Tom Keegan this week.
A 9-1 week by me and a sub-par 6-4 showing by Keegan evened us up in the overall standings, with three weeks to go.
The karma comes from him posting a photo of me sleeping on our drive to Stillwater, Okla., last weekend. I was only out 30 minutes max and we had gotten only 4 or 5 hours of sleep the night before since we were covering the men's hoops opener late into the night. But, still, as I nodded off for the power nap I needed, Nick Krug and Keegan pulled their shenanigans and posted a picture of me, lights out, on both Twitter and Facebook.
Nothing wrong with the photo, of course. And, to be honest, it was pretty funny. But karma came through for me and now it's anybody's ball game as we head down the stretch.
Here's a look at this week's picks, where one of us was bold enough to pick the Jayhawks.
Tait: 9-1 in Week 9; 68-22 overall
Keegan: 6-4 in Week 9; 68-22 overall
WEEK 10 GAMES
Kansas vs. West Virginia
Iowa State at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State at Texas
TCU at Kansas State
Texas Tech at Baylor
Stanford at USC
Georgia at Auburn
Florida at South Carolina
Michigan State at Nebraska
Miami (FL) at Duke
Question: Who wins this Sunday — the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs or the 8-1 Denver Broncos?
Kansas 24, West Virginia 21
Oklahoma 30, Iowa State 13
Oklahoma State 31, Texas 27
Kansas State 35, TCU 17
Baylor 42, Texas Tech 24
Stanford 27, USC 20
Georgia 27, Auburn 23
South Carolina 23, Florida 21
Nebraska 26, Michigan State 24
Duke 27, Miami (FL) 20
Answer: Let's put it this way, if Peyton Manning's injured ankle was not in play, I'd pick the Broncos to blow the Chiefs out 38-13. But since it is, I'm going to go Broncos 35, Chiefs 19.
West Virginia 21, Kansas 20
Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 7
Oklahoma State 31, Texas 28
Kansas State 28, TCU 17
Baylor 44, Texas Tech 24
Stanford 24, USC 21
Auburn 35, Georgia 31
South Carolina 24, Florida 20
Michigan State 21, Nebraska 20
Miami 35, Duke 31
Answer: The Broncos' KU football connection will put them over the top against the Chiefs. I'm not 100 percent sure about this, but I think Broncos QB/OC Petyon Manning is the NFL's first player-coach since Tom Landry served as defensive back and defensive coordinator for the New York Giants nearly 60 years ago when Vince Lombardi was the defensive coordinator. Landry wore a helmet when he first started coaching, but switched to a fedora. The hat choice always looked more natural and fit better on Landry than on Lombardi. Fedora factories — or should we call them haberdasheries? — would have done well to sneak President John F. Kennedy a big wad of cash under the table to wear a fedora. The prez did not like wearing hats and when he was seen not wearing them, many others realized it was OK to stop wearing fedoras and they went out of stye. Now they're not customary, but are worn by some hipsters, perhaps because Johnny Depp has been known to wear them. Anyway, I digress. Back to JFK. I never believed any of the conspiracy theories and especially after watching a documentary with the late Peter Jennings serving as host, believed Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. But after watching JFK: The Smoking Gun on ReelzChannel, I'm not so sure. It's based on Bonar Menninger's book, "Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK," which highlights the research of a Howard Donahue, who theorized that a secret service agent in the car behind JFK's, after hearing Oswald's shot, picked up a rifle, turned toward the depository and accidentally clipped off a shot that killed our most charismatic president. The documentary is definitely worth a watch. Let me know what you think. What was the question again?
Moments ago, Cliff Alexander, the No. 4-ranked recruit in the Class of 2014, announced that he would play his college ball at Kansas University, giving the Jayhawks the fourth and 12th-ranked (Kelly Oubre) prospects in the class.
Alexander, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward from Chicago's Curie High, chose Kansas over Illinois, DePaul and Memphis. He has been compared, by some, to former Jayhawk Thomas Robinson, and, averaged 21.3 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks per game as a junior.
I haven't watched a ton of film on him yet, but I have checked it out and it looks, to me, like he's not quite as explosive as T-Rob but definitely is as powerful.
I'm sure with the development he'll get at KU and from working with Andrea Hudy, his explosiveness will take off and, when you combine that with his raw size and power, you're looking at a player who could make a major impact in a hurry.
One thing I noticed on film that really stood out was the touch on his jumper. I'm sure he won't be asked to shoot jumpers too often at Kansas, but it's nice to see that the framework is there for them to develop that if needed.
Those of you who have followed this thing throughout probably already know that Alexander's girlfriend (Caelynn Manning-Allen) is on the KU women's basketball team and that he was in town for an official visit just last weekend.
Now that Cliff's officially in the fold, though, I know you guys probably want to know a lot more. So here ya go. Below is a collection of stories and video links regarding the latest prep star from Chicago to pick Kansas.
Alexander instantly fits into any lineup:
Alexander spent last summer working to improve his jumper:
In August, Alexander's AAU coach explained why he liked KU:
Here's DraftExpress.com's player profile on Alexander:
Alexander workout video:
Alexander breaks backboard at age 16:
This one's called “Beware of Cliff Alexander:
This one calls Cliff Alexander the class' most powerful dunker:
There's been a lot of message board chatter lately about KU football coach Charlie Weis' contract — how much money he makes, how much he's worth and how much KU would owe him if the two sides chose to part ways before reaching the end of his contract, which runs through 2016.
Before I go any further, let me say that moving forward without Weis, in my opinion, is a bad idea for the program. Beyond that, I can't see it happening. He hasn't even made it through two seasons yet and, although the offense has left something to be desired, progress has been made in many areas — defense, special teams, off the field, etc. Moving forward without Weis starts the process all over again and keeps Kansas from building any kind of upward momentum. Give the guy a chance to tweak things this coming offseason, whether that means installing a new system, hiring an offensive coordinator, bringing in some new faces or all of the above, and see if Year 3 (the year many inside the program have been pointing to all along anyway) can be the year when things start to turn around.
OK. Now back the salary talk.
Weis came to Kansas with a $2.5 million price tag for three reasons: 1. His NFL pedigree and strong reputation. 2. Some savvy negotiating. 3. The debacle that was Lew Perkins' hire of Turner Gill.
Think about it. If Perkins had merely doubled Gill's Buffalo salary ($450,000), KU could have gotten away with paying Gill right around $1 million per year. He still would've come, because the opportunity to coach in the Big 12 is not offered up every day, and more than doubling his salary to the six-figure range surely would've sounded plenty sweet.
Had that happened, not only would KU have saved a boat load of money — Gill would've earned $2 million instead of $4.2 and been bought out for $3 million more instead of hauling in a final sum of $6 million to go away — but the bar also would have been substantially lower for the next coach, be it Weis or whomever.
At that point, the negotiation could have started with a much smaller number, say with KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger offering Weis in the $1.3-$1.5 million a year range and perhaps the two sides would've settled at or just under $2 million a year instead of $2.5 million.
For a program desperately wanting to move forward with plans to upgrade and renovate its football stadium, any kind of savings would be gold, especially when such a domino effect would've (or at least could've) saved Kansas close to $7.5 million during that time.
(This might be a good spot to set the record straight and remind you that neither Gill nor Mark Mangino are still being paid by Kansas)
This is not intended to be a knock on Zenger or Weis or Gill or even Perkins. Each man did what he thought he had to do and, beyond that, what's done is done.
One of the more interesting things about the whole situation, though, is that even those who believe Weis makes too much dough for what he's done at Kansas so far (personally, I think the man deserves the full five years to prove his worth) might be surprised to learn that he still ranks just seventh in the Big 12. Given his incredible season and recent contract extension dished out to Baylor coach Art Briles, along with the strong first-year showing from Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, Weis may soon fall to ninth.
Call me crazy, but I don't think paying your head football coach the ninth highest salary in a 10-team league is unreasonable.
Remember, we now live in the age of football-driven conference realignment and, if anything, I would think that athletic directors everywhere would darn sure want their football coaches to be paid in the top half of their leagues.
Just last week, USA Today released its collection of the salary numbers for college football coaches across the country, and it revealed that Weis' $2.5 million annual haul ranks 31st nationally.
The whole thing is relative and each university faces its own unique set of circumstances that determine how — and even why — coaches are paid what they're paid.
Perkins paid Gill what he wanted the job to be worth instead of paying Gill what he deserved, and that one move forever changed the KU football salary structure.
Regardless of how things wind up with Weis, whether he wins and goes on to make more money or loses and is eventually replaced, KU is going to have to spend money to get better and spend even more to stay there.
That's a given. And, in many ways, it makes the actual figures irrelevant. The only real question is how long will it all take?
BIG 12 COACHING SALARIES:
1.Mack Brown, Texas --- $5.45 million per year (2nd nationally)
2.Bob Stoops, Oklahoma --- $4.77 million per year (5th)
3.Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State --- $3.45 million per year (11th)
4.Gary Patterson, TCU --- $3.12 million per year (16th)
5.Bill Snyder, Kansas State --- $2.80 million per year (19th)
6.Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia --- $2.63 million per year (24th)
7.Charlie Weis, Kansas --- $2.50 million per year (31st)
8.Art Briles, Baylor --- $2.43 million per year (34th)***
9.Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech --- $1.86 million per year (53rd)
10.Paul Rhoads, Iowa State --- $1.71 million per year (59th)
*** Briles' extension, which was announced Wednesday and will run through 2023, will vault him into third place on this list, at right around $4 million per season.
I'm sure our own Gary Bedore is all over this and will have more throughout the week, but since he's in his hometown of Chicago getting ready for tomorrow night's KU-Duke game, I figured I'd post this quickly so you guys were in the loop.
It looks like Friday will be a huge day for KU basketball recruiting, as three of the top prospects in the Class of 2014 reportedly will be announcing their decisions at 3 p.m.
They are Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander. KU is in the running for all three of them and each made a visit to KU's campus at some point during the process, with Alexander being the most recent to hit Lawrence, as he was here this past weekend.
The announcements will take place at their respective high schools and, as always, we'll have all kinds of coverage and reaction right here at KUsports.com when the deals go down.
It's hard to say exactly what will happen here. Okafor and Jones have spoken often of wanting to play college ball together and Alexander's as talented as anyone, but it's hard to imagine all three of them will pick the same school. Then again, you never know. And the timing of their announcements — same time, same day — certainly adds to the intrigue around their decisions.
Okafor, a 6-10, 270-pound center from Whitney Young High in Chicago, is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the class. Jones, a 6-1, 171-pound point guard from Apple Valley (MN) High is ranked fifth and the potential packaged deal represent two of KU's top targets.
Alexander, a 6-8, 240-pound forward from Chicago's Curie High, is ranked 4th in the class and has a final five of Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State, DePaul and Memphis.
Okafor's final four is believed to be Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky, while Duke, Kansas and several others are in on Jones, as well.
All three are five-star prospects.
When it became clear during the offseason that junior-college transfer Chris Martin would not be around this fall to intimidate offenses, wreak havoc off the edge of the defensive line and give the Kansas University football team its first true pass rushing threat with double-digit sack potential, the focus shifted to fellow juco transfer Andrew Bolton.
No one really talked about Michael Reynolds.
And maybe that was a good thing. See, for years, we've talked about Reynolds as a natural pass rusher and called him one of the Jayhawks with the most potential, but during his first three seasons in Lawrence — the Wichita native red-shirted in 2010 — he didn't show much more than potential.
That isn't the case any more. With Martin gone and Bolton red-shirting while overcoming an injury, Reynolds has stepped into an important role for the Kansas defense and currently finds himself leading the team in sacks with 5.5.
The number is not one that will set the college football world on fire, but it's significant around here. And it's significant for a couple of reasons. For one, Kansas, as a team, managed just 12 sacks all of 2012. For two, it validates all of that talk about Reynolds being the kind of guy who could make a difference for a defense.
The pass-rush specialist did just that during KU's 42-6 loss at Oklahoma State last Saturday. His effort did not do much to keep KU in the game, but it did allow a pretty solid season to keep rolling. And it's indicative of what this whole defense is about right now — great effort, legitimate improvement, not much to show for it.
Reynolds' sack of OSU quarterback Clint Chelf in the third quarter gave him a sack in four of KU's past five games. During the rest of the game, Reynolds added another tackle, recorded a career-high two pass break-ups and consistently got close enough to Chelf to make him get rid of the ball just a tick earlier than he probably would have liked. That was reflected in his 19-of-37 passing numbers, which included several balls thrown prematurely that either missed the mark or were dropped by wide receivers not quite ready for them.
Like Ben Heeney finishing third in the Big 12 in tackles in 2012, Reynolds' strong season likely will be overlooked, perhaps even forgotten, because of all of the losing. And there's no doubt that Reynolds and the rest of the guys in that KU locker room would trade any and all of their individual statistics for a couple more tallies in the win column.
Until those start to come, though, efforts like the most recent one from the emerging Reynolds are all the Jayhawks have to celebrate.
Three games left to change that.
For the sixth consecutive week, the Kansas football team is facing an opponent that prefers up-tempo football as its offensive attack of choice.
Oklahoma State, which enters the game ranked 14th in the country with a 7-1 record (4-1 in Big 12 play), has averaged 77 plays per game and run most of them at rapid-fire pace.
By now, the fast flow is nothing new for the KU defense or for de facto defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, who has a ton of experience facing these types of attack, both from his days in the Big 12 and elsewhere.
“If they got in a huddle, that may be confusing,” Bowen joked. “That's the reality of where we're at in the Big 12.”
While the Cowboys like to go fast like the rest of the Big 12's offenses, they are more balanced than most and are a threat to run as often as they throw.
“It does kind of fit the mold of what we've seen, which, week in and week out in the conference is about the same,” Bowen said. “They've all kind of put their little twists on it, and they all use tempo to their advantage.”
For the Jayhawks, tempo has not necessarily been an issue this season. In the 54-16 loss to Texas Tech in October, it was the volume of plays (100), not necessarily the pace that put KU's defense in a bind. And, a couple of weeks ago against Baylor, the Jayhawks simply ran into a buzz saw and, believe it or not, actually held the Bears to around or below their offensive averages.
Asked to explain the pressure that up-tempo offenses put on defenses, Bowen went into detail about the alignment, the snap and the mismatches that come with the quick pace. But one of the biggest issues Bowen said defenses face is the fake counts. Think Peyton Manning invades college football.
“If they're going to sprint to the ball, at that point in time when the QB's up there selling it, you have to be aligned and ready to play in what you're gonna play.” Bowen said. “When they're going fast and they give the fake count, their eyes in the sky get to see exactly what you were going to do on that snap. Now, of course we have our counters to when they catch us there and we change the call and do some things and we've had a lot of success playing the cat and mouse game with 'em.”
Occasionally, though, the ruse works and the offenses are able to audible and catch KU (as well as others) in a bad spot. That happened a time or two in the recent loss to Texas.
“Last week (at UT), it was virtually every snap,” Bowen said. “They were leaning heavily on it.”
All in all, though, Bowen and the KU coaching staff have been pleased with the Jayhawks' progress in handling the tempo, something which the KU defense struggled with mightily during the past three seasons.
“Tempo hasn't been an issue in our games,” Bowen said. “I believe in the system that we've put into place to handle tempo and I think our kids have a very good understanding of it.”
Great. Keegan picked up another game on me in the standings and now I've gotta endure this 4-plus hour drive to Stillwater, Okla., with him talking about it the entire way.
Maybe I can get Nick Krug to man the radio and tune him out from time to time.
Tom's lead grows to three games — a huge margin based on how tight we've kept it so far — and, with three games different this week, we either will tighten up or see a bigger gap develop.
Although we've picked a few different, we're once again in agreement on the Kansas outcome, as we both have the Jayhawks losing but also covering the spread during today's 3 p.m. kickoff against Oklahoma State.
Here's a look at the rest of our picks:
Tait: 6-4 in Week 8; 59-21 overall
Keegan: 7-3 in Week 8; 62-18 overall
WEEK 9 GAMES
Kansas at Oklahoma State
TCU at Iowa State
Kansas State at Texas Tech
Texas at West Virginia
LSU at Alabama
Arkansas at Mississippi
BYU at Wisconsin
Penn State at Minnesota
Nebraska at Michigan
UCLA at Arizona
Question: Because we were robbed and did not get to pick the Baylor-Oklahoma game this week on Thursday night, it's time to go with a related question: What's the best college football offense you can remember?
Oklahoma State 42, Kansas 17
TCU 27, Iowa State 17
Texas Tech 38, Kansas State 28
Texas 31, West Virginia 19
Alabama 30, LSU 20
Mississippi 33, Arkansas 24
Wisconsin 28, BYU 27
Minnesota 30, Penn State 24
Nebraska 35, Michigan 29
UCLA 33, Arizona 23
Answer: Two words. Charlie Ward. OK, those words probably should be Florida State, but, still, Ward was the guy that made the Seminoles go. The 1993 Heisman Trohpy winner was fantastic in leading FSU's high-powered attack, the kind that would run over you and run by you all at the same time. Ward's Heisman victory was the second biggest in history — not bad for a future NBA point guard — and, although his team did not put up college football's most points or yards or any of those things, they are the first offense about which I remember thinking, 'Man, it must be flat-out scary to play against them.' I should note here that, if this year's Baylor team were in the running, I'd easily pick them for this answer. What a machine.
Oklahoma State 35, Kansas 14
Iowa State 17, TCU 14
Texas Tech 31, Kansas State 24
Texas 38, West Virginia 21
Alabama 24, LSU 20
Mississippi 28, Arkansas 27
Wisconsin 28, BYU 17
Penn State 24, Minnesota 21
Michigan 28,Nebraska 20
UCLA 31, Arizona 30
Answer: My memory isn't what it used to be, but images are flashing into my head and maybe as they keep flashing, I'll remember the school, the players' names, the year. A short guy, not all that fast, but he's running all over the field and nobody can seem to catch him. Did he have 30 eyes that enabled him to see everything in every direction? It seemed that way. Or maybe he felt the earth moving and knew that meant defenders were on his way. Somehow, no matter how many bigger men surrounded him, he kept his eyes downfield, extending the play with is feet, waiting to see one of his receivers break open. What was his name? I see a No. 5 on his jersey. I see him throwing to No. 10, one play, to No. 80 the next. The uniforms were blue or white and there was a little red trim on them. There were two letters on the sides of the helmets. But I see the color orange as well. Not on their uniforms, but where? In a bowl, yes, in a crystal bowl held by a mustachioed smiling coach. I'm sorry. I just can't come up with the name of the school, the players, the coach, the year. But I see everything else so clearly.
Not sure why it jumped out to me, but the section on Page 6 of the weekly KU football game notes really caught my eye this week.
Maybe, like many of you, I was curious if the black-and-white numbers would offer any better proof of the progress that's been made with KU football. Either way, I kept staring.
At first, I did a quick scan for all of the good numbers, teens, 20s, single digits. Believe it or not, there were a decent number of those. Then, because I always strive to be fair and balanced, I figured I'd look at the more damning numbers, high 80s, high 90s, triple digits. Not surprisingly, there were a fair number of those, as well.
Anyway, since it caught my eye, I started Tweeting out a few of the highlights. You can find those in the Tweetcap below. I've also attached a photo of the actual notes in case you want to check out the rankings in their entirety.
It's broken down, from left to right, by category, NCAA ranking, Big 12 ranking and then the stat.
Enjoy. Here's the rest of the Tweetcap from the past couple of days:
Got sucked into national #KUfball rankings… A few more: 1st, the good: 16th in net punting; 30th in INTs, 16th in punt return, 56th in TFL
A couple more positives: 68th in red zone D, 42nd in punt return D, 44th in team pass efficiency D, 30th in turnover margin… #KUfball
Now a few bummers… 115th in 3rd-down conversions, 116th in completion %, 120th in 1st downs, 111th in pass O, 118th in total O #Kufball
Couple more: 106th in blocked kicks allowed, 98th in sacks allowed, 112th in red zone O, 114th in scoring O, 113th in TFL allowed #KUfball
More accolades roll in for former #KUfball RB Jon Cornish, who was named a CFL All-Star today. He's also in running for POY and Canadian POY
Long travel day forced us to miss last week, but the Friday Game Prep #KUfball chat is back. Noon tomorrow. Be there. http://ljw.bz/17QadEm
Broncos or not, #KUfball fans have to like this: Chris Harris now has his own official web site & it's pretty cool: http://ljw.bz/1baN1RV
Now for a few positive #KUfball stats: 2nd nationally in blocked punts, 4th in 4th-down D, 17th in fumbles recovered & 21st in TOs gained…
More bad news for #KUfball… Oklahoma State's defense, which ranks 5th overall in the Big 12, is 1st against the run & 8th against the pass.
Bad news for #KUfball… The Jayhawks' worst quarter has been Oklahoma State's best. OSU has outscored opponents 86-17 in the 3Q this season
In case you haven't seen it, former #KUfball safety Bradley McDougald was waived by Kansas City this week & has been picked up by Tampa Bay.
This week's changes on the Kansas University football offensive line — the first such tweaks to the starting lineup in a month — were designed with the idea of putting more physical players on the field.
Damon Martin, a third-year sophomore, and Riley Spencer, a fifth-year senior, will take over for Mike Smithburg and Pat Lewandowski and right guard and left tackle, respectively, and, in doing so, will bring two of KU's strongest, biggest men back to the field.
Both have played in back-up roles throughout the season, but KU coach Charlie Weis said this week that it was time for them to take a bigger role because it's time for the Jayhawks to match the physicality of their opponents for more than just spurts.
Spencer's a guy who's been around for a while and been through a ton of injuries. Had he not gone down the injury path, I think he would've been a stud. His raw size has always blown my mind and he was an elite athlete in high school.
Here's what Weis had to say about Spencer, when asked on Tuesday:
"He's had both knees done, he walks around like me. But, what he is is a big man that is very physical. He's a big, physical guy. He has some limitations because of all the surgeries that he's had, but big and physical and tough, he's all of those things. You have to understand the limitations of your players and know what you're getting. Well, I know what we're getting even in the plays that he played in last week, a bigger body and more physical presence."
Moments later, Weis echoed similar thoughts about Martin, who is perhaps the one guy of all of KU's linemen with the most untapped potential. He's still young, so there's time for him to develop yet. But it sure seems that these last four games of 2013 could go a long way toward determining whether Martin is going to be the man during his final two years at KU or just another guy.
Here are Weis' comments about Martin from earlier this week:
"Damon is a physical, physical presence. One of the strongest guys we have. His issue never has been whether or not he can play. His issue has always been one of consistency. Actually, if he wasn't playing more consistent, then he wouldn't be listed as first."
From the sound of it, the move to throw these two guys into the starting five — along side Ngalu Fusimalohi (LG), Gavin Howard (C) and Aslam Sterling (RT) — was as much because of their improvement and steady play of late as it was Weis needing to find new options.
Smithburg and Lewandowski both have had good moments this year. But one is playing Div. I football for the first time and the other is playing on the offensive line for the first time. It only makes sense that they would not be polished machines right away.
Time will tell if Spencer and Martin are ready to close the season as staters, but, I think it's a safe bet that if they show up this weekend at Oklahoma State, they'll be in there the rest of the way.
Remember, continuity and chemistry are keys at this position and KU has not had much luck with either throughout 2013. That leads to penalties, breakdowns and uncertainty from the quarterback and running backs.
There are plenty of areas in which this offense could improve, but if the line can finally click, I think the rest will fall into place around it.
Following his team's exhibition victory over Fort Hays State on Tuesday night, Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self told reporters he was leaning toward not red-shirting anyone during the upcoming season.
Although this comes as a bit of a surprise given KU's incredible depth and the lack of minutes available for so many talented players, it also makes sense in a lot of ways and is exactly in line with what our own Tom Keegan predicted a little more than a week ago.
Entering the season, Andrew White III, Conner Frankamp and possibly Brannen Greene were the most likely candidates to take a red-shirt this season. But White improved a ton and worked his way into the rotation and Greene and Frankamp both offer the ability to stretch defenses with their deep range and killer shooting stroke.
If it's me making the decisions (and aren't you glad it's not), I'd still give a long look at red-shirting Frankamp, who will be a four-year guy anyway and could stand to have a year devoted to getting bigger, stronger and faster without having to worry about performing on the floor.
Having said that, the idea of red-shirting Frankamp was made tougher by the one-game suspension handed out to starting point guard Naadir Tharpe, who will miss Friday's game against Louisiana-Monroe. Frank Mason, who looked great on Tuesday, will start in Tharpe's place, but, behind that, there's no clear back-up point guard, which is where Frankamp comes in. He seems like the best option there and handled some of that role on Tuesday.
But, what if Self wants to hold Frankamp out of Friday's game just to keep the red-shirt option alive. Could he do it? And how?
There's no question he could, and a big part of the how comes from KU getting a huge lead early and riding it out from there.
I have no doubt that Mason could play 35 minutes if he needed to. So why not let him run wild for 20 minutes and see if that allows KU to build a big halftime lead. If it does, then Mason can get his rest in the second half (maybe even sitting as many as 10 minutes) and KU can go to the point-guard-by-committee approach when Mason's not on the floor.
Self has said that Wayne Selden could be an emergency point guard for this team, but the Jayhawks have a few other guys capable of bringing the ball up the floor and getting the offense going, as well.
Andrew Wiggins certainly is one. Brannen Greene is another. And I even think that Perry Ellis could do it if the Jayhawks got into a bind. (Seriously, what can't Ellis do!?!) During last year's NCAA Tournament, I remember talking to Ellis and his teammates about the prospects of him handling the ball more just in case the Jayhawks ran into VCU and their crazy pressure defense. There wasn't a guy in that locker room who thought Perry operating as a point forward was a bad idea. And I think giving him more of a role in that capacity would be good for his development and prospects beyond college ball.
We'll see how everything plays out on Friday and beyond. If I'm a betting man, I'm guessing that Frankamp will play. But if Self wants to keep the option of red-shirting the Wichita native open, he has options, at least in a one-game scenario.
Gotta love all that depth.
Say what you want about Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps' season, skills and struggles as KU's quarterback. But don't question the guy's toughness.
Playing — or is it praying? — behind on offensive that has struggled to keep Heaps' uniform clean all season and given up free paths to pound town, Heaps has stood in there and taken some monster hits. More important than his ability to take them, though, has been his ability to keep getting up.
With each week and each bone-crushing hit, Heaps has taken a little longer and a little longer to get back to his feet. Never was that more evident than during last weekend's 35-13 loss to Texas in Austin, when Heaps saw some of the biggest smacks sent his way all season.
The two that come to mind first were the game-changer in which Heaps, swallowed up by a sea of Texas defenders, coughed up the football and watched UT turn the fumble into seven points, and an all-out blitz in which Texas sent one more pass rusher than KU could block and made Heaps pay for it.
“The strip-sack wasn't as bad as the one he took off the right side,” KU coach Charlie Weis said of the two hits. “Their Sam linebacker was hitting him straight in the face as he was getting ready to throw the ball. That hurt me and I was watching. I wasn't even the one taking the hit.”
Heaps admitted after the loss that he was as sore as he could remember being after a game, and who could blame him? It's surely not just the physical pain that hurts. KU's inability to block defenders — be it in the running game or pass protection — has crippled this offense throughout the season and led to as much mental and emotional pain as any of the beatings Heaps has taken.
Don't get me wrong; Heaps has struggled, too. His celebrated accuracy has taken a turn south, his lack of feel in the pocket — which I think may be a result of him hoping so badly that plays will develop that he does not get the heck out of there when he should — has led to far too many sacks and stalled drives and the offense, to which he holds the keys, has averaged just 17 points per game and scored in the teens for seven consecutive weeks.
If there's one positive sign in all of the ugliness, it's that Heaps' past two games have been two of his best. I thought he was solid in the opener, decent in the Rice game and then bad in the games that followed. But against Baylor and Texas, despite the lopsided scores, Heaps looked better.
“For the most part, when the game was under control, I thought the passing game was fairly efficient,” he said after Saturday's loss.
Heaps finished the UT game 11-of-21 for 160 yards but, for the second game in a row did not throw an interception, and also showed improving chemistry with and confidence in junior Rodriguez Coleman down the field. In his last two games, Heaps is 18-of-40 for 245 yards, one touchdown and no picks. Now, I admit that those were the types of numbers I expected to see from Heaps and Weis' offense each game, but, hey, since we have to deal in reality, those numbers do represent progress, even if that doesn't mean much.
I know KU fans aren't interested in moral victories any longer. And who could blame them? But saying that Heaps deserves some love instead of the hate or that the guy should be given credit for battling week after week, series after series despite getting battered play after play does not sound, to me, like moral-victory chatter. It sounds like the humane thing to do.
Heaps is a big part of this Kansas offense and he will continue to be for the Jayhawks' four remaining games — games, by the way, which he said KU needed to win to become bowl eligible. See. Still fighting. And instead of laughing at the guy for even bringing up the words “bowl game” during a season as woeful as this, I'd think fans would appreciate that the guy has not been knocked out yet. He's still believing, still trying to get things figured out.
Who knows if Jake will be the quarterback next season? That hardly matters right now. What does matter is that the guy is taking a beating every week all in the name of doing all he can to help KU football get out of the mud.
Maybe he's just grinding his gears. Maybe it's a crane and not a quarterback that the team needs to get out of this mess. But give the guy credit for trying. And give him an Advil or two for the pain.
For just the second time in our teacher vs. pupil challenge, we saw a perfect week during Week 7. And for the second time that prediction perfection belonged to Tom Keegan.
I know. Troubling. And I'm pretty sure that does not just go for me, it's probably true for the dozens of people on our plane down to Austin, Texas, who Tom told about his big week, too.
Oh well. Perfect is pretty so we'll give the guy all the time he wants to enjoy it.
After a rough Week 6, we both enjoyed bounce-back weeks in Week 7, but Keegan's zero-miss effort moved him into a two-game lead. With only one game different this week — Keegan picked Michigan State and I picked Michigan — Tom is guaranteed to hang onto that lead for at least another week.
At this point, I'm just hoping he doesn't add to it.
Here's a look at the rest of this week's picks, including similar scores in a Texas victory over Kansas.
Tait: 8-2 in Week 7; 53-17 overall
Keegan: 10-0 in Week 7; 55-15 overall
Week 8 Games:
Kansas at Texas
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Iowa State at Kansas State
West Virginia at TCU
Miami at Florida State
Michigan at Michigan State
Mississippi State at South Carolina
Navy at Notre Dame
Wisconsin at Iowa
Georgia at Florida
Question: Now that the weather is starting to turn cooler and more resemble "football weather" what's your best weather-related football memory, be it as a participant, fan, reporter, whatever?
Texas 38, Kansas 20
Texas Tech 42, Oklahoma State 33
Kansas State 35, Iowa State 19
TCU 24, West Virginia 20
Florida State 41, Miami 24
Michigan 27, Michigan State 23
South Carolina 30, Mississippi State 20
Notre Dame 33, Navy 23
Wisconsin 31, Iowa 17
Florida 33, Georgia 31
Answer: Although I have covered a bunch of great games in cold weather and been to plenty as a fan, the answer to this question is easy. The year was 1995, the fall of my senior year of high school, and with Lawrence High en route to another state football championship, one of the only major hurdles that remained was powerful Olathe North. North already had beaten LHS earlier in the season and had started to lay the groundwork for its incredible run of state titles that followed years of Lawrence High dominance. Now would be a good time to point out that I didn't play football in high school, but on this night I did. In the snow. While wearing shorts. Without using an actual ball. Stone sober, too. Anyway, hours before my buddies who were on the team showed up and knocked off the Eagles 32-7, me and those of us who weren't playing showed up for a little game of fake football on the snow-covered Haskell Stadium turf. We ran plays, made blocks, called penalties and even ran a dive play from the 1 yard line to win the game, which lasted so long that the O-North players actually waited for us to finish before they took the field for warm-ups. The shorts were worn (by a few of us) in honor of LHS assistant coach Jerry Skakal, who always wore shorts no matter what the weather conditions brought. The fake game was played because we were too young to know any better and plenty dumb enough to go through with it. What a good time, though. Thank goodness we won.
Texas 35, Kansas 17
Texas Tech 34, Oklahoma State 31
Kansas State 28, Iowa State 24
TCU 24, West Virginia 17
Florida State 38, Miami 21
Michigan State 24, Michigan 21
South Carolina 31, Mississippi State 10
Notre Dame 35, Navy 34
Wisconsin 20, Iowa 10
Florida 17, Georgia 14
Answer: Since nobody wants to hear about me wearing a No. 5 jersey in my back yard, scrambling in the snow, avoiding would-be two-hand-touchers, keeping my eyes downfield the entire time, extending the play so that one of my two super-fast brothers (six boys, four girls in my family) could spring open, and then putting it right over his shoulder and softly into his hands, a good 10, 12 yards from where I threw it and watching him go …. all …. the …. way, I won't bore anybody with that story. So, my favorite weather-related memory has the snow falling at Arrowhead Stadium. Todd Reesing, looking like a certain No. 5 from a certain back yard some 40 years earlier, side-steps pressure and long after the play had broken, Kerry Meier breaks open, Reesing lofts a perfect touch pass to him and as Bob Davis put it, "TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN!" The No. 5 jersey worn in Rochester, N.Y. had Notre Dame on it back when Terry Hanratty was the quarterback. Reesing's said Kansas. Other than that, only the sharpest of football eyes would be able to differentiate the quarterbacks.
Runner-up: The year was 1970, the Los Angeles rain turned the field into a mess and Joe Theismann, trying to rally heavily favored and undefeated Notre Dame to victory, threw for 526 yards. But eight turnovers — four interceptions and four fumbles — undermined the Fighting Irish, who lost to the Trojans, 38-28. Fortunately, given the conditions, I watched this one from the comfort of the tiny den where we used to cramp as many as 10 people to watch games. Monte the Milkman sometimes joined us and occasionally ate one of our dog's milkbones, just to watch our jaws drop. But I digress. What was the question again?
The NCAA on Wednesday adopted and released the details of five new football rules pertaining to offseason recruiting and coaches' access to players during the summer.
According to a news release, the rules are effective immediately and, at a program like Kansas which is in the middle of a rebuilding project, may have an immediate impact.
The new rules include:
• 1 • Allowing football players to participate in eight hours per week of required weight training and conditioning during the summer. Up to two of the eight hours can consist of film review.
• 2 • Prohibiting school staff members from attending all-star games or activities associated with those games, which prohibits in-person contact by coaches from the time an athlete arrives at such an event until the time they return home.
• 3 • Establishing an extended dead period when no in-person recruiting can take place in December and January. For 2013-14, Dec. 16 through Jan. 15 is now a dead period.
• 4 • Establishing a 14-day dead period in late June and early July for FBS schools.
• 5 • Allowing schools to pay for meals for up to four family members who accompany a recruit on an official visit. Previously, schools were allowed to pay for meals for the recruit, his parents/legal guardians and spouse or children but not siblings or other family members.
Here's a quick look at how these rules may affect KU:
Rule No. 1 certainly will not hurt anyone and could actually stand to help a program like Kansas, which would benefit from as much time as possible for player development of its athletes — new and old — in the ongoing effort to close the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12.
Rule No. 2 takes away a valuable recruiting tool because coaches often benefit, in terms of relationships, from supporting athletes at all-star games and, oh so rarely, can stumble upon unknown talent at such events.
Rule No. 3 is the biggest blow to the current KU program — and those like it — because if a team does not make a bowl and therefore is not practicing during the new dead period (Dec. 16 through Jan. 15) it no longer can make up time on the recruiting trail while bowl teams are busy practicing. In addition, it severely limits the role Allen Fieldhouse can and does play in football recruiting.
Rule No. 4 hurts Kansas a little because very few head coaches are as actively involved in going out on the road to recruit as Charlie Weis is and this takes away a two-week advantage he had on several coaches.
And Rule No. 5 is one that can only help recruiting because it will make life easier on several prospects and encourage more family members to join athletes on visits, which gives coaches more people to connect with.
None of these (aside from No. 3) are earth-shattering for college football but they will create a period of adjustment, as is the case with most rule changes.
Weis and his staff already work meticulously to maximize every minute of allowed recruiting time and, no doubt, will continue to do so. But functioning under the new rules will require even more organization, focus and strategy, all of which appear to be strengths of the KU coaches on the recruiting trail.
Between the morning Big 12 coaches teleconference and KU football coach Charlie Weis' “Hawk Talk” radio show at night, Monday's usually a pretty big Twitter day for me.
In the second installment of my new Tweetcap feature, here's a look back at some of the highlights of a busy Monday, which included a look back at KU's loss to Baylor and a look ahead to KU's match-up with Texas this week in Austin.
Here it is, in reverse chronological order:
Weis said he senses that all the #KUfball guys from Texas are fired up for this week's chance to play at UT…
Weis: KU will leave for Austin earlier than normal Fri. Doing walk-thru @ UT instead of at KU… Trying anything to come out sharp. #KUfball
Weis has respect for Mack Brown: He's a good coach and a good man. But he was a good coach & man last year when tried to beat him… #KUfball
Weis was asked when Pierson might be OK: We just don't know. He practiced all week last week & we thought he was good… #KUfball
Weis said LB Ben Heeney is better & has a chance to play this week… Holding him out was a game time decision vs. Baylor. #KUfball
Weis on punter Trevor Pardula, who averaged 47+ yards on 11 punts vs. Baylor: He bounced back nicely from the Oklahoma game… #KUfball
Weis on Josh Ford injury: Got hurt in practice last week during a special teams drill and that's why he missed the Baylor game… #KUfball
Weis on RB/WR Brandon Bourbon: The fact that he's become more versatile has allowed us to get him more involved this year… #KUfball
Weis said guys like Keba Agostinho & Kevin Young are two of the guys playing the best right now b/c of pride & experience… #KUfball
Weis on WR Rodriguez Coleman: We've been waiting for him to break out. Made a couple plays last wk & he'll get more opps this wk... #KUfball
Weis: Jake (Heaps) has a very high ceiling and I don't think we've come close to tapping the ceiling on how good he can be… #KUfball
Weis said Heaps was much improved vs. Baylor. The reason the 2 QB deal can work is b/c of Heaps' character… #KUfball
Weis: The sky's the limit for Montell. Said he'd like to have Cozart be as big as Holsopple says he can be w/o losing quickness... #KUfball
Weis on Cozart & snaps: He saved us a couple times because a couple of those snaps were high and to the right… #KUfball
Looking over Texas game notes: Big reason for UT's recent turnaround is the O-Line. Horns haven't given up a sack in 9 quarters. #KUfball
Weis said the ideal scenario, unless a guy clearly separates, is that playing them both is the way to go, via the hot hand method… #KUfball
Weis on juggling QBs: We intended to play 'em about half and half in the game. Cozart played a few more than Heaps. #KUfball
Weis opens tonight's Hawk Talk radio show with serious compliments for Baylor, which he says has as dynamic an offense as there is #KUfball
#KUfball at Oklahoma State, Nov. 9 will kick off at 3 pm on Fox Sports 1... KU at Texas set for 2:30 this Saturday.
Weis asked about expectations for this team: We had 2 games get away from us, the rest of the games have been games into the 4th Q. #KUfball
Weis said Texas is rarely out of position and their defensive philosophy is to just let their athletes be athletes… #KUfball
Weis said this year's UT team is a lot better in a lot of areas, even over the beginning of this year. Added it's rather dramatic. #KUfball
Lot of questions about last year's #KUfball-Texas game for Weis this morning…
Weis was asked if he's still counting the days since KU's last Big 12 win. He said once B12 play starts, it's a week-by-week thing. #KUfball
Mack Brown said "Charlie's a great football coach, not a good football coach. And Kansas is really lucky to have him." #KUfball
Typically, these Monday Rewinds are spent looking back at a certain aspect of KU's most recent game that either impacted the outcome, added to a trend or simply was eye-opening enough — good or bad — to merit further discussion.
And while last week's loss to Baylor certainly included a few of those things, I thought I'd take a break from examining the Jayhawks' struggling offense or trying to pinpoint how or why things unfolded the way they did against the Bears. The reason? I want to talk about the Bears themselves.
It's not every day you watch one of the best offenses in college football history. It's not every day that you think the team on the other side of the field might be the best in the country. It's not every day (even if it may be every year in the ultra-tough Big 12) that you walk away from a game thinking to yourself that you might have just watched the national champions play.
But I thought all of those things when I watched Baylor and, to be honest, I'll quietly be rooting for it to happen. The Bears are a great story and are a team full of confident and talented individuals who come together to create one heck of a unit. Sure, running back Lache Seastrunk may be a little outspoken and may have caught people off guard when he said last summer that he was going after the Heisman Trophy. But I like it. And can you blame him? He can clearly back it up. The only problem with Seastrunk's bid to win the Heisman is that Baylor has been up so big so often this entire season that he hasn't logged enough snaps to put up truly ridiculous numbers. If that weren't the case, and if the Bears needed him for four quarters each night, I think he'd have a great shot.
Another guy who should have a great shot but isn't getting talked about much in the conversation is quarterback Bryce Petty. I'm not sure what more you want a guy to do to warrant Heisman chatter. He's deadly accurate, throws for a ton of yards and touchdowns and even can run it a little bit himself. Heck, his 12 incompletions vs. Kansas over the weekend were a season high and even with that his completion percentage still hovered around 65%.
It's not like Baylor isn't getting respect nationally. The Bears are ranked 6th in the latest BCS standings and are finding their way onto all kinds of highlight shows for their insanely entertaining offensive performances week in and week out. But because they've played most of their games at home and have yet to do what they do against a ranked opponent, they're not getting the same kind of love as the Florida States, Oregons and Alabamas.
They should be. And I know that now after seeing them at Memorial Stadium with my own eyes.
The reason for saying all of that — aside from sharing my enormous respect for Baylor's program? I think it's important to remember exactly who Kansas faced last weekend when talking about the Jayhawks and their continued quest toward improvement and that elusive conference victory.
There certainly are areas of this KU team that can and should be criticized, and we've covered those plenty so far throughout this season. But if you're looking to pile on because of the Baylor game, I think you're misguided.
I have no doubts that the Jayhawks worked their butts off all week to get ready and entered Saturday with a solid game plan. Sometimes, the other team is just that good. I mean, did you see the socks that Seastrunk wore? They had lightning on them! And, hey, Baylor's done this to everybody, and likely will continue to do it to everybody the rest of the way.
Rather than dwell on it and use it as more fire for the anti-KU football movement that's out there, I think it's best to burn the film, leave it in the past and move on to the next challenge.
Vegas had the Bears as 35-point favors for a reason, and, outside of KU's locker room, where I'm sure they truly believed they had a shot, last Saturday's outcome was not a huge surprise to anybody.
But I think it's more because Baylor's that good, not because KU is that bad.
With five games remaining in 2013 and a schedule that softens just a little, we'll find out.