Friday, September 6, 2013

Predicting the Jayhawks 2013 Non-Conference Football Games

It was weird to watch the college football season kick off while the Jayhawks started with a bye. This gave them the opportunity to do a little extra scouting on their upcoming opponents and gave me a little more information to help with my prognostication.

Nobody really seems to know what the Jayhawks will put on the field this season, though I tried to predict their offensive and defensive numbers for the season. Now I'm gonna to make predictions on the outcome of the three non-conference games. There is another bye after these games and I'll use that week to predict the rest of the season. Hopefully we'll all know more about the Jayhawks by then.

First up are the University of South Dakota Coyotes. They are an FCS team from the Missouri Valley Conference and their 2012 season was every bit as miserable as the Jayhawks with a 1-10 record. In their first game of 2013, they opened with a 10-7 victory over UC Davis. Of South Dakota's 286 yards, 195 of them came on the ground. Defensively they held UC Davis to 267 yards. It should be noted that UC Davis is also an FCS team so their offense and defense are not the same as that of a Big XII team, even a team as bad as the Jayhawks last season.

It is important for the Jayhawks to have some success in the passing game early so I expect the offense to lean heavily on Jake Heaps arm early. Once they have success in the air, the running game will take over. This is a game the Jayhawks need to win big to build confidence and I believe they will do just that. I'm going to go with a 42-10 Jayhawk victory.

Rice started the Jayhawks 11-game losing streak with a 25-24 win in the 2nd game last season. In the Owls' first game of 2013, they played against Texas A&M and put up more than 500 yards of offense. To me, there is at least a small asterisk to those numbers as half of the A&M defensive starters were suspended for the game. Even with that asterisk, this is an offense that can move the ball and score. If there was a negative, their QB McHarque threw two interceptions.

Many Jayhawk fans have circled this game as a win would be a huge confidence boost. Remember, the Jayhawks last won a road game four years ago and that streak needs to be broken. I just don't have a good feeling about this game. While KU will keep the game close, I have the Owls winning 42-38.

Louisiana Tech last visited Lawrence in the 2nd week of the 2008 season and got shut out 29-0. We need to remember they played a team coming off of a miracle season capped off by an Orange Bowl win. Last season they finished 9-3 including a win in their bowl game. In their first game of 2013, they went to North Carolina State and lost 40-14.

I expect the Jayhawks offense to have good success both in the air and on the ground against the Bulldogs. This could be a breakout game for the defense as they will come out angry after the Rice game and force some turnovers including at least one they will take into the endzone. I'll take the Jayhawks 45-17 in this one.

If I'm on the mark, the Jayhawks will finish the non-conference season 2-1. Let's look at the bright side as that would be double the number of wins they had last season. Should they prove me wrong and get a win against Rice, Jayhawk fans will have good reason for optimism after the last three seasons of miserable football.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Predictions for the Jayhawk Defense in 2013 Football Season

Yesterday I posted my prediction for the Jayhawk offense during the 2013 season and today I'll go over my thoughts on how well the Jayhawks will do in stopping their opponents offense. In the wide open Big XII, this isn't always easy and the Jayhawks haven't been very good at it in the past few seasons. First, let's look at how they've done in the past nine seasons.
Season Yards Against Points Against
2004 334.5 21.4
2005 303.2 22.0
2006 378.1 25.5
2007 317.3 16.4
2008 396.7 28.8
2009 383.2 28.4
2010 427.7 34.4
2011 516.4 43.8
2012 481.8 36.1
As you can see from this table, the numbers have been pretty awful the last three seasons which isn't a surprise given the record of the team. For those looking for a positive, the number of yards surrendered dropped by 35 yards when Charlie Weis and Dave Campo took over. There is also a drop of more than a touchdown per game in points against.

The breakdown of yardage in 2012 was 285.1 through the air and 196 on the ground. Reasons for the porous defense are partly because of the fast-break offenses in the Big XII wearing out the limited number of quality players fielded by the Jayhawks. It also doesn't help when the offense doesn't sustain long drives forcing the defense to spend more time on the field.

With a year of experience against the wild offenses of the Big XII, Dave Campo should be able to better gameplan to at least slow them down. There was also an influx of junior college players, many of whom are found on either the first or second team defense. Not only will the Jayhawks put a superior defensive team on the field, they'll also have capable backups to step in when the starters get tired or injured. And based on yesterday's prediction, I expect the offense to sustain more long drives.

If we look at the three major pieces of the defense, there is improvement in all three areas. One of the biggest holes in the defense last year was on the front line. Returning players have improved and the new players are pushing hard for minutes. I feel this will put a little more pressure on the quarterbacks and stop the runners a little sooner.

Linebackers are also bigger, faster, more improved and with depth. They will be able to track down the runners and better run with the receivers. Lastly is the defensive backfield that was in a tough position last season. No pressure up front left the backs giving a huge cushion on the line of scrimmage. There was also a talent deficit that left the backs unable to stop the pass. With a new scheme and a strong two deep rotation, this area will likely see the most improvement.

I think the passing game will go from the 285.1 yards a game last season to 260. On the ground, the 196 yards a game will drop to 180. That leads to more than 40 yards less a game. While I do expect a greatly improved defense, it is nearly impossible to true stop the Big XII offenses. Even this slight improvement should make a big difference.

Less yardage should also mean fewer points and I again think there will be a touchdown improvement on average. That means 29 points per game. Of course Jayhawk fans hope the defense will be even better.

What do you think the defense will do this season? Post your predictions or comments on mine!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Predictions for the Jayhawk Offense in 2013 Football Season

I am going to try and predict the offensive output, both yardage and points, for the 2013 football season. Before I make my prediction, I think it is important to look at the offensive output for the previous nine seasons.
Season Yards For Points For
2004 314.5 23.8
2005 329.7 22.4
2006 374.1 29.0
2007 479.8 42.8
2008 432.4 33.4
2009 422.4 29.4
2010 296.4 17.1
2011 326.8 22.3
2012 360.3 18.2
In looking at this historical data, you can see the number of yards does not directly relate to the number of points scored. But in the seasons where the yardage was much higher, so were the number of points. Some of this differential can come because the defense is scoring points as those don't add any yardage.

If we break down the yardage from the 2012 season, 148.7 came through the air and 211.7 came on the ground. Fans who suffered through the games know that the passing game was was one of the worst in college football and the running game was above average.

Let's start by breaking down the running game for the 2013 season. All of the running backs have returned and they've added an explosive back from the 2011 season in Darrian Miller. Tony Sims was the workhorse back with an average of 113 yards in the 9 games he played. The power of last season's running game was that the defense knew KU was not a passing threat and the offense was still able to run the ball with success.

I expect the offense to be more balanced this season and so I see a small decrease in the number of yards on the ground. My expectation is 200 yards rushing a game, with fewer rushing attempts. Having multiple backs sharing the load will mean that all of them can be fresher and therefore more successful. A side benefit is that the inevitable injuries will not kill the running game because of the depth at the position.

Last season's failure in the air came from a quarterback hearing footsteps from previous injuries, receivers who were unable to get open and a line that was subpar at pass protection. While this year's linemen don't have the experience found in the trenches last season, I do expect them to be at least equal in terms of pass protection.

Moving Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon to a hybrid position to be utilized much more in the passing game will add two very dangerous targets who can turn a short pass into a long play. Justin McCay will finally see the field after sitting last season and not seeing the field much at Oklahoma. Christian Matthews has been moved away from being a backup quarterback and is practicing full-time as a receiver. Rodriguez Coleman, Tre' Parmalee and Josh Ford provide additional depth.

Jimmay Mundine at Tight End will be targeted if Coach Charlie Weis is able to open the playbook as he desires. The biggest upgrade should come from the quarterback position as Jake Heaps has had a year to learn the offense and get comfortable with most of the receiving corps. He won't be worried about previous injuries like Dayne Crist and he definitely has proven he is capable since he holds many BYU freshman passing records.

All of the upgrades in the passing game should show up with a big increase in passing yards. My prediction is 250 yards a game through the air. Combined with my rushing prediction, that will give a total of 450 yards of offense a game compared to 360.3 yards per game last season. Yes, that is a big jump!

More offense should help the offense score more points. Just as important to scoring is having a kicker capable of hitting field goals and Coach Weis had indicated his confidence in Matthew Wyman out to 50 yards and the possibility of Trevor Pardula for longer tries. I'll predict 31 points per game which is a huge increase from the 18.2 points per game last season.

Tomorrow I'll lay out my defensive predictions for the season and Friday I'll predict the outcome of the three non-conference games. Are you as excited for the upcoming football season as me? What are your predictions for the offense in 2013?

Friday, September 2, 2011

My 2011 Predictions for Jayhawk Football

The 2010 season was a very tough one for Turner Gill and the Kansas Jayhawks. Opening with a loss to North Dakota State provided a horrible start to the season. Blowouts in early Big XII games were just as painful. High notes included a win over then-ranked Georgia Tech and an amazing comeback against Colorado. Games at the end of the conference season weren't as ugly as the early conference blowouts.

Another offseason has passed. Some players left the program and new players arrived. Many of the injured players from last season are back and ready to go. So how will the Jayhawks fare this season? I'll give my projections for each of the games and we can look back in a few months to see if I was close.

Game 1 - McNeese State in Lawrence: This game brings the same danger as North Dakota State a year ago. In fact, the Cowboys are a better team. All the frustration of losing the opener last season will be unleashed by the Jayhawks and they'll start the new campaign with a win. Record 1-0

Game 2 - Northern Illinois in Lawrence: Northern Illinois had a great 2010 and will most likely be favored in this game. Yet they have a new coach and will still be adjusting to the new systems. I expect this game to be close, but feel the Jayhawks will find a way to win. Record 2-0

Game 3 - Georgia Tech in Atlanta: After losing the opener and looking awful, nobody expect the Jayhawks to even keep the game close with Georgia Tech last year. Sure, it was close and Kansas led almost the entire game. Georgia Tech isn't as talented as last year and the Jayhawks are a better team. Unfortunately I think revenge combined with a road game will give the win to Georgia Tech. Record 2-1

Game 4 - Texas Tech in Lawrence: The last time that Texas Tech came to Lawrence was an ugly blowout. Very few of the current players were around back then so they may not remember it. Hopefully they will remember the early season success and will have taken the bye week to fix any flaws from the first three weeks. Texas Tech has dropped off considerably since their last visit and I think the Jayhawks will find a way to win this one. Record 3-1

Game 5 - Oklahoma State in Stillwater: Oklahoma State features one of the most powerful offenses in the country. While improved on defense, the Jayhawks are no match for such a powerful offense. Unfortunately I don't think this one will be close and the Pokes will come out on top. Record 3-2

Game 6 - Oklahoma in Lawrence: Oklahoma is the top-rated team going into the season. Pundits say they have the best offense in the country. I'd love to see a massive home upset of Oklahoma like in 1984, but I don't see it happening. Oklahoma wins this one easily. Record 3-3

Game 7 - Kansas State in Lawrence: After two tough weeks, Kansas State comes to Lawrence for the second year in a row. The last meeting featured a Wildcat blowout. This one will be much closer and I think the Jayhawks will find a way to get revenge. Record 4-3

Game 8 - Texas in Austin: Texas had a really bad season last year and yet they still did better than the Jayhawks. Both teams are improved this season and have the desire to show improvement. Unfortunately this game is in Austin and I think the Horns will win this one. Record 4-4

Game 9 - Iowa State in Ames: Many feel that Kansas and Iowa State will be fighting for the Big XII basement. Iowa State isn't as good as last season having lost their quarterback. Kansas finds a way to win a road game in the conference. Record 5-4

Game 10 - Baylor in Lawrence: This game was an early blowout last season in Waco. I'm sure the Jayhawks will again have revenge on their mind. I think this game will be a lot closer than last season, but I have Baylor getting the win. Record 5-5

Game 11 - Texas A&M in College Station: Most likely this will be the last trip the Jayhawks make to College Station and it would be great to come away with a win. They faced the same situation going to Lincoln last year and kept the game close. But like last year, the home team will prevail. Record 5-6

Game 12 - Missouri in Kansas City: They don't call this a Border War for nothing. As a rivalry game, you can't always go by the teams records. I think Missouri will already be bowl eligible and hoping to get into a better bowl. The Jayhawks need the win to become bowl eligible and prove the doubters wrong. I don't think the game will come down to something as dramatic as Reesing to Meyer, but I do think the Jayhawks find a way to win. Record 6-6

Now that I've let my prognostication be known, it is time for the games to be played. We'll see how many of the games I got right. What do you think? Post a comment with your own predictions.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will the Jayhawks Get Caught in the Spider's Web?

Most observers will look at the #1 seeded Jayhawks and the #12 seeded Richmond Spiders and assume that this will be an easy win for the Jayhawks. There are also those who feel the Jayhawks may overlook the Spiders and be ripe for an upset. Either of those scenarios is certainly possible.

On paper, the Jayhawks have more talent. When it comes to the tournament, the team with the most talent doesn't always win. The real key is getting that talent to focus on the task at hand and play well as a team. Of course, the underdog can also feel empowered and play well above their talent level would indicate.

Jayhawk fans know all too well about the unexpected loss to Northern Iowa in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. UNI was a veteran team that played a great game. The Jayhawks also seemed to take the game for granted which led to a flat performance. As most of the key performers played in the UNI game, they should realize that no team can be taken for granted at this point of the season.

There is another factor that may give the Jayhawks inspiration and it came before any of them put on a Kansas uniform. Richmond has played one previous game against Kansas and it was in 2004 at Allen Fieldhouse. They were a huge underdog and walked out of the Phog with a win. The Spiders played an amazing game that night and the Jayhawk players most likely overlooked them.

Bill Self has been at Kansas for eight seasons and has only lost seven home games. Most of the players on the current team experienced their only home loss this season when the Texas Longhorns came to Lawrence. The Jayhawks were exhausted that day after Thomas Robinson's mom had died the evening before. When they met Texas again in the Big XII Tournament, the team was fired up for revenge.

With the loss to UNI in 2010 and the knowledge of Richmond winning at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks should have some revenge and redemption on their minds when they take the court Friday evening. While I expect Richmond to be a tough out, I think the Jayhawks will have enough fire to stomp out the Spiders and advance to the Elite Eight.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Mangino Out, Gill In

There has been a lot of activity in the football program since my last post. After the Jayhawks got off to a 5-0 start, the wheels fell off and the season ended with seven straight losses. During the last two weeks of the season, Mark Mangino was under investigation for mistreatment of players. It definitely wasn't a good time to be a fan of Jayhawk football.

It was no surprise that Mark Mangino resigned just a few days after the season ended. And he didn't resign without a big push from the administration. As fans, we've all been concerned about Mangino's obesity. I wrote before the season that he needed to seriously consider getting his weight under control. We'll never know how much his weight problem contributed to his attitude towards the players and how many recruits it turned away. Now that Mangino has time to himself, I truly hope he can find a way to address his weight so that he can live a long life. Even though he is no longer the coach of the Jayhawks, I'll always remember him as the coach that delivered a magical 2007 season capped off by an Orange Bowl win.

Regardless of how you feel about Mark Mangino, he is no longer the coach and we need to be supportive of the new coach. After watching Turner Gill's introductory press conference, I am very impressed with him. Will he bring a consistent winner to Lawrence? Only time will tell.

I'll admit that I had wanted Jim Harbaugh. He was the "sexy" hire. Now that I can reflect, I also feel he would have been the wrong hire. Sure, he may have elevated Jayhawk football. I just don't think he would have been in Lawrence long. If he found success, others schools and the NFL would have come calling. We, the fans, will never know what exactly was said in the talks between Lew Perkins and Harbaugh. I'm guessing that part of the reason that Perkins chose to hire Gill was the fear that Harbaugh would only stick around for a few seasons.

When you listen to the press conference, you'll hear Coach Gill make it very clear that he didn't take the job as a stepping stone to something else. While we've all heard coaches say things like that in the past, I was impressed that he said it without prompting and was quite adamant about it. Let's just hypothesize that he is successful at Kansas and Nebraska comes calling in a few seasons. He could stay at Kansas and be the coach that started the dynasty or he could return to Nebraska in hopes of taking them back to where they were in the mid-90s. Even if he won two national championships for Nebraska, he still wouldn't measure up to Tom Osborne. Yet winning one at Kansas could get him elected to Congress, just like it got Tom Osborne elected. We also must remember that his daughter will be a KU grad and I wouldn't be surprised if the same will be true of his younger daughter who is still in high school. Would they allow their father to leave their alma mater?

Turner Gill did not have a great record at Buffalo. He was only 20-30 in his four seasons. When he arrived, Buffalo was considered the worst Division I team in the country. After three seasons, his team had won a conference championship. When was the last time that KU fielded a conference champion? It has been over 40 years! The Jayhawks had a down season in 2009, but they were nowhere near the worst team in the country. Of course they also play a tougher schedule in a tougher conference than Buffalo in the MAC. I would also think that it will be much easier to recruit top athletes to Kansas than to Buffalo. KU offers better facilities, a better conference and the opportunity to win championships. No matter what you think of living in Buffalo, it can't offer those opportunities.

Critics have also complained about Chuck Long and Carl Torbush as offensive and defensive coordinators. Those critics point to their failures as a head coach. Yet they ignore the fact that both of them have had great success in the positions for which they were hired.

One area where Turner Gill has always been lauded is his recruiting skills. His welcome speech re-recruited me as a fan and I have no doubt he will be successful in the living rooms of some highly skilled players. There is little time left to recruit before signing day in February. If Coach Gill can retain most of the players who have verbally committed and pick up a few more, I'll be happy. The biggest test will come with his recruiting next year. He'll also be tested by the results on the field in 2010. I'll go on record with a prediction right now and say that the 2010 Jayhawks will finish the season 8-5. Maybe I'm too optimistic, maybe not. I do know that I'm very excited for the first game and it is more than nine months away.

Welcome Coach Gill and Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
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