Preview: Colorado at Kansas

Ryan Wood of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kerry Meier has not recovered sufficiently from the shoulder injury he suffered in the third quarter last Saturday in Waco to play this Saturday against Colorado. Adam Barmann will make his fourth start of the year in place of the injured Meier. Kansas struggled to run the ball after Barmann replaced Meier in the Baylor game. Barmann lacks the foot speed to pose any threat running the option which severely limits Kansas's ground attack. (For some reason, Barmann's lack of foot speed does not preclude OC Nick Quartaro from calling option plays or designed quarterback runs--see Barmann's drive-killing fumbles against USF and Nebraska.)

Colorado already figured to defense the run more effectively than Kansas's last two opponents. The Buffaloes have allowed fewer than three yards per carry to their Division I opponents this year. Only Baylor has managed to gain more than four yards per carry in a game against Colorado. Missouri, Georgia, Texas Tech, and Colorado State have all been held to 2.5 yards per carry or less.

Colorado's pass defense has not been as stingy as their run defense, especially in road games. Barmann, however, after a good performance at home against South Florida and a strong recovery from a disastrous first quarter in Lincoln struggled mightily at home against Texas A&M and in his relief appearance in Waco. In his last two games, Barmann is 17-41 for a 152 yards and an interception pushing his efficiency rating for the season below Meier's.

Kansas must hope that Colorado's dreadful pass offense (107.6 ypg) can't find success against the porous Jayhawk pass defense. Until Oklahoma shut down the CU running game in Norman last week, the Buffaloes were showing significant improvement in the running game with their most impressive performances coming at Georgia (173 yards, 4.4 ypc) and at Missouri (183 yards, 5.1 ypc).

With the Kansas defense allowing 4.3 ypc in Big 12 play and having struggled especially to contain QBs who could run so far this year, JR QB (#7) Bernard Jackson could very well be the fifth consecutive Big 12 quarterback to have a big day against Kansas.

Kansas at Baylor Preview

Real life will keep this preview brief as I forgo breaking down the numbers (check out cfbstats.com if you need those) for what figures to be a fairly basic matchup to preview.

  • Kansas should try and run the ball as much as possible.
  • Baylor will throw the ball (to the two-thirds of the field uninhabited by Aqib Talib) as much as possible.

First team to 30, wins.

By the Numbers: Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State's season thus far is split into two distinct halves with the first half consisting of their home games against Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic (as always I'm ignoring games played against I-AA opposition) which they won by a combined score of 83-15, and the second half consisting of their road losses at Houston and Kansas State. The particulars of those losses are as follows: the Cowboys lost 34-25 at Houston (where Houston was aided by getting a call that was not allowed, under the rules, to be reviewed overturned) and 31-27 at Kansas State (where Oklahoma State held a 27-17 lead with 4:25 to play).

Rushing Offense

Oklahoma State's rushing offense has been more effective in their road games against better competition. The Cowboys ran for 4.96 ypc in their first two games, bumping that up to 5.26 ypc in the last two games. Granted, nobody feels special just for running the ball effectively against Houston's defense, but Oklahoma State ran the ball (193 yds, 4.71 ypc) almost as effectively in Manhattan as Louisville did (228 yds, 5.43 ypc) earlier in the season.

SO RB (#29) Mike Hamilton leads the Cowboys in rushing on the year, but 155 of 369 yards came in the season opener against I-AA Missouri State. FR RB (#5) Keith Toston has been the more effective back recently, setting a single-game career high in rushing yards every time out this year. Over the last two weeks, Toston has run for 170 yards and a touchdown on just 22 carries. JR RB (#22) Dantrell Savage missed the first two games of ther year, returning for a big game (8 car, 97 yds, 1 TD) against Florida Atlantic but has received just six carries combines over the last two weeks.

SO QB (#14) Bobby Reid could create problems for the Jayhawk defense similar to those that mobile quarterbacks Matt Grothe and Stephen McGee did. Reid has 35 carries for 163 yards on the year (thanks to the NCAA, that includes yards lost when Reid has been sacked), running for two touchdowns.

Passing Offense

Reid has been consistently effective throwing the ball so far this year. Reid gained 9.54 yards per pass attempt against Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic and 9.52 yards per pass attempt at Houston and Kansas State. His worst game (by passing rating), last week against Kansas State is still superior to anything Kansas's quarterbacks have managed in any game thus far.

Reid's preferred target is JR WR (#12) Adarius Bowman. Bowman has 17 receptions for 396 yards and two touchdowns. Listed at 6-4, 220, Bowman will tower over any Kansas DB not named Aqib Talib. Should Talib succeed in slowing down Bowman (and hopefully catching the ball should he make a good play jumping an out route this week), Reid will still have the option of exploiting Kansas's other cornerback in a matchup against SR WR (#84) D'Juan Woods. Woods has only eight catches for 111 yards this year, but he caught 56 passes last year and is third all-time at Oklahoma State in both receptions and receiving yards.

Most of the rest of Reid's passes will be thrown in the direction of SO TE (#87) Brandon Pettigrew (8 rec, 98 yds, 1 TD) and, near the goal line, SO FB (#33) John Johnson (3 catches, 2 TDs on the year).

Defense

Whereas Oklahoma State's offense didn't miss a beat when they faced better competition, the Cowboy defense struggled mightily against both Houston and Kansas State.

After holding Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic to 2.15 ypc and 5.19 yards per pass attempt while forcing six turnovers, Oklahoma State allowed Houston and Kansas State to run for 4.58 ypc and gain 11.29 yards per pass attempt while forcing just one turnover. Of particular note to Jayhawk fans eagerly anticpating Kerry Meier's return, Houston QB Kevin Kolb (reports that Charlton Keith still frequents his nightmares are unconfirmed) and K-State savior QB Josh Freeman ran for a combined 58 yards in their appearances against Houston. In all other games, those two ran for -27 yards, indicting both the Oklahoma State pass rush and their containment.

Ten of Oklahoma State's 17 sacks came in the home games against Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic. Of those 17 sacks, half are attributed to SR DE (#51) Victor De Grande (5 sacks) and JR DE (#13) Nathan Peterson (3.5 sacks). SR DT (#92) Larry Brown has contributed 4.5 tackles-for-loss on the year.

Oklahoma State's leading tacklers are rFR SS (#20) Andre Sexton and FR OLB (#44) Chris Collins (25 tackles each). JR MLB (#2) Rodrick Johnson has 24 tackles on the year. FS JR (#8) Donovan Woods, formerly the Oklahoma State starting QB, has been credited with 22 tackles.

Special Teams

True FR CB/KR/PR (#16) Perrish Cox has been a useful weapon for Oklahoma State so far this year. Cox, in addition to intercepting a pass while performing his CB duties, averages 15.6 yds per punt return and 28 yds per kick return (not including his 96-yard kick return for a TD in the opener against I-AA Missouri State). SR S (#30) Grant Jones added an 89-yard kick return against Kansas State for good measure.

Oklahoma State's kick coverage teams have struggled, though, surrenduring a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown to K-State's Leon Patton last week, and giving up 18.8 yards per punt return on the year. (That includes the 21-yard runback for a touchdown on the blocked punt last week in Manhattan.) Those punt returns seriously limit the effectiveness of SO P (#18) Matt Fodge's 50.4 yard punting average.

SO PK (#85) Jason Ricks is 6-8 on field goals this year, with misses from 40 and 42 yards, and a make from 53 yards. Ricks is 22-22 on extra points. SR PK (#10) Bruce Redden handles the kickoffs and has 13 touchbacks in 35 attempts.

Texas A&M 21 Kansas 18

I get half-credit for correctly predicting A&M's final score, right? Of the Jayhawks, only Jon Cornish, Mike Rivera, and Scott Webb consistently took advantage of their opportunities to make plays. Adam Barmann reminded us all why he hasn't been starting very many games the last two years. The offense's struggles were not entirely Barmann's fault (though his performance should preclude fans and media from further speculation that Kansas has two options at quarterback once Kerry Meier's shoulder heals) as the offensive line reverted to mediocrity following a strong performance in Lincoln last week and (though it's hard to say for certain when you're watching a game broadcast by Fox Sports Net) I didn't see a lot of wide-open receivers that Barmann was missing.

Like the offensive line, the defensive line put in its most credible performance of the season in Lincoln but could not repeat the performance against Texas A&M. To his credit, Defensive Coordinator Bill Young almost cobbled together a scheme to put consistent pressure on Stephen McGee without surrendering the long pass plays that have plagued the Kansas secondary this season. That Young had to rely on bringing safeties and/or linebackers on blitzes to create pressure ultimately left the Jayhawk defense (on the field for 76 plays on a day when Texas A&M only had to defend 59 times) vulnerable to a middle screen from McGee to L'Tydrick Riley that gained 35 yards on the final third-down play of Texas A&M's winning touchdown drive.

It's been a long time (10 years by my reckoning) since a Kansas football team has been good enough to disappoint its fans. Watching the close losses of the last couple of years, one got the sense that the team was playing close to its best and was simply not good enough to win the games. This year, by failing to take advantage of multiple opportunities to put games away at Toledo and Saturday at home against Texas A&M, a Kansas team that could have been making a case for which bowl they should play in and on the fringes of the Big 12 North race instead finds themselves on the fringes of bowl eligibility and winless, behind even Kansas State in the Big 12 North standings.

The Jayhawks need four wins in their last six games to assure a trip to a bowl game. (Anybody who thinks bowl organizers will be lining up to invite a 6-6 Kansas team is more optimistic than I.) Kansas has put themselves in a position where they both have to win all of their remaining home games (Oklahoma State, Colorado, Kansas State) and win one of their remaining road games (Baylor, Iowa State, Missouri). With half of the season completed, I'm not at all certain that this maddeningly inconsistent team can accomplish either of those feats.

Preview and Prediction: Texas A&M at Kansas

Texas A&M comes to Lawrence for their first true road game of the year. The Aggies had no trouble with their three non-conference home opponents, beating The Citadel (I-AA), Louisiana-Lafayette, and Louisiana Tech by a combined score of 131-24. In between the Lousiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech laughers, Texas A&M traveled to San Antonio and struggled mightily against Army, making a goal-line stand in the final minute to win 28-24. Army set season-high marks in rushing yards, yards per carry, and total yards against the A&M defense. Army's other four opponents have been Arkansas State, Kent State, Baylor, and Rice. Texas A&M returned home last week and lost to Texas Tech 31-27 on a 37-yard Graham Harrell touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining. Texas Tech outgained A&M by 80 yards, in no small part because Texas A&M SO QB (#7) Stephen McGee suffered a mild concussion in the second quarter but continued playing. McGee easily had his worst game of the year, but expects to be recovered from the effects by Saturday.

Rushing Offense

If McGee is healthy, he will cause problems for a Kansas defense that struggled to contain South Florida QB Matt Grothe on the ground. Unlike South Florida, A&M features a solid running back rotation of SO (#11) Jovorskie Lane, SR (#25) Courtney Lewis, and FR (#3) Mike Goodson.

Passing Offense

The concussion seemed to effect McGee's passing. In his first three games against Division I opposition, McGee completed 69.7% of his passes without throwing an interception. Though the Texas Tech defense certainly provided a stiffer test than those of Louisiana Tech, Army, and Louisiana-Lafayette, McGee's passing numbers cratered against the Red Raiders: 9-20, no touchdowns, one interception, for just 103 yards.

With the Kansas secondary struggling against any sort of vertical passing attack, look for McGee to try to get the ball downfield to SR WR (#14) Chad Schroeder who leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. JR WR/KR (#8) Kerry Franks may feature prominently in this game as a deep threat. McGee will also make ample use of SO TE (#13) Martellus Bennett and JR TE (#81) Joey Thomas. JR FB (#24) Chris Alexander has only four catches for 17 yards on the season, but two of those recepetions were for touchdowns.

Defense

Texas A&M is allowing over four yards per carry to their Division I opponents. Their pass defense numbers on the season as a whole flatter the unit as Army and Louisiana-Lafayette combined to go 19-44 with three interceptions, gaining 153 yards through the air. Louisiana Tech had some success throwing the ball. They completed just 40.6% of their passes, but gained 229 yards on just 13 completions. Texas Tech shredded the Aggie pass defense last Saturday in College Station to the tune of 32-45 for 392 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.

JR DE (#92) Chris Harrington has three-and-a-half sacks and five tackles-for-loss this year. 2005 1st Team All-Big 12 SR LB (#10) Justin Warren easily leads the A&M defense in tackles. SO FS (#26) Devin Gregg is responsible for four (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) of team's eight takeaways.

Special Teams

Kerry Franks returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown last week against Texas Tech. SO P (#16) Justin Brantly is averaging 49.5 yards on 15 punts, with four of those settling inside the 20 and only two touchbacks. FR PK (#7) Matt Szymanski lost the place-kicking job after making just one of four field goal attempts in the first three weeks of the season. SR PK (#32) Layne Neumann has been 3-3 since taking over, but he has not attempted a field goal longer than 32 yards this year. Szymanski and Neumann have combined for seven touchbacks over 34 kickoffs. A&M's kick coverage team has limited opponents to 18.4 yards per kick return. Punt returners have fared better against the Aggies, returning nine of Brantly's 15 punts for an average of 10.7 yards.

Prediction

There's no reason to believe that Kansas can limit their mistakes sufficiently to win comfortably against a decent opponent. If Texas A&M continues to struggle against the run, Kansas will have a chance to control the game, especially if Kerry Meier starts. The porous A&M pass defense will struggle to contain the rejuvenated Adam Barmann should he make the start or be forced to relieve Meier for health reasons.

Stephen McGee must be expected to make plays against an inconsistent Kansas defense which will be missing Eric Washington. I expect another close game, the kind Kansas has been able to win (recently) at home but can never convert on the road.

Kansas 27 Texas A&M 21

Kansas at Nebraska: Predictions

It's clear that we won't know who is starting at quarterback for the Jayhawks much before the offense takes the field for the first time Saturday night. The time for excuses and procrastination has ceased. It's time to prognosticate.

Nebraska 24 Kansas 13

Here's what some others are predicting...

Corn Nation: Nebraska 40 Kansas 13

College Football News: Nebraska 38 Kansas 17

Bruce Feldman, ESPN Insider: Nebraska 35 Kansas 20

The Jayhawks are a horrible team on the road. Nebraska's offense, the most prolific in the Big 12, matches up very well against one of the league's worst defenses. Key stat: The Huskers are tops in the conference in turnover margin. Kansas is last. That's a bad sign for a team with a very inexperienced QB playing on the road. Thing that has me sold: The opportunistic Huskers.

The staff of The Kansas City Star: Blair Kerkhoff, Nebraska 31-10 Jason King, Nebraska 31-17 Derek Samson, Nebraska 40-15 Mike DeArmond, Nebraska 35-7 Howard Richman, Nebraska 26-9

Tim Griffin, San Antonio Express-News: Nebraska 49 Kansas 14

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