November 08, 2012
To get the scoop on Kansas, we went to an expert on the Jayhawks -- Jon Kirby of JayhawkSlant.com -- with questions about the team and Saturday's game.
Kansas may be 1-8, but they seem to be more competitive than they were a year ago. What has been the biggest change from 2011 to 2012?
JK: "They are doing a lot of the little things and have improved in small steps. A lot of people don't realize last year's team ranked 106th in total offense and dead last (120th) in defense. So far they are up about 30 spots in defense. They are lined up right and fill the right gaps. They have been much more physical and played with solid effort all year long even when they have been out of the game.
"There is a lot of discipline in the program. Last semester they set the all-time GPA record for a Kansas football team. That is something Charlie Weis stressed. They are the third least penalized team in the nation. They are doing a lot of the right things it takes when a program is being built from the ground up.
"I covered the program when Mark Mangino took over in 2002. It was a similar situation. The program was rock bottom and needed a foundation. That's what Weis is doing right now."
What do you expect KU's quarterback situation to be Saturday?
JK: "Michael Cummings will be the starter. It looks like Weis is committed to Cummings after making the switch from Dayne Crist. Last week against Baylor when the game was out of hand Crist entered the game. Cummings has more mobility and that has helped."
What do you think is KU's most favorable match-up on Saturday? Least favorable?
JK: "Usually I would say the Kansas ground game against a lot of teams. They have created several different ways to run the ball out of the Jayhawks formation, two backs, diamond formation, and zone read. A lot of their yards have come up the middle. Weis said during his press conference that Texas Tech might be the strongest team up the middle they have faced. So that will be an interesting battle to watch.
"The least favorable match-up without a doubt is the Kansas defense against the Texas Tech offense. The defense played well against TCU, Oklahoma State, and Texas. Texas and Oklahoma State tried to line up and run it at Kansas. They didn't find a lot of holes in the defense. The defense has not fared well against teams that spread them out.
"They lack the explosive athletes to match up with teams that get them in space. That was evident last week against Baylor when they gave up 666 yards. The Texas Tech offense runs a fast-tempo offense that will also be trouble for a Kansas team that doesn't have a lot of depth."
Aside from James Sims, which offensive skill players should Red Raider fans watch out for on Saturday?
JK: "Tony Pierson may be one of the most explosive backs in the Big 12. He has been hampered with an elbow injury. He has been wearing a brace but it is believed the brace could come off Saturday. He gave Kansas State and TCU fits. He is very good in the open field and has game-breaking speed. He is one of the best weapons a lot of fans in the Big 12 don't know much about."
Even though the final scores haven't always indicated this, Kansas has played Texas Tech pretty tough over the last 10 years or so. How do you see Saturday's game playing out?
JK: "This game doesn't look good on paper for the Jayhawks. Texas Tech is coming off a home loss and should be ready to go. Kansas has really struggled on the road and part of that is the quality of teams they have played. But the road hasn't been good to them.
"It is a real simple formula. The defense is going to have to find a way to hold Texas Tech to field goals and force a couple turnovers. Their defense isn't a good match-up for what the Red Raiders do on offense.
"I remember the 2004 game when Taurean Henderson went up the gut on third down and capped a Texas Tech come-from-behind win in Lawrence. I don't see any last minute heroics in this one. Kansas will play with maximum effort and assignment-sound. It just won't be enough."