Midway through last season, his first at Kansas, offensive coordinator Doug Meacham confessed that everything he tried that had worked everywhere else he was employed was not working at Kansas.
It was a stunning admission, a 180-degree turn from coach speak designed to say nothing. It said everything, which might even factor in why Meacham doesn’t do interviews once a week, as was the case last season. He and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, and the rest of the assistants for that matter, were last available to the media before games started.
I imagine Meacham is relieved at the new policy. He might have even lobbied for it, not because he has anything against reporters, rather because he likes to tell the truth and the truth is he never has worked with such ineffective blocking, which is where it all starts for any offensive coordinator's plans.
In last season’s TCU debacle, the second consecutive shutout, this one yielding just 21 yards in total offense, Meacham looked on the sideline as if every X and O had been drained from his brain, frozen by the sight of a level of incompetence he never had witnessed.
And he coaches just one side of the ball. No need to make him responsible for both sides.
Meacham came to Kansas after TCU head coach Gary Patterson reacted to interest from other programs in co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie by making him the chief architect of the offense, which would relegate Meacham to a secondary role.
Head coach David Beaty, well connected in coaching gossip in Texas, grabbed Meacham before anyone else and surrendered OC duties, which he had taken onto his plate during a 2-10 season in 2016.
Meacham is coaching from the press box this season, a new perspective for him. So is a run-oriented offense.
An offensive lineman blocking for Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas at Oklahoma State, Meacham is a smart man, but did he smart decision to coming to KU?
College football head coaches aren’t paid by the game. They’re paid by the week, just like the rest of us, except at the FBS level they’re paid better because they landed one of just 130 available positions.
Kansas coach David Beaty’s salary calls for him to be paid $1.7 million this season, plus incentives. He already has earned $150,000 in bonuses. He earned $50,000 for defeating Central Michigan, per a clause that awards him that much for each non-conference FBS victory and $100,000 for defeating Rutgers, a Power Five opponent.
If things don’t go well in Morgantown, W.Va., and new athletic director Jeff Long decides to terminate Beaty’s contract, he will owe him a $3 million buyout, distributed in six equal payments. If I’m reading the contract correctly, that means that if Beaty were fired after the West Virginia game, then Kansas wouldn’t have to pay him his weekly salary of $32,692.23. They would save seven weeks (bye week, plus six games) of payments, which totals $228,845.61.
In today’s world, that’s not enough to influence an athletic director’s decision, but it’s money that could be used to pay the 10th assistant on the next coach’s staff. Again, not enough to influence an AD’s decision.
Routs scored over Central Michigan and Rutgers suggested this could be Beaty’s best team, but given that this is his fourth season and that 14 junior college players and five transfers from four-year schools were recruited to make this a make-or-break season, this needed to be the year Kansas would win multiple Big 12 games. That’s tough to picture when opportunities against Baylor and Oklahoma State passed.
Long’s history suggests he’s not a fan of interim hires, but I don’t imagine he’s a fan of homecoming crowds numbering 18,364 either.
So just in case things blow up Saturday in Morgantown, it’s time to resume the interim head coach countdown with the least experienced assistant on the staff.
Cassius Sendish has all the ingredients that one day will make him a good head coaching candidate. First, he’s smart. Second, he’s direct. Third, he’s passionate. Four, the next time he makes an excuse will be the first time. Fifth, he’s a tireless worker.
Those were the qualities that enabled him to make the most of his skills during his time as a Kansas safety. Sendish won’t let anything stand in his way of pursuing a coaching career. He proved that when he was offered the chance of heading way up in the sky to stand on a platform filming every practice, even though he’s afraid of heights.
Is Sendish ready to take on the massive task of taking over a Big 12 football program in midseason, even with mentor Clint Bowen sharing what worked and what didn’t when he took over for Charlie Weis for the final eight games of the 2014 season?
Of course not. He has only been an on-field coach for half a season. But Kansas could do worse. He loves his alma mater, loves football and loves work.
Told you last week that it was preposterous to make Army a 31-point underdog against Oklahoma.
Anyway, enough gloating. Onto this week’s picks made with odds as of Thursday night from Vegasinsider.com.
1 — Samford +9 at Kennesaw State: Kennesaw State first fielded a football team in 2015 and the Owls already are ranked No. 4 in the FCS national rankings.
How is that possible?
Well, KSU shook the right coaching tree, the most underrated coaching tree in college football.
Brian Bohannon, 47, is the latest from the Paul Johnson coaching tree to accomplish amazing things, following Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and Army’s Jeff Monken.
Bohannon worked for Johnson for 16 years at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech. Clearly, Bohannon was paying attention.
Hired in the spring of 2013, Bohannon’s organizational and evaluation skills and ability to teach the flexbone offense and recruit to that system enabled him to quickly assemble a competitive season. Somehow, Bohannon coached Kennesaw State to a 6-5 record in its debut season, improved to 8-3 in 2016 and 12-2 last season with a trip to the quarterfinal round of the FCS, where Sam Houston State bounced the Owls, 34-27.
KSU’s only other loss came at the hands of Samford, 28-23.
The Owls seek revenge Saturday.
Predicted score: Kennesaw State 38, Samford 31
Pick vs. spread: Samford
2 (Best bet) — Virginia Tech +5 at Duke: This a tough game for Ryan Willis to be making his first Hokies start. Duke ranks tied for 16th in the nation by giving up 15.3 points per game.
Predicted score: Duke 31, Virginia Tech 17
Pick vs. spread: Duke
3 — Oklahoma State -17 at Kansas: So let me get this straight: The Cowboys scored 17 points against Texas Tech and is favored by that many points on the road? Too big a spread.
Predicted score: Oklahoma State 24, Kansas 17
Pick vs. spread: Kansas
Last week’s record: 2-1
Best bet record: 1-0
Carter Stanley's mobility is his biggest advantage over fellow Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender, so it stands to reason that Stanley will play the majority of the snaps, if not all of them, given KU's opponent Saturday at its homecoming game.
Oklahoma State leads the nation with 19 sacks, three more than Alabama, Boston College and Clemson, all tied for second.
Defensive end Jordan Brailford, a preseason first-time All-Big 12 selection, leads the conference with four sacks. Jarrell Owens, the Cowboys' other D-end, is tied for second in the conference with three sacks.
Only 30 schools have allowed more than the 2.75 sacks per game that Kansas has given up, so the Oklahoma State pass rush vs. the Kansas pass protection shapes up as the biggest mismatch going into the game.
Stanley also can be used with more scripted runs than Bender.
Also, an examination of the two quarterbacks' passing numbers vs. Big 12 competition only reveals Stanley with better ones in all categories except touchdowns per throw. Bender has thrown one TD for every 36 throws, Stanley one for every 53.9 throws. Stanley has a higher completion percentage (56.7) and yards per attempt (6.0) than Bender (50.7, 4.75) than Bender vs. Big 12 foes.
LeBron James’ history shows he prefers playing with veterans, but given how many assists James could make on Svi Mykhailiuk 3-pointers, don’t you think it might be a good idea for James to make an exception? Sure, he would have to guard his man and Svi’s much of the time, but even so, if Svi’s scoring three points at one end and giving up two at the other, the Lakers are ahead in that equation.
The impressive video in this Tweet posted by @LakerFilmRoom is as revealing as any of a shooter not being guarded can be.
The Lakers open their six-game preseason schedule Sunday in San Diego, the first indication of how Lakers coach Luke Walton might plan on using the shooter extraordinaire who just turned 21 last June 10.
The Lakers' projected starting lineup: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, LeBron, JaVale McGee.
Top perimeter reserves: Rajon Rondo, Josh Hart and Lance Stephenson.
In time, the Lakers might find that Svi’s better equipped to take advantage of the generosity of skilled passers James and Ball than Stephenson, a career .303 3-point shooter.
Even if Kansas freshman running back Pooka Williams continues on the pace he has set in his first three games it will be difficult for him to earn first-team All-American honors.
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Stanford’s Bryce Love had the advantage of entering the season as Heisman Trophy candidates and Taylor is off to a terrific start.
And then there is Darrell Henderson of Memphis. So far, Henderson easily has the best case for the Heisman, even if he’s strangely missing from the Heisman watches of various websites.
Henderson not only leads the nation with 177.25 rushing yards per game and is tied for second with eight rushing touchdowns, he’s second with 12.22 yards per carry.
It’s too early to count out Pooka, but the truth is that his chances of earning first-team All-American honors rank second to another player Beaty recruited to Kansas.
A third of the way through the season, there isn’t a tight end in America with a better case for first-team honors than Jace Steinberger, recruited to Kansas out of Kingfisher, Okla., as part of the Class of 2015, Beaty’s first recruiting class, which also included defensive end Dorance Armstrong and wide receiver Steven Sims.
Armstrong, of course, is playing for the Dallas Cowboys, leaving Sims as the lone remaining player at Kansas from that talented trio of recruits.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Sternberger is in his first season at Texas A&M.
Sternberger redshirted in 2015 and played mostly on special teams in 2016, when he caught one pass for five yards. He believed in himself enough to leave Kansas and play a year in junior college, figuring he could attract winning football programs to recruit him. He figured right.
Sternberger has 13 receptions for 205 yards and four touchdowns and is averaging 15.3 yards per catch.
He’s right there with Iowa’s Noah Fant (15 catches, 169 yards, four TDs, 11.3 average), Jared Pinkey of Vanderbilt (16-283-1, 17.7), Stanford’s Kaden Smith (18-205-4, 14.3), Keenan Brown of Texas State (19-256-2, 13.47), Utah State’s Dax Raymond (15-210-1, 14.0) and Albert Okwuegbunam of Missouri (23-181-2, 7.9).
Another member of the Kansas recruiting Class of 2015 will be in the limelight for another program this week. As did Sternberger, quarterback Ryan Willis believed in himself and gave up his scholarship at Kansas. Willis accepted an offer to walk on at Virginia Tech, where he sat out as a redshirt last season after spending two years in the Kansas program splitting starts with Montell Cozart most of the time. Willis joined a program that had four scholarship quarterbacks and worked his way to No. 2 on the depth chart at the start of this season.
Virginia Tech starting quarterback Josh Jackson suffered a broken leg during an upset loss to Old Dominion. Willis entered and completed 9 of 18 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw an interception and rushed for 30 yards on four carries.
Willis will start Saturday’s game at No. 22 Duke.
Tyriek “T.J.” Starks, another former Kansas quarterback, is playing at Iowa Western Community College and is getting the second-most snaps in a job share. He has rushed for 173 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per attempt, and as a passer is 33 for 71 (46.4 percent) for 444 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, not the sort of production that will draw the attention of Power Five recruiters. A native of New Orleans, Starks spent two years in the Kansas program, redshirting his first season.
Carrying the label “basketball school” doesn’t make recruiting any easier for football coaches, but multiple basketball powerhouses, including a pair ranked in the top 25, are showing it is possible to overcome the label.
No. 17 Kentucky (4-0): Mark Stoops has taken the slow, steady approach to building a program, exercising the discipline to avoid quick fixes in recruiting, and it’s paying off in a big way in his sixth season on the job.
The Wildcats hammered visiting No. 14 Mississippi State, 28-7, Saturday to move into the top 25 for the first time since 2007. Kentucky won at Florida, 27-16, in the second week of the season.
Stoops went to a bowl game for the first time in 2016, ending the school’s five-year drought, and is primed to take the Wildcats to a third consecutive bowl game.
If Stoops can get to nine victories this season it will be just the second time in school history for Kentucky, which first won nine in 1949 under Bear Bryant.
No. 22 Duke (4-0): The Blue Devils drubbed Army by 20 points and won consecutive road games vs. Northwestern, 21-7, and Baylor, 40-27.
David Cutcliffe, in his 11th season in Durham, ended an 18-year bowl drought in his fifth season on the job and will take the Blue Devils to their sixth bowl game in 18 seasons. He has executed a remarkable turnaround of the Duke program.
No. 36 (based on votes received) Syracuse (4-0): Everybody but the fans of the team Syracuse plays that week should root for the Orange to win so that they can watch third-year coach Dino Babers’ stirring postgame speeches on Youtube. He’s a truly inspirational figure and his players are buying what he’s selling.
Syracuse ranks 10th in the nation with 49.5 points per game and not all of those points have been scored on pushovers.
You have to love the line, “The last time it happened the ’66 Mustang was the baddest thing on the road,” hollered by Babers after a 30-7 pasting of Florida State. He was referencing Syracuse football being back on the map.
The Orange are trying to end a four-year bowl drought.
Syracuse hasn’t always been known as a basketball school. The Orange were a national powerhouse in the mid-20th century decades under coach Ben Schwartzwalder, a decorated World War II hero.
The Orange had a couple of more recent stints of success, but had fallen on hard times.
Former Syracuse players Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Marvin Harrison, Floyd Little, John Mackey, Art Monk and Jim Ringo are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as is former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who graduated from Syracuse but did not play football.
Also, running back Ernie Davis, the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, was the first pick of the NFL draft but never played a game after being diagnosed with leukemia. He died at the age of 23.
Indiana (3-1): True freshman running back Stevie Scott rushed for 204 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate start, a 21-16 victory over Virginia, and added 114 yards and two touchdowns the next week in a 38-10 blasting of Ball State. Michigan State limited him to 18 yards on 11 carries and defeated the Hoosiers, 35-21, so the jury remains out on whether Indiana’s improvement will translate to strong play in the Big Ten, but so far anyway Indiana looks like more than a basketball school.
Since sports gambling eventually will make its way to Kansas, I’m going to try my hand at picking three college football games vs. the spread for the rest of the Fridays throughout the season. I’ll track my record to see whether I should trust myself to suggest actual wagers once gambling comes to Kansas.
Friday forecasts for Saturday games, listed in order of my confidence in the picks, using odds that appear on vegasinsider.com:
1 (Best bet) - Army (+31) at Oklahoma: Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray has thrown 11 touchdowns and one interception in two seasons with OU, is one of the fastest players college football and was the ninth overall selection in the June baseball draft. He already has established himself as a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate, but the service academies don’t get blown out very often because they frustrate defenses unaccustomed to facing triple-option offenses and keep the scoreboard from getting too lopsided because they eat so much clock by constantly running.
Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 28-21 victory over a decent Hawaii team.
Predicted score: Oklahoma 44, Army 20
Pick vs. spread: Army
2 - Washington State (+4.5) at Southern Cal: WSU coach Mike Leach is a brilliant man and part of his brilliance lies in knowing what he doesn’t know, which is defense. He hired former Minnesota defensive coordinator and head coach Tracy Claeys, a native of Clay Center, to run his defense.
The Cougars haven’t played anybody yet, so it’s tough to draw too many conclusions, but their defense is ranked 18th in the nation, allowing 14.3 points per game, which can’t be a bad thing.
Meanwhile, Leach’s Air Raid offense is averaging 421 passing yards per game, second nationally to his old school, Texas Tech.
USC is ranked 113th nationally with 20 points a game.
Predicted score: Washington State 34, USC 27
Pick vs. spread: Washington State
3 - Tulane (+37) at Ohio State: Here’s why you never should use comparative scores to guide in predicting games: Nicholls State beat Kansas by three. Tulane beat Nicholls by 25, which makes Tulane 28 points better than Kansas, which beat Rutgers by 41 points, meaning Tulane is 69 points better than Rutgers, which lost to Ohio State by 49 points. Therefore, Tulane is 20 points better than Ohio State.
That’s absurd, of course, but there is a valid reason to believe Tulane will lose by fewer than 37 points.
No, it’s not that Urban Meyer in his return to coaching will be so mindful of being perceived as a sensitive guy that he won’t run up the score. Clearly, Meyer does not care about being perceived as a kind and caring individual.
Both teams run the ball more than they pass it, keeping the clock moving and shortening the game, and 37 points is a big margin for a short game.
Fritz’s teams tend to get better and this is his third season at Tulane.
Predicted score: Ohio State 48, Tulane 20.
Pick vs. spread: Tulane.
Best guess as to what Urban Meyer is saying in above photo: "Nick Saban only comes up to here on me."
Kansas scored its first back-to-back football victories since the first two games of the 2011 season by drawing first blood, taking big leads and forcing poor passing teams to try to play catch-up with an air attack.
The Jayhawks took a 21-0 lead midway through the third quarter at Central Michigan on Pooka Williams’ second long touchdown run. They put Rutgers in a 24-7 hole in the first minute of the second quarter on Mike Lee’s 31-yard pick six.
Kansas has been on the other side of that equation repeatedly in recent seasons against Baylor, which has taken big early leads against passing-challenged KU teams year after year.
In the first half of the past five games of the series, Baylor has outscored Kansas, 208-20. Rounding to the nearest number, that's an average halftime score of 42-4.
This KU squad has shown signs it could be the best at the school in several years in most areas, especially in forcing turnovers and fielding an explosive running game.
Yet, one thing hasn’t changed. KU still doesn’t have a productive passing game and therefore still can’t expect to get away with falling far behind.
KU ranks last in the Big 12 in passing yards (483), yards per pass attempt (5.4), yards per completion (9.1) and touchdown receptions (four). Kansas also is the only team that has not thrown an interception, a statistic that says more about its ability to hold leads than to come from behind.
Baylor has won the past eight games in the series, the past five by scoring early blowouts. The halftime scores, from 2013 through 2018: 38-0, 39-7, 52-7, 42-0, 21-6.
The failure to eliminate big plays in the passing game has dogged Kansas in the series in recent years.
In the past eight games, all Baylor victories, two Bears running backs (Shock Linwood and Lache Seastrunk) and seven wide receivers have had 100-yard games. The receivers: Josh Gordon, Kendall Wright, Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams, Corey Coleman two years in a row and Denzel Mims.
It’s imperative Kansas gets off to a strong start Saturday for the 2:30 p.m. kickoff in Waco.
The Kansas secondary played exceptionally well during the nonconference portion of the schedule.
The Jayhawks have allowed 5.1 yards per pass attempt, a figure that ranks them 11th nationally. They have allowed one touchdown pass and have seven interceptions, three returned for touchdowns.
You have to do a whole lot right to compile numbers that exceptional against any level of competition. Still, nobody is in denial that the defensive backs’ jobs are three days from becoming a great deal more difficult.
Nicholls State, Central Michigan and Rutgers all lack the same thing: A passing attack. The three schools have combined to throw five touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. Subtract the numbers against KU and it computes to four TD passes and eight picks. In contrast, Baylor has thrown six touchdown passes and two interceptions.
The Bears always flood the field with a blend of long, fast receivers and shorter, fleet receivers. Tennessee transfer Jalan Hurd, a converted running back, is 6-foot-4, 217 pounds. Junior Denzel Mims is 6-3, 208. Explosive freshman Tyquan Thornton is 6-3, 165, and Marques Jones is 6-2, 204. Chris Platt is only 5-11, but his speed makes him a deep threat as well. It will be interesting to see how true freshman cornerback Corione Harris, coming off an outstanding effort that included an interception vs. Rutgers, fares against Baylor’s size. At 6-1, 180, Harris has good size for a cornerback.
“I really like the Mims kid,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “I think Mims is, I think he might be the best receiver in the league and there's a bunch of good ones in this league. … This league is full of terrific receivers. And it's hard to choose one. But Mims stands out to me. He's a playmaker. He's big. He's fast. He makes plays. I think he's got perfect size, good length. I know he didn't play last week, but competitors like that, you know they get well. He'll be out there Saturday, I'm sure.”
Beaty, who enjoys breaking down receivers, having played and coached the position for so many years, shared his thoughts on more than just Mims.
“They have the Jalen Hurd kid who transferred from Tennessee,” Beaty said. “He was a running back. He's reshaped his body. I think he's lost 20, 25 pounds, certainly looks like a wide receiver now. Has really worked on his craft. Possesses a lot of skill, a lot of skill. They hand him the ball off in the backfield a couple times and he can still certainly do that. He's got terrific vision.”
Beaty said of Platt: “I was hoping he'd graduate and move on. But he's still there. And he's a track guy that can really run and I've listened to Matt talk a lot about how unselfish he is.”
Baylor has had 19 passing plays of 20 yards or more, compared to just four for Kansas, which gets most of its explosive plays from its running game.
“They have the ability to make a big play at any time, but we're going to have to prepare well this week because I'm not sure we've seen a group of guys like this put together,” Beaty said. “This is a pretty strong group of wideouts.”