Looking for reasons to believe in KU's defense against Texas Tech
Jesse Newell: Welcome back to the GameDay Cram Session, as Kansas is taking on Texas Tech on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Tom, what stands out to you about Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville?
Tom Keegan: That he coached Auburn to a 13-0 season and defeated Alabama six seasons in a row and one losing season negated all that in the eyes of Auburn boosters. Strange, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sports world we live in is even stranger in the SEC football world.
JN: Every time I hear his name, I can't help but think of how he publicly campaigned to be KU's next football coach following the resignation of Mark Mangino.
Then-KU athletic director Lew Perkins chose Turner Gill instead. Obviously, it's too early to make too many judgments, but it's interesting to wonder how history would have changed if Perkins had hired Tuberville instead. I know he was the first choice of many KU football fans at the time.
Looking closer at this contest, give me a reason (or two) that KU fans should be optimistic about the Jayhawks' defense heading into Saturday's game.
TK: Reason No. 1: Anything's possible. Reason No. 2: Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.
JN: That doesn't sound too encouraging.
Here are a couple reasons I can think of for optimism:
No. 1: KU won't have to try to prepare for a quirky offense like Georgia Tech's triple-option.
Though Texas Tech has a dangerous passing attack (and a great quarterback in Seth Doege), the Jayhawks will at least being going back to trying to stop a spread offense — a setup that most Big 12 teams run.
No. 2: KU has had time to reflect with the bye week. From listening to KU defensive coordinator Vic Shealy, it sounds like the coaching staff spent a lot of time not only re-evaluating over their own schemes, but also reconsidering whether they had the best personnel on the field.
It sounds like KU is going to try to simplify things this week defensively, which could mean more man coverage. Be ready for some player changes as well. Sounds like cornerback Dexter McDonald will be one of a few guys who will receive additional playing time as the coaches continue to search for answers.
All right, Tom, what is your prediction for this game?
TK: Texas Tech 48, Kansas 31.
JN: I'll actually say this one is close and go with Texas Tech 35, Kansas 31.
I think both offenses will be successful, but both also will have extended drives, which should keep the possessions down.
As poorly as KU played against Georgia Tech, we have to remember that the Jayhawks have played two pretty good games at home this year.
I'll say that continues, though KU won't have enough to pull off the upset.
One aspect to pay attention to will be third downs. Texas Tech has converted 25 of 40 third downs this season (62.5 percent) to rank second in the country in third-down conversions.
Meanwhile, KU's defense has allowed opponents to convert 20 of 35 third downs (57.14 percent) for the second-worst mark nationally.
You'd have to think the Jayhawks will need to hold the Red Raiders under 50 percent on third downs to have a shot in this one.
OK, Tom, who's your Hawk to Rock?
TK: Tony Pierson has the break-away ability to have a big game against any team any time.
JN: I'll go with the obvious choice and say James Sims.
Texas Tech allowed 312 rushing yards to Nevada last week, giving KU even more reason to stick with its run-first gameplan.
Sims should get the most carries, which makes me think he'll easily be able to get his third, 100-plus-yard rushing game this season.
Predictions tally (through two games)
Tom: 2-1 record.
Jesse: 2-1 record.
Hawk to Rock
McNeese State: Toben Opurum (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Northern Illinois: Darrian Miller (7th in Keegan ratings)
Georgia Tech: Bradley McDougald (Not ranked in Keegan ratings)
McNeese State: Brandon Bourbon (Not ranked in Keegan ratings)
Northern Illinois: Darius Willis (Not ranked in Keegan ratings)
Georgia Tech: Kale Pick (Not ranked in Keegan ratings)