Friday, December 30, 2011

Bowl Prep, BCS Boycott, and Basketball

I know it was a long time ago, but first I want to do a quick recap of the Iowa State game.

Respect Barnett, forcing him into mistakes: Mostly true. Kept him to 150 pass yards and only 50 rush yards, with only one TD - a passing TD. He only made one mistake, but it came at an important time in the 3rd quarter when the great Ralph Guidry made a great diving interception. K-State turned it into a fg to go up 7pts.

Use Klein to all of his potential, mixing up the playbook: Not really. He only threw 15 passes, and while he completed 7 of them for 150 yards, one play took up 68 yards of that when he hit Tremaine Thompson for K-State's first TD of the game. Klein was also stopped after three attempts at the one-yard line for the first time all season, which probably means Braden Wilson didn't jam him in the back like he did against A&M for the winning TD.

Give the seniors a proper send-off: What better way of doing this than winning yet another close game? Hubert really delivered in this game, scoring the winning TD on a magnificent 26yard TD run to cap off a 120yard day, and dedicated it to the senior afterwards, as he should have. Ralph Guidry also proved how much he'll be missed with yet ANOTHER blocked extra point as well as an INT. He was hurt late in the game but walked all the way around the stadium to shake hands with the fans and all reports are good for his playing in the upcoming bowl.

My bonus one was to make it not gut-wrenching for my final game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium as a student, but obviously that didn't happen. I'll definitely take the win, though, and I look forward to seeing many more in the stands as an alumnus!

So that pretty well summarizes what we got out of that game I think. The defense has continued to improve, especially against the pass. Klein and the offense struggled a bit more than usual, but Iowa State has a decent defense that held Oklahoma State to their point-low of the season so that's not all bad. Hubert showed flashes of brilliance in breaking tackles and a Sproles-like spin move yet again and firmly established himself as the starting RB for next season. But first, on to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl against the Arkansas Razorbacks!

First a comment on the bowl selection, which I've already tweeted some about but will say here again. I am indeed disappointed we're not going to the Sugar Bowl, as we very well could have. Selecting Virginia Tech was not only a slap in the face to K-State, but to the Big 12 as a whole. The Big 12, ranked the second best conference by far in both computers and human polls, only got one team into the BCS. Meanwhile, the ACC, Big 10, and Pac-12 all got two teams in. From the Big 10, Michigan didn't even play in their conference championship and was ranked a full 5 BCS spots below K-State. From the ACC, Virginia Tech got creamed by 30 points in their conference championship and was ranked 3 spots below K-State. From the Pac-12, even though Stanford didn't play in their conference championship, they only lost one game and were automatically invited as they were ranked 4th in the BCS. But the Sugar bowl taking Michigan AND Virginia Tech is just ridiculous. I would've been okay with one of those teams plus maybe Boise, who's ranked above K-State and was also BCS-snubbed. But the BCS continues to show how inept they are, especially since they cited Virginia Tech's name and fan support as reasons they chose them and up till now K-State has sold more tickets to the Cotton Bowl. Good move guys. Oh yeah and that isn't even mentioning their farce of a National Championship. If LSU wins, well we already knew they were better than Alabama. If Alabama wins, we settle nothing since LSU split with them. I'm so sick of the "best two teams" argument. How can you possibly say with absolute certainty that Alabama is better than Oklahoma State? O-State only lost to Iowa State in a heated road game in two overtimes the day after the tragic deaths of the girls' basketball coach at O-State. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, so I'll stop with this: join me in boycotting watching the game and show the BCS just what a huge mistake they've made.

This all being said, I am still happy with the bowl selection. The Cotton Bowl doesn't have to pick the team in the Big 12 with the second best record. They could have taken Baylor over us, they could have taken Oklahoma over us. We could have ended up in the Alamo Bowl (which was a fantastic game and fantastic travel site, so I wouldn't have been that upset) or the Insight Bowl (which I would have been extremely UNhappy about). However, the Cotton Bowl made the right choice and now we all get to manage getting to a January 6th bowl game in one of the coolest and most expensive stadiums ever built. AND we get to play an SEC team, the only SEC-Big12 matchup of the bowl season on a day where there are no other bowl games on a network where there are no other bowl games. Talk about great exposure. The opponent, however, is another one that's going to cause K-State some trouble.

Arkansas' passing game isn't quite to the level of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Baylor, as they are all in the top-10, but Arkansas is ranked 13th so... yeah, they're still pretty much the same. They don't have a very good rushing attack, ranked 80th, so expect another game like the ones against the four previously-mentioned Big 12 schools. The difference in Arkansas on offense from the previous schools, besides being a little less potent, is that they have turned over the ball far less than any of them. Taylor Wilson is efficient as they come and has only thrown 6 interceptions, which is less than Heisman-trophy winning RG3. K-State beat Tech and Baylor and kept it close against O-State with turnovers. Don't expect that kind of luck with Arkansas, though you never know with this ball hungry K-State defense. Nevertheless, they will need to get stops. Get to the quarterback, don't let them get anything going on the ground, and play some man-to-man pass coverage for the love of God. On the other side of the ball, there is better news. Arkansas ranks 80th against the run and 26th against the pass. Klein and Hubert should be chomping at the bit. While they may put 7-8 in the box and dare K-State to throw against Arkansas' athletic and talented secondary, I think K-State can handle that with some creative play-calling, out-screens, maybe some jump-passes, and as we've already seen this bowl season, maybe even some trick plays. All the chips are down in a bowl game and you aren't trying to hide anything. That's extremely good news for Snyder and the cats. Also good news is that Arkansas doesn't force too many turnovers. Not that K-State ever turns the ball over much, but it's comforting to know that Arkansas really doesn't have too many play-makers on defense that we should be too worried about. On special teams, Arkansas has a Tyler Lockett-type player in that he's a freshman WR with a top-15 return average and one kickoff returned for a TD. K-State's kick coverage has been pretty solid all season, but they looked a little lax against Iowa State so they have to be on top of their game, always paying attention. It'll be nice to have Ralph in there for some blocked kicks on Arkansas' average kicker, and Cantele for K-State has been solid lately, hitting all three of his important kicks against Iowa State. So let's keep those things going.

Again, this game is going to be a lot like those games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor - great offenses with little talent on defense. And in all those games, the offense was able to take advantage of those disabilities on defense while the defense did their part in forcing a few key turnovers and the special teams played solidly. In order to do those things I believe we must do the following:

Get defensive stops - I know this is pretty basic, but this isn't something K-State has done for much of the season. This game, for once, will not be about turnovers because no one's going to turn the ball over much. Stops can be punts or even field goals, but you have to keep them out of the end zone as much as possible.

Open up the playbook - I know I say this every week, but it's now or never for this team. You have GOT to open up the playbook in a bowl game. Pull out all the stops, throw down the gauntlet, all those cliches. Honey Badger don't care.

Dominate on special teams - Tyler Lockett won't be available for this game, but the kickoff returns have been solid without him and they need to stay that way. Same goes for kick coverage and Cantele kicking his field goals. A Ralph block would be stupendous as well. Stay confident, boys, cause you're just as important as the offense and defense.

So I know up till now this blog has been all about football, but wouldn't you know it - K-State plays lots of other sports and first of all I want to mention volleyball. Hell of a win at Nebraska (first time ever Nebraska has lost at home in the NCAA tournament). No seniors on a team that won close to 20 games and went to the sweet 16. Could be another great year next year. Next is another sport close to my heart - girls' basketball. Every year they look like they have very little talent and may just lose every game. And every year they surprise people. While they've sustained their fair share of unfortunate losses, they've also beat Iowa and Northwestern, giving us all hope for another fun season. The Big 12 schedule is a bear having to play everyone twice, especially because 4 wins came against two teams that have left since last year, but you just never know with these girls. Jalaina Childs and Brittany Chambers have been brilliant as always and I sure hope they stay that way. Finally, we have men's basketball. Already they're having a football-esque season. I tweeted earlier this year that they look like they've inherited some of the football teams' "nevergiveupiness" - as Eric Stonestreet so eloquently put it. Playing in their biggest game of the season, they gave up a late lead and lost to West Virginia in 2 overtimes in Wichita. It was a great game and I thought they played pretty well - they were one play away from winning. The next game seemed a bit of a let-down, taking overtime to beat North Florida. And it gave us all concern since the next game was again against the best team they'd have played so far - Alabama. The first half was a brawl but the second half was some truly beautiful basketball - perhaps the best team basketball any of Frank's teams have ever played. And they have played this beautiful team basketball every game since - winning a championship trophy in Hawaii in the process. This team is a long way off from as good as they can be or as good as previous K-State teams, especially because the conference is looking more daunting than ever. After a final tune-up against Howard, the conference schedule begins with KU in Lawrence, undefeated Missouri in Manhattan, undefeated Baylor in Manhattan, and 9-2 Oklahoma in Norman. Quadruple yikes. With the way this team is playing, 2-2 over that stretch would be magnificent. 1-3 would perhaps even be acceptable. But you have got to avoid the dreaded 0-4 start. I don't think it'll happen, and they should of course take it a game at a time, but man is it scary. Although, one of the best chances they have to win is in Lawrence, surprisingly. KU is somewhat down, though K-State has played horribly in Lawrence lately. If the basketball team really wants to show off how surprising they are, just as the football team, they'll have to learn to take advantage of every weakness of the opponent, just as the football team did, and this KU team has more of them than previous KU teams. But we will see.

So there it is. Bowl Prep, BCS Boycott, and Basketball. Hope you've enjoyed the first blog post in a while. I'll be back after visiting Dallas and watching my cats. As always, thanks for reading.