Preview – Colorado v. Kansas

There will be no television coverage of the Colorado v. Kansas game in 2010. The game will represent only the second time in 2010 for both schools that they will play without a television audience.

It’s probably for the best.

The only two teams in the Big 12 without a conference win will do battle in Lawrence, Kansas, with the loser likely relegated to the basement of the Big 12 North for the remainder of the season. Kansas comes into the game with a 2-6 overall record, 0-4 in conference play. The Jayhawks have lost 11 consecutive Big 12 games, and have lost 13 of 15 overall since opening the 2009 season with a 5-0 record. Colorado counters with a 3-5 overall record, and is also 0-4 in conference play. The Buffs have lost seven consecutive Big 12 games, and have lost 15 straight road games overall.

Colorado junior wide receiver Toney Clemons calls the game “an opportunity for us, but also an opportunity for Kansas as well. I’m sure they’re thinking they can get one on us … It’s a battle of wills.”

Sounds better than “The Battle for the Basement”.

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the Colorado/Kansas game:

T – Talent

With Kansas, the questions about the offense begin and end at quarterback. From 2007-09, Buff killer Todd Reesing started 38 consecutive games at quarterback for the Jayhawks. In 2010, it’s been a different story, however, as Kansas has run out three different starters behind center. Kale Pick started the first game, an embarrassing 6-3 loss to North Dakota State. Red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb then started the next six games, winning his first collegiate start in an upset of No. 15 Georgia Tech. With Webb (shoulder) and Pick (concussion) out with injuries, junior college transfer Quinn Mecham started last weekend against Iowa State. Mecham went 22-for-33 for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 28-16 loss to the Cyclones.

When your team is 2-6, it’s safe to say that none of the three have been overly productive. If Webb is healthy, though, it is likely that he will get the start against Colorado.

Webb threw only one interception in his first 93 passes in 2010, but has tossed five in his last three games at quarterback. When he does connect, Webb will be looking for Daymond Patterson, who has caught at least four passes in every game this year, and Johnathan Wilson, who has caught at least two passes in each of his last 25 games. Overall, though, Kansas is only passing for 182 yards per game, 87th in the nation.

Which leaves the running game. True freshman James Sims posted two 100-yard rushing games in his first four collegiate games, including 101 yards in his debut against Georgia Tech. Sims still leads the team with just over 62 yards per game, but has struggled in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 contests (with just over 36 yards per game).

Sixth-year senior Angus Quigley (he received a medical red-shirt) has been picking up the slack of late, posting 125 all-purpose yards last weekend against Iowa State (69 yards rushing; 56 yards receiving). As you might guess, though, in a 2-6 team, the rushing game is not exactly scaring opponents, with Kansas gaining 141.5 yards per game.

The Jayhawk defense began 2010 posting decent numbers, giving up less than 20 points per game. Once Kansas hit Big 12 play, though, the defense was exposed. In an 0-4 conference start, the Jayhawks have given up over 46 points per game. Senior cornerback Chris Harris leads a decent secondary for the Jayhawks. Harris leads the team with 38 career starts, including 20 consecutive. Behind Harris, the Jayhawks have posted their only decent defensive numbers, as Kansas is ranked 42nd in the nation in pass defense – fairly decent.

From there, however, the numbers get ugly.

Kansas is ranked 100th or worse in almost every other significant defensive category, including rushing defense (112th), tackles for loss (104th), sacks (113th), pass efficiency defense (111th), and the all-important scoring defense (100th – at 33.13 points per game).

In short, Kansas is not good at stopping the run. This should be music to the ears of Colorado running back Rodney Stewart, who was averaging over 100 yards per game before struggling the past two games. Kansas is also not very adept at getting to the opposition quarterback, which should help immobile Buff quarterback Cody Hawkins be able to find enough time to find open Colorado receivers.

In the special teams battle between Colorado and Kansas, it will come as no surprise to Buff fans that the Jayhawks have better numbers. Kansas kicker Jacob Branstetter is a three-year starter, and has made 28-of-41 field goal attempts in his career. Against Oklahoma, Branstetter made a 57-yard field goal, tied for the fourth longest in school history. Kansas also has a good punter. Alonso Rojas has a 43.6 yard average, has had at least one 50-yard punt in each game, at least one punt inside the 20 in each game, and had a 77-yarder last week against Iowa State last week (which only tied his career long).

The player Buff fans should be most wary of is D.J. Beshears. The former cornerback is 17th in the nation, and 2nd in the Big 12, with a 27.8 yard average on kickoff returns.

Colorado fans can only hope that Beshears has a number of opportunities on Saturday to try and improve his average …

I – Intangibles

Both Colorado and Kansas have everything – and nothing – to play for.

Kansas is 2-6; Colorado is 3-5. Neither team has been officially eliminated from bowl eligibility, but neither team is likely to make a bowl. One team has a first year coach trying to find his way; the other has a fifth year coach all but out the door.

An advantage for either team?

It’s hard to say.

Kansas players have to be wondering if 2010 is a case of deja vu. The Jayhawks were 5-0 before losing their last seven games of 2009. In 2010, Kansas started with a 2-2 record, including an upset win over No. 15 Georgia Tech. Since then Kansas has not been close to victory, and are looking at closing the year with an eight game losing streak.

Colorado players also have to be wondering if 2010 is just the fifth in a string of losing seasons. Colorado was 3-1 after an upset win over Georgia, but has struggled since. The Dan Hawkins era is all but over, and the unknowns about the future of the program have to weigh upon the minds of the players.

To the winner Saturday gives renewed hope for a bowl game; to the loser goes the reality that a bowl bid is no longer a realistic possibility.

All other things being equal in such situations, you would normally go with the home team …

P – Preparation/Schedule

The Kansas Jayhawks have one last chance at a victory in 2010, and it comes Saturday. Kansas has been losing, and losing big, in Big 12 conference play so far in 2010, and, after the Colorado game, the Jayhawks have three remaining games – all against ranked teams.  A road game against No. 7 Nebraska will be followed by a home game against No. 17 Oklahoma State, with the finale against No. 12 Missouri to be played in Kansas City.

See any wins on that list?

As a result, there is no reason to believe that Kansas will not be “all in” against Colorado. The Jayhawks finished the 2009 season with a seven game losing streak, and the players all know that a long winter hearing about an eight game losing streak is all but certain if the Buffs cannot be overcome.

The road for Colorado is somewhat easier, but only if you forget the current four game losing streak. The Buffs do get Iowa State and Kansas State at home before traveling to Lincoln for the last Big 12 game between the two rivals. In August, the games at Folsom Field with the Cyclones and Wildcats looked like winnable contests, but both teams have overachieved so far in 2010. Iowa State is 5-4, one win away from bowl eligibility. The other two games on the ISU schedule are against Nebraska and Missouri. Any guesses as to which game the Cyclone fans are pointing to as win No. 6?

Kansas State is 5-3, and in better position to get to bowl eligibility. After hosting Texas, the Wildcats take to the road to face Missouri, Colorado, and North Texas. While the game against the Mean Green (2-6) is a likely win, but the Wildcats would be very pleased if the trip to Denton represented a chance at a seventh win and a guaranteed bowl.

In short, both Kansas and Colorado will be perceived as “must” and/or “easy” wins by their opponents down the road. For both the Jayhawks and the Buffs, the last best chance to have a decent November (translation: at least one win) comes this Saturday.

S – Statistics

If you don’t want to jinx the Buffs this weekend, DO NOT read the following …

– 1) Kansas has not had an interception in the past five games; 2) Kansas is dead last in the nation (120th) in turnovers forced (5); 3) Cody Hawkins has not thrown an interception in his last 102 attempts, the third longest such streak in Colorado history; and 4) Colorado has not had a turnover in its last nine quarters, one shy of the school record of ten quarters (accomplished five times). As a result, destiny says that Cody Hawkins will be intercepted in the first quarter of the Kansas game, breaking all four streaks.

Damn. I told you NOT to read that. Now it will be your fault when it happens!

– As is often the case with teams which are struggling, and which have a new coaching staff, ten players have switched sides of the ball in Lawrence this year.

– Colorado’s best quarter remains the third, where the Buffs have out-scored the opposition, 67-42. Last weekend in Ames, Kansas led at halftime, 9-7, but watched the lead evaporate in the third quarter, as Iowa State opened the second half with three straight scoring drives on its way to a 28-16 victory.

– Colorado has won seven straight games against Kansas in games played in the month of November, dating back to 1985. The Buffs hold a 21-10 edge overall against the Jayhawks in games played in November.

– The last three times the teams have played, Kansas has been ranked (with the Jayhawks taking two of the three). The last time the Buffs were ranked when they played the Jayhawks was in 1998. Colorado holds an overall edge of 17-15-3 in games played in Lawrence, and leads the series 42-24-3 overall.

The last word …

Say what you want about Dave Plati, the media relations director / assistant athletic director at Colorado, but his Game Notes are the gold standard. Every week, Plati comes up with obscure stats and game notes which you will not find anywhere else.

This is not to say that other teams are not without quality content – or humor. In this week’s Kansas Game Notes, there is a “A KU win would …” and “A KU loss would …” segment. One of the tidbits under “A KU win would … be KU”s fourth in the last five meetings with Colorado”.

But under “A KU loss would …”, there is this: “A KU loss would … Be less good than a win.”


It’s been a long year in Lawrence, too.

For one of the struggling teams, though, Saturday’s result will make the winter just a little bit shorter.

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