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Kansas State and Other Thoughts

BCS Standings

I'm intrigued by the possibility of LSU losing a game (SEC championship game, Georgia, or Arkansas) and then losing their chance at a title to Alabama or Oregon. One common argument you hear for the strength of the BCS is that it "makes the regular season matter."

How in the world can you maintain that argument if Alabama and Oregon get in ahead of LSU despite having weaker resumes AND both losing direct contests to LSU that weren't even in Baton Rouge?

In reality, the problem with college football isn't the postseason, it's the regular season. Playoff systems are generally a poor substitute for the regular season in determining the best team. It's too difficult for a team to maintain the effort and execution they are capable of in every single contest. We use playoffs not for their ability to determine the best all-around team, but to generate entertainment for the fans.

College football doesn't have a very good playoff system because it's based on a subjective ranking of teams, and our available data for those subjective rankings is mostly useless, because college football has a lousy regular season. Half the games on Texas' schedule will tell us very little about how they would stack up against the contenders in other major conferences.

Super conferences in which the major teams have to play multiple games against programs with comparable resources would be a far greater improvement of the college football product than a new playoff system.

If LSU is penalized for losing a single game despite posting a more impressive resume than any other NCAA team than I don't know how we can have even the slightest confidence in the eventual champion.

I also have a slight fear of OU sneaking back into the title game but this is mostly negated by the fact that Landry-to-Broyles was one of the most dominant pairings in league history. I don't think OU can hang against a Top-5 Pokes squad without Broyles in the lineup.

Kansas State

Dominance over Texas:

I'd like to begin with a brief examination of the fact that Mack Brown is 2-7 against the Wildcats in his time here and attempt to understand why this has happened.

In our 9 contests, KSU has outscored us 242-142 and won each game by an average score of 27-16. An 11 point margin of victory. You can't explain that away with one factor and so I offer a few:

1). Kansas State has generally caught us at opportune times on the schedule.

They beat us in 1998 when we were good and they were excellent, in 1999 when we were average, in 2006 when Colt was knocked out of the game, in 2007 when we were subpar, and in 2010 after our team had already thrown in the towel.

The Wildcats haven't played any of Mack's better teams save for 1998 when KSU was at their own peak. We beat them in 2002 and 2003 behind excellent defense and the water-into-wine miracle that initiated Vince Young's 3-year ministry.

2). They are perfectly designed to beat us up

Physical option football and tendency-attacking zone defense with older JUCO guys, transfers, and blue collar kids offers quite the dichotomy to entitled Mack Brown kids living it up in Austin and playing in a finesse offense.

Their identity is a good foil to our own: Older, unheralded, mentally tough, more physical, disciplined, etc. Doesn't matter against our better, more experienced teams but against the weaker Brown units...

3). Gameplanning

Mack's basic strategy at Texas has been to overwhem the opponent with a talent advantage, hopefully deployed with some competency but that hasn't always been necessary or a viable option thanks to prior limitations at the coordinato level. Stoops beats him more often than not because he has a consistent system and because he deploys his pieces with far greater calculation. His defenses are schematically designed to attack tendency and the players are taught to do so.

He learned all that from Snyder.

So if you combine the good luck, stronger team identity, and gameplanning superiority and then consider that these forces were thrown against the teams that represent the worst of what Mack's method has produced here you have a recipe for the kind of subjugation we have witnessed.

This year, of course, they've caught us at the most opportune time again. I don't know what our health at running back will be but I'm guessing one of them plays through some pain and we decide to go ahead and shove all-in by using Ash in the option game.

The K. State Offense:

This particular KSU team is a much-improved version of the group that annihilated us last year in Manhattan.

On offense, the best comparison for what Kansas St. is doing is actually the Tim Tebow Florida offense and Manny Diaz has said as much. Just imagine the 2008 Gators without Percy Harvin and you're getting pretty close.

We like to compare KSU to Texas because they are the other team in the conference that's built around the run and play-action but schematically how they get there is very different. When they run Power it's QB Power with the RB as just another blocker for the real basis of the offense, which is Collin Klein. They also run zone-read and everything else that is afforded as an option to a team that doesn't mind allowing the QB to get hit.

Colin Hubert is on pace for around 1,000 yards on the season but he's really just a dude who benefits from the numbers advantages of having a running QB. If they get another feature back like Daniel Thomas or an explosive WR that is a homerun threat on a screen, quick pass, or sweep next season and pair them with Klein, this could be a league championship contender.

Klein is the real talent here and he's a fairly unique one. He's deceptively fast, but not in the same sense as other white players who can actually run fine but are overlooked. His speed is deceptive in that he's a long strider, similar to Matt Jones at Arkansas. He's extremely patient in setting up his blocks and consequently doesn't look that explosive. However, he has tremendous power in his lower body, accelerates well, and can shoot through a seam with power.

He's on pace for just under 300 carries on the season but he's durable enough to still be a threat in the passing game where he throws a strong, catchable deep ball, and delivers the intermediate and short passes where only his guy can get it. He has a slow delivery and imperfect mechanics but he gets the job done and only has 5 picks on the season.

You would think that the answer to Klein, like other running QB's, is to punish him and make him beat you in the passing game. However, much in the same way that you wouldn't encourage Texas to run Ricky Williams over and over for the opportunity to hurt him, you don't want to play the option in a way that encourages Klein carries -- you want the ball out of his hands.

Unfortunately, the ball is placed into his hands at the beginning of every snap, so there isn't an easy answer. This is the dilemma for modern defensive coordinators as more teams are combining Power-O, option-football, the spread, and enormous athletes at QB who can take a pounding. Power runs featuring the QB are nearly unstoppable in the red zone and they can be used in 4 or 5 receiver sets that spread the defense across the goal line.

As far as solutions go, OU and A&M did their best to knock Klein silly and it paid few dividends for them but we shouldn't necessarily count on it paying an dividends for us. OU held him to 159 yards and they did so by wrapping him up and shutting down the KSU downfield passing attack that often does some of the most serious damage. Hapless Aggy surrendered the downfield passes in order to limit him to 2.9 yards per carry (and shut down Hubert) which didn't limit KSU's scoring and still failed to stop him from dominating in the red zone.

We have the personnel to lock down their receivers with our corners on islands so we could attempt the A&M strategy but our front 7 is strong enough to be trusted to limit damage from the KSU running game and allow us to show them some deeper safety coverages as well. We should do both.

A steady mix of press-man with aggressive safeties, Cover-3, and Fire Zones is probably the best bet because our offensive health suggests that our defense may need to hold KSU under 20 points while also generating some gamechanging turnovers by mixing looks and creating confusion.

The K. State Defense:

The Wildcat D is a dumbed down version of what OU does: 2-deep zone coverages in front of Over/Under fronts. They don't do the Odd front stuff that OU has been adding to their repertoire, and they don't have different personnel to plug into different roles or blitz in exotic fashions. They just play base defense, anchored by excellent corners.

There are 2 major schools of defensive strategy in college football that attempt to attack whatever the base concepts of an offense are and force them to beat you with constraints or left-handed.

One is the Belichek-Saban school, in which you deny the offense their preference with press-coverage or man defense, 2-gap nose tackles, and big blitzes on 3rd down.

The other is the Snyder-Stoops school where you drop guys back into zone, keep the offense in front of you, but aggressively attack every tendency, and zone-blitz on 3rd down. It's deceiving in that it appears as though the defense is playing it safe until they attack from that position of strength.

They are still rebuilding personnel at Manhattan and are far more simple than OU in that they play almost entirely Cover-2 or Cover-4 and dare you to work them down the field. Should you attempt to force the ball against the zone than DBs Nigel Malone (7 interceptions on the year) and David Garrett will make you pay.

Usually they prefer to play Cover-4, drop their outside linebackers (both of whom play against spread formations) deep and wide to the flats. This makes them fairly susceptible to a steady pounding of Power or Inside Zone but their safeties come up in support and Arthur Brown is probably the class of the league at Middle Linebacker. Their DL works hard and gets solid pressure with 4-man rushes but none of them are particularly special.

Had we a healthy backfield playing at home it's likely that we could have pounded our way to 20-30 points but since it seems unlikely that Bergeron, Brown, or Shipley are at full strength that makes things very tricky.

We aren't going to win throwing 40 times against this back 7 and Snyder would delight in making us attempt it if we can't get the running game going enough to punish honest fronts.

Our best bet is to protect Brown and Bergeron by using the original Ash package, splitting carries between him, Monroe, Goodwin, and the feature backs, and hoping for an explosive play or turnover opportunity en route to winning a 16-13 style slugfest.

I think it's likely that their defense is worn down from battling OU and then A&M in triple OT but I'm not betting against Klein folding until I see him flinch. Vaccaro, you've been challenged.

Safety play in the Big 12

I've been wondering recently whether the production we've gotten from Blake Gideon is comparable to what we might see if we plugged in another Big 12 safety and asked him to do what we ask Gideon to do. Now, I don't think anyone else in the conference has a job quite as easy as Gideon's, or one that offers the same opportunities. However, I worked with what I had.

I compiled the stats for all the starting safeties in the Big 12 and looked at what they had done so far in the following statistical categories:

Tackles, Forced Fumbles & Interceptions, and Pass break-ups.

In most every defense, playing safety generally means being free to come up in support against the pass or run and these are the categories in which their impact in doing so is most likely to be captured.

As of the Missouri game, Gideon has recorded 53 tackles, 1 FF/INT, and 4 pass break-ups.

The average Big 12 safety has 55.35 tackles, 1.85 TO, and 3.4 pass break-ups.

So in doing what we ask him to do, that compares to what the league's other safeties are asked to do, and he's having an almost exactly average impact.

For a 2 star recruit to perform like that consistently over 4 years as a starter is extremely impressive and we should all consider that when we think of Blake Gideon.

Additionally, it's foolish to say "Gideon sucks." He doesn't suck, he's just not great. We can and will do better at this position though once Mykelle Thompson gets in the mix next year.

You can get away with being average at one safety spot but I hope that in the future we'll see more game-changing production from both spots.