I obviously know nothing about college football or the Jayhawks or any of that. Before the North Dakota State game, I could not have been more confident in a win. And I felt secure in saying that, given our offseason had been marginally hopeful and the Bison were a 1-AA team, and a below average one at that. Of course, we all know how that ended up. Largely based on that entirely lackluster performance, I figured we didn't have much of a shot against the defending ACC champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but again, we of course all know how that ended up.
So, who are we? Are we the team that lost to the Bison or the team that took it to the Yellow Jackets and held on for the victory?
Luckily, it's not my job to answer that for you. For one, it's not even my job to pretend to answer it, given that this preview is to be exclusively about the Golden Eagles, our opponent. And for two, it's only the players on the field who can truly answer that question. It would be silly to put too much stock in either game, or to say that one is the norm and the other was an aberration. It very may well be the case, as I could see us winning 8 games or winning 3, but it's too early to tell. We should be able to figure out a lot about how good this team actually is Friday night against Southern Miss, though. For one, we're one the road and for two we're playing on a short week against a pretty good team. A win, and we have some legitimate hope for the season, while a loss would negate most goodwill from the Georgia Tech victory and likely leave us scraping for a bowl game all season long.
So anyways, on to the Golden Eagles. As I've outlined, it's a pretty important game for the Jayhawks, so let's see just what, exactly, they're up against in such a game.
Friday. Night. Lights.
The greatest show on television (don't tell me what has happened the past two seasons though.. kinda checked out but am like soo excited to start watching them again) and one of the greatest books of all time of the same name are based on high school football, and it's still odd for me to have college football played on a Friday night. Thursday just seemed right, as it like provided you a sneak peek into the weekend's action. But anyways, the game is on Friday night. Now, there are some positives to the friday night game; primarily the exposure a nationally televised game on ESPN will get you but also extra preparation for the next week, so on and so forth. This will be Southern Miss' third Friday night game, and the Jayhawks' second. Neither team has won yet on Friday, so as they say, something's gotta give. I really hope someone brings up this stat and pretends it means something. I like to be amused as much as the next guy, and nothing amuses me more than stupid announcers and their stupid, meaningless stats.
Hey, Remember Last Year?
Last season, the game had a different feel. Kansas was the nationally ranked team coming off of a pair of successful years with a prolific offense and a home crowd behind them, while the Golden Eagles were the spunky always-good-mid-major who was a sneaky upset pick for some. It was a close game, but as you all remember I'm sure, Kansas scored a go-ahead touchdown in the 4th to close out the victory. But hey, we wore our red uniforms and we ended up winning back when we had hope, so it was a good day. This season, Kansas is the bipolar underdog who is a complete enigma to the college football world while Southern Miss is the always-good-mid-major who got absolutely destroyed on college football's opening night. Doesn't sound as quite as good of a game, and yet this is the one who gets the primetime attention while last year's edition was siphoned to an 11 AM kickoff on FSN, home of the worst production quality in collegiate football broadcasting.
So what I'm trying to get out here is this game shouldn't be as fun. But as I've talked about all season, this game might mean a lot more. After all, we have no idea what we really have with this team; whether they're more 6-3 or 28-25. A Friday night in Hattiesburg against a decent Southern Miss team may tell us a lot. And just about nothing of it has to do with last year's game, so don't worry too much about it. New offensive cast, new coach, bladdy bladdy blah.
You Like That Spread? Yeah, Me Too
For the second-straight week we'll get an opposing offense that's incredibly fun to watch, albeit in an entirely different way. Instead of misdirection and immaculately-timed pitches (at least if Turner Gill's running the offense, amirite?), though, we'll be treated to wide open fields and quick passes and plenty of draws. I'm a sucker for the spread, so I eat it up. Their quarterback, Austin Davis, has thrown at nearly a 70% completion rate thus far, due to the short nature of the majority of the throws. With Damion Fletcher using up all of his eligibility, the running game is now shared by three players: Kendrick Hardy, V.J. Floyd and Desmond Johnson. Hardy is a true freshman who didn't play against South Carolina, but is still leading the team in carries with 20. He's also the biggest of the bunch and figures to get the majority of the playing time on Friday night, although Floyd and Johnson both will receive touches.
Considering it is a spread offense, naturally the ball is spread out amongst a bunch of receivers. 14 separate Golden Eagles have caught a pass so far this season, led of course by Deandre Brown, one of the names to know for the 2011 NFL Draft and one of the more underrated receivers in all of college football. He'll be the best receiver Chris Harris and Company have faced all season, so it will be interesting to see how they react. Other fun names to know just to show off would be Deon Hodges (other starter), Johdrick Morris (deep threat.. 23.3 yards a catch) and Kevin Bolden. Just for names' sake, I would suggest throwing out Mujahid Asaad, who caught one game against Prairie View A&M last weekend and whose number (#46) shows off just how frequently he will appear in the game at wide receiver.
Another fun fact; Southern Miss is replacing 4 starters on the offensive line, with only the equally-awesome named Cameron Zipp (center) returning as a starter. Typically, it's preferable to return starts on the offensive line.
Nah Man, Stephen Garcia Is Like the Next Peyton Manning
Now listen. I dislike Stephen Garcia no more than the next guy, but I swear he's (A) been the starting quarterback for South Carolina for at least 5 years and (B) been poised to break out every one of those 5+ years as a Gamecock starter. I realize he didn't like blow the world up in their opener, but the Gamecock offense still put up 41 points no less than a year after setting offensive football back as far as Kansas-North Dakota State did in their 2009 season opener against NC State. Stud freshman running back or not, that isn't a very good sign for the defense's upcoming campaign.
The Prairie View A&M game pretty much doesn't tell us much, leaving us one sample set for this season, and it ain't pretty for the USM defense. Still, one bad game does not a defense make, and the Golden Eagles are returning 8 starters a bunch of depth on the defensive line. John Henderson and Terrance Pope line up at defensive tackle, with Henderson weighing in over 300 pounds, while 250-pound Deddrick Jones and 254-pound Cordarro Law line up at end.
Moving back a level, you'll find the Golden Eagle's best defensive player in middle linebacker Korey Williams, while strongside linebacker Martez Smith is the hardest hitter on the team. Ronnie Thornton mans the weakside. Back in the secondary, CJ Bailey is a four-year starter at cornerback and safety Justin Wilson is in his third year starting for Southern Miss. Joining them are Deron Wilson at corner and Kendrick Presley at free safety,
So Now That We're All Here
I'm not going to try and make predictions, because whatever I say the opposite is guaranteed to occur. I mean, I promise, you can trust me with what I write and stuff; I know what I'm talking about. This team is just a little crazy to watch, which is fine by me as a fan. If we're bound to be more-or-less average and finish with 6 wins, give-or-take a couple, might as well make it as entertaining as possible, yeah? I say yeah.
Anyways, who the hell knows what will happen. I would like to think the defense would play with a lot of confidence, as they've started off the season quite astutely. I would like to think the offense realizes that we don't have the personnel (at least yet) to be a smashmouth type team and should keep using the shotgun. I would like to think that Flat-Top performs just as well in game #2. I would like to think that Daymond Patterson remains quick and our linebackers, once thought to be our biggest weakness, continue to be an underrated strength. I would like to think Jordan Webb can build on his extremely positive first start. I would like to think a lot of stuff about this team, but just a week ago almost all of that would have been unfounded hopes. Now, we've seen a taste of what this Jayhawks team can do. Let's see what we've actually got when they travel down to Hattiesburg to face a perennially underrated Southern Miss team with a not-terrible defense in a semi-hostile environment with a really good quarterback and a solid running game. Then we'll at least have some idea of what we're talking about with the Jayhawks.
At least most likely.