Kansas vs. Oklahoma State: Five ?'s With 'Cowboys Ride For Free'
Lucky you, today you get a double dose of opponent talk with an opposing blog. Fetch did some work with 'Pistols Firing' while I bounced five questions of our SB Nation counterpart 'Cowboys Ride For Free'.
Oklahoma State has obviously earned a little bit of 'street cred' and deserves some benefit of the doubt for the program Gundy has established. That said, what do you make of the team at this point in time. Two wins against some not so impressive competition, a loss to Arizona that isn't looking great and a near miss against Texas. What do you make of this team which is in a bit of a rebuilding year?
Talent-wise, this team reloaded. "Rebuilding," for me refers more to the team leadership, which I think has been a huge factor. DE Cooper Bassett was openly aggravated after the Arizona loss at the team's lack of energy and focus in practice. What happened to OSU in both of their losses I chalk up to leadership more than anything. Solid leadership can be one of things that keeps the "breaks" going your way. This is really being felt with the loss of Weeden, and a clear leader has yet to emerge. Joseph Randle could be that person, but it will be hard to live up to the example Weeden set. You can imagine that the player Gundy "consulted" before hiring OC Monken was probably a pretty domineering presence in the locker room. I'm pretty confident that where this team goes this year depends on the emergence of a strong leader.
Those two losses, though, were very different. Arizona was turnovers and penalties...Texas was special teams and the secondary. In both games, the Cowboys were by far the superior offensive unit.
Joseph Randle is a Kansas kid and he's the driving force offensively. Can we expect a larger focus on the running attack or is this still a balanced Mike Gundy team?
Randle is so special, and I'm not expecting him to return sans a bad 2nd half of the season or an injury. Everyone sees him as a slasher/cutter and receiver, but he showed against the Longhorns that he could be physical. He's not an every down punisher, but he can run over you as well as shake you out of your shorts. He has a move that Gina Mizell from NewsOk dubbed the "shimmy-shake."
Regardless, the pass/run ratio really depends on the QB. Lunt will get you at least 60-40 pass, while Walsh will get you closer to 50-50, and brings a definite threat to run. But if Walsh plays, don't underestimate his ability to throw. He'll have no issue passing for 300+ yards. He's not as physical a runner as Klein, but his combination of legs and arm are superior to Colin.
Outside of Randle who are the other offensive players that will make some noise for the Cowboys. Obviously there is no Weeden or Blackmon, who should we know?
Jeremy Smith, Randle's alter ego, is just the other side of the "physical" line. He will punish before he jukes. He is coming off a tweeked ankle against UT, but he should be good to go. Even if he sits, Desmond Roland is a suitable sub. As far as receivers, Josh Stewart, Blake Jackson, and Tracy Moore are the big 3. Moore and Jackson are big, physical guys, very tough for anyone on the field to handle. Stewart is shifty and excellent in space. OSU has a stable of very good young receivers, but the system is tough to learn, so they are growing in fits and starts.
Defensively this team looks better from a statistical standpoint so far. Is there improvement in this area or do you expect that to taper off as the season goes? If so, what is driving that improvement?
I'll address this in an overall statement. The quality of athletes has definitely improved. All it takes is 3-5 years of sustained success and exposure, and kids start to realize that they can come play for titles. Boone's money and the facilities don't hurt, either.
What a question for most OSU fans. Our defense has been a favorite subject, but not for good reason. Getting off the field on 3rd (or 4th) downs is an issue, more because the team is not creating turnovers. The Cowboys are actually 10% better on 3rd downs this season over last, but not creating turnovers has been huge. No short fields and quick scores for the offense. The secondary gave up 4 big pass plays against UT, which was very uncharacteristic. Cornerbacks Brown and Gilbert have been underwhelming after all the preseason hype. The one area OSU is excited about is the defensive line. Calvin Barnett and James Castleman have been effective obstacles in the middle, and the line has done well keeping blockers off a quick bunch of LB's, allowing them to fill gaps and cover wide. This has resulted in the unit being good against the run, holding Texas under 4 ypc.
In the end, we would actually hope the defense starts to improve, ie: turnovers. If this happens, this team could run the table, no problem. They are that talented.
How do you see this game playing out?
My preview of the Jayhawks' offense went up this morning, and I think whether or not this game stays within 3 scores (21 points) depends on Crist vs the OSU secondary. The one thing the Jayhawks do well is run the ball, and the one thing the OSU defense does well is defend the run. The Kansas QB is averaging less than 1 TD/gm, and more than 1 INT/gm. A QB prone to interceptions and a secondary that is underperforming (at least in the eyes of the fans) would seem to be a situation where one of them is going to come out happy. We are obviously hoping it will be OSU.
But in the end, the Cowboys should notch a fairly easy win. How the above plays out could be the difference between a 51-21 game or a 70-10 outcome.