Kansas Football: RCT Roundtable

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

We rounded up some of the writers to discuss the state of the football program before Big XII play begins for the Jayhawks.

What's the best thing we've seen out of the Jayhawks?

notkapowski: I think the defense has been at least decent. They're not too far away from some of the best defenses in the country in terms of points per play given up, and they're 11th in passing defense in terms of S&P (granted a lot of that probably has to do with the run defense being so bad, but we're looking for positives here).

Ben: The defense has certainly been the most impressive part of the 2013 Jayhawks. They were instrumental in keeping all three games competitive and gave the offense every opportunity to beat Rice back in Week 3. Heeney has been all over the place making tackles and making plays. The defense will be a big part of keeping the Jayhawks competitive in games this year. Can you imagine saying that two years ago?

misterbrain: I'm going to be a bit different here and avoid the obvious answer of the defense.  I'd have to say the best thing I've seen overall is the swagger that our players have.  From what I've been able to watch, I haven't seen guys acting defeated when they give up a play, or fail to execute one.  Obviously improved play is partially responsible for that, but I've yet to see any moments like the end of pretty much every close game last year, when it was obvious that everyone knew we were going to lose, it was just a matter of who let it happen.

Warden: Pardula.  Being able to move the ball through punts could do a lot for both sides of the ball.  Even when the offense stalls early on a drive, the opponent is still going to have to go 60+ yards more often than not.  After watching Okie State last weekend, I think they'd have traded damn near anyone for Pardula.

What's the most disappointing?

notkapowski: The offensive line for me. I guess I was wary of the receivers (although I did expect them to be better than this) but the line has been really inconsistent in pass blocking and has gotten pushed around by teams like Rice and Louisiana Tech on running plays. Granted I assume teams are loading up to stop the run and that probably doesn't help their cause, and their problems are masked a bit by how good our backs are, but the line has been pretty atrocious and that is going to have to improve because the athletes on the other side are only going to get better.

Ben: Jake Heaps. I had such high hopes for Heaps coming into this year, not unlike the hopes I had for Crist last year. I do think that Heaps has been a better quarterback thus far than Crist, but he has not been the quarterback that the Jayhawks have needed. When the offensive line has given him time to throw, he still holds on to the ball for too long. If the receivers aren't getting open, then he needs to take off. He has speed and he's not using it. I will give him the benefit of the doubt in some cases where he has been the victim of horrendous play calling, poor receiver play and a shaky o-line, but I expected more from Heaps in the first three games.

Warden: I'm still unsure about Heaps and after the first 3 opponents, that's probably not a good thing.  He made about three beautiful passes against La. Tech, like the one to Pierson to set up the field goal at the end.  On the whole, just don't know yet.

misterbrain: The playcalling.  I don't know how many times I've been scolded by my wife this season already for screaming "What the &%$# kind of play is that?". While the OL has been terrible, and the WRs seem to be buttering their hands before the game, I just expected to see more competence in a game plan.

Warden: As far as competence in a game plan, I was kind of hoping to have an idea of what we are this year by now.  Are we a passing team?  Threw the ball 46 times last time out.  Running team?  Only 217 yards against the two FBS opponents.  We simply don't have any idea.  Have to put our faith in the coaching staff and believe they do have an idea.

What does a successful conference season look like for the Jayhawks?

Ben: There are a couple of very winnable games for Kansas this year that they need to take advantage of. Iowa State and West Virginia are not the teams they were last year and Kansas can definitely beat them. There's winnable games against Texas and TCU. They can be competitive against Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. I will be disappointed if they only get one conference win. Two is what I would call successful as long as they are competitive in the other games. Any more wins are gravy.

notkapowski: I'm saying two wins. Mainly because that's how many I need to win a bet, but I think Tech, Iowa State and West Virginia are beatable, and then Texas, TCU and Kansas State are games we can be competitive in as well. The numbers still say there is a pretty big gap between us and the rest of the league, but with the middle of the league being a bit down this year, this is where the coaches and players need to step up a bit and get a win or two that they maybe shouldn't expect.

misterbrain: Finishing ahead of ISU and/or WVU, even if that means we only beat a winless-in-the-Big-12 ISU team.  Until we get out of the Big 12 cellar, I can't consider a football season successful.  There is no reason to think we can't beat ISU, and while the WVU win this week was impressive, it isn't enough to make me reevaluate that team completely.

Warden: I'd like to win a conference game somewhere due to the reasons already mentioned.  League's not great, we are "improving".  If we win two games, I'll take that as the coaching staff getting things moving.  In the end though it's all about patience, next year is when we'll know what we have with this coaching staff.

After 5 weeks, who is your pick to win the conference?

Ben: Oklahoma has looked good so far but Baylor has looked unstoppable. Granted, they've played three games against lower-level opponents but they look very efficient on the offensive side of the ball and I don't think that there is a defense in the Big 12 that is strong enough to knock off the Bears. I may change my view after I see them in a couple of conference games but they are my pick right now.

notkapowski: Baylor.They haven't played anyone good yet, but I don't see anyone stopping them. Not sure there's much more that needs to be said.

misterbrain: Oklahoma. Look, I know Baylor has been really impressive, but they haven't really been tested, and it's not like they have been blowing out anyone worth talking about.  Oklahoma, on the other hand, has already had and overcome some struggles, and have shown they can beat a team on the road that is fairly comparable to the teams they will be facing in conference.

Warden: Know what happens to teams that have shown they can overcome struggles?  They end up losing because being in struggles leads to losses.  OU might be the team to beat but Baylor's doing things that haven't been done in at least the last few years.  All of the top teams have played rumdums and Baylor's leading in total yards per game by 135 yards.  135 yards!  Baylor wins the conference with 1 loss.

What's the recipe for a Big 12 win?

Ben: The defense needs to do what they have been doing and that is giving the offense every opportunity to win. The offense, in order to win a couple of games, needs to take advantage of those opportunities. They didn't against Rice and they didn't against Louisiana Tech. That will not fly against Big 12 opponents. As we saw against Rice, the defense is eventually going to get overrun and the Jayhawks will lose. If the offense can reciprocate the effort of the defense then there is absolutely no reason they can't win a few games.

notkapowski: I think getting a few more turnovers like they did the last couple weeks would be a big help, and even though time of possession is pretty overrated in general I think in our case it would be a good idea to just give the ball to Sims and Cox and Miller and mix in some Bourbon and Pierson as much as possible and try to win games 14-10 or something like that every week.

misterbrain: Luck, truckloads of luck.  I can't say Louisiana Tech is better than any team in the Big 12, and that is what it took to beat them.  In terms of what the team can control, it all comes down to the line of scrimmage.  We have to get a push to disrupt the backfield when we are on D, and the OL absolutely must give us more time, in both the passing and running game.   Oh, and bringing extra-strength detergent to clean that butter up would help too.

Warden: Long field goals.  Turnovers.  Mix in some luck.

What'd we miss?

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