First off, before we delve into the Yellow Jackets, I just wanna say whoops. I mean, I was incredibly confident that no matter how we ended up looking on Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium we would come away with a victory of some sort. Maybe an ugly win, maybe a blowout win, but nevertheless a win was a certainty. Obviously not. I wasn't able to see any part of the game, but just the box score tells me enough to know that we are flat-out a bad football team right now.
Our next opponent, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, are not a bad football team by any stretch of the imagination. They run my favorite offense in football, they have talent everywhere, they won the ACC last season and, last but not least, they took care of their 1-AA opponent in the season opener (South Carolina State). When the game was scheduled, it was thought to be a tough test for a Kansas team losing their offensive core. Still, it was certainly thought to be winnable, particularly considering it was at home and Georgia Tech hadn't quite proven yet that the triple option could still work in major college football, considering it had been 20 years since a major conference team had employed the offense. A year later and the Yellow Jackets are coming off a BCS bowl bid, while Kansas is undergoing a complete transformation complete with a brand new coach. With all of that said, combined with the abysmal performance on Saturday by the Jayhawks, and Georgia Tech figures to be sizable favorites.
The reasons why they're expected to come into Memorial and romp over our Jayhawks can be read after the break...
Wait, Where's the Ball?
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets employ Paul Johnson as their head football coach, meaning they run the most exciting offense in football. They call it the flexbone, and it is awesome. I'm sure most of you know just what happens in the Georgia Tech offense, but just in case you don't, here's a quick recap. Primarily, the flexbone offense is run by the service academies, which is at least partially related to them lacking the ability to recruit hulking, 330-pound mammoths to play right guard. At Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has the ability to recruit significantly better athletes, making the offense even more potent. If you have to hesitate for even a split-second trying to figure out where the ball is, the wingback is sprinting right past you on his way to a large chunk of yardage. The easiest way to beat Tech's offense is for the entire defense to stay disciplined and stay in their respective lane, because chasing after the ball will leave you open for a loooong touchdown run on some misdirection.
Who Needs the Forward Pass?
This kind of goes along with the first point, but I really wanted to emphasize how ridiculous this is. Now, granted the Yellow Jackets won handily against SC State, and didn't have to come from behind or anything, but still. Look at that box score again (link in second paragraph). 56 runs, 8 passes. The Tech offense ran 64 official plays, and only an eighth of them (1/8!) actually resulted in the ball leaving the quarterback's hands in a forward direction. They just completed two of them for a combined 12 yards, almost justifying their one-sided offensive attack. So, more than any other game we'll play all season, we have to be focused on stopping the run. Now, obviously, you don't want to put 11 people in the box, but if I were the coach, I'd probably come with a standard 4-4 defense with a single safety responsible for the entire backend. Risky, sure, but if you stop 7/8ths of the plays more effectively, it's okay to take a risk or two for the other eighth of the snaps.
There's A Lot of Carries to Go Around
Considering they ran the ball 56 times on Saturday, it's not very surprising that 12 different people received at least one touch on a running play. Leading the charge is the man at the helm of the offense, Joshua "don't call me Josh" Nesbitt, as is typical in option-style offenses. He might not throw the ball a whole lot, but the offense still rides on his shoulders, as it's largely his decision as to where the ball goes on any given play. The fullback would be Anthony Allen, a redshirt senior who has averaged over 5 yards a carry throughout his career. The wingbacks are Roddy Jones and the fantastically-named Embry Peeples, both of which are juniors. Roddy is a much more proven commodity, although he's received less carries each season he's been in college, while Embry is a new starter who didn't get off to a good start, carrying the ball twice on Saturday for -6 yards. Orwin Smith and Marcus Wright both received carries from the wingback position, Lucas Cox and Preston Lyons did as well from the fullback spot. And while it may prove to be totally unnecessary information given the Yellow Jackets' play-calling, the top receivers for Tech are Kevin Cone and Stephen Hill, who caught both passes in the season opener.
A Fresh Defense Is a Happy Defense Is a Good Defense
Probably the most underrated thing about run-extreme offenses is the rest it gives defenses. The more time of possession the offense accumulates, the more time the defense has to get a drink of water, cool down and discuss strategy. Georgia Tech has a solid defense regardless of the extra time spent chillaxing with Paul Johnson, but the extra time can only help. The D is led by middle linebacker Brad Jefferson, who is naturally a tackling machine given he's a good middle linebacker. The strength of the Jackets' defense is in the secondary, however, with Mario Butler and (especially) Cooper Taylor leading the way. Dominique Reese starts opposite Butler at corner, while Isaiah Johnson and Mario Edwards both play some at safety alongside Taylor. Jefferson is joined by outside linebackers Steven Sylvester and Anthony Egbuniwe and inside 'backer Kyle Jackson. Jefferson and Egbuniwe are seniors while Sylvester and Jackson are juniors, making this group the most veteran position group on the team. The defensive line is headed by Izaan Cross, if only for his name, who is paired with Jason Peters (no, not the Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle.. silly) on the end with Logan Walls at defensive tackle. All solid players with a few stars (Jefferson and Taylor) mixed in. It's a veteran-heavy defense, at least everywhere besides the defensive line, where there are a couple of new starters in Tech's new 3-4 scheme.
So Now That We're All Here
Remember like how confident I was that we would win last Saturday. Yeah, me too. Yeah, I'm embarrassed. Not as much for my post, which contained a lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff, but for the ridiculous performance we put on the field of Memorial Stadium. I'm a big believer in proof and actual information to back up opinions, and so far we only have one data point in the Turner Gill era. I'm obviously not expecting us to look that terrible on a consistent basis, or ever again really, but that's all we have to go on right now. Well, that and a significantly subpar spring game. So, until this Jayhawks team of Turner Gill actually shows the world they aren't awful, I see no reason to expect something different.
Can we win? Sure, just like North Dakota State could beat us (and did) last week. Not comparing the two games, just saying that anything is possible. But I just don't see it. We did do a good job at stopping North Dakota State's running game, but Georgia Tech's is in an entirely different stratosphere. And our offense was beyond atrocious, making it hard to believe we'll even get 100 yards against Tech's D on Saturday. Hopefully we come out with some passion and fire and stuff, and we can make it a fun game to watch for awhile. But no matter what strings Turner Gill pulls in the pregame speech, we don't match up X's-and-O's wise with the Yellow Jackets. We just don't.
When this game was originally scheduled, it was supposed to be a tough game, even at home. Now that we're almost to kickoff, it's looking more impossible than ever. We're currently 13.5 point underdogs at home. That's mostly embarrassing.
Maybe we'll pull a reverse of last Saturday and come out with enough intensity to play up to the competition, not down to it. Maybe the offensive line won't look like crap and the quarterback (whoever ends up back there) will play in a more competent fashion. Maybe our defense will have a gameplan for the flexbone and JoshUA Nesbitt won't be able to get the Yellow Jackets' offense off of the ground.
Or maybe we'll get our butts kicked by 21 points and begin to write off this season, looking only at the development of young players like we're watching the Royals or something.