Kansas opens Charlie Weis’ 3rd season with a visit from the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks of Cape Girardeau. The Redhawks come into 2014 with a new coach and some optimism as they look to shake off a disappointing 2013 campaign. Coach Tom Matukewicz makes his return the sunflower state after leaving Emporia State in 2001 to coach defense at Southern Illinois (linebackers). More recently he has coached at Northern Illinois (linebackers) and Toledo (DC). His defense at Toledo finished the season ranked 89th among FBS schools according to Football Outsiders F+ although he found moderate success at UNI during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
The Redhawks' defense gave up 13.4 yards per catch (16 touchdowns) and 5.5 yards per rush (40 touchdowns) last season on their way to being outgained 473 yards/game to 342 yards/game.
Last week the Redhawks held the Missouri Baptist Spartans to 81 total yards in a 77-0 shellacking. The Mid-States Football Association member Spartans are celebrating their first season of competitive football and presented little challenge to the defense. The Spartans completed four passes and averaged a net positive rushing rate of 1.0 yard per rush (I apologize to the start-up Spartans, I can't help but read that in the voice of Harry Doyle).
Who to watch
Last week the Redhawks' defense was led by Roper Garrett (#43), Wisler Ymonice (#5), and Selwyn Carrol (#91) who combined for 19 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and a QB hit. Unfortunately it is too early in the season and the available data is small so let’s move on from analyzing the defense to predicting how the KU offense should stack up.
Goals for the Game
The following goals are presented both as factors I think will lead to a successful outcome as well as show the measurable progress of the offense from last year to this year. The goals will be determined by subtracting garbage time statistics which, for our purposes, I’ll adopt the definition of "the point in the game at which even if the opponent had scored on all of its remaining possessions, converted every 2-point try, and successfully onside kicked, scored and converted once, it would still not have tied the football game".
I believe to be just satisfactory, the offense should perform against the SE Missouri State defense as follows:
In 2013 KU averaged 4.3 yards/play on the season and 5.6 yards/play against FCS opponent South Dakota. Due to the nature of the opponent and the "offensive improvement" (read with an inquiring upward inflection) I would like to see the offense operate at more than 6.0 yards/play before garbage time (300 yards on 50 plays, 360 yards on 60 plays, 420 yards on 70 plays).
I would like nothing more than to expect one or fewer turnovers against a lower level FCS team. However with a new system, young QB and a lot of uncertainty I think no more than 2 turnovers is a reasonable goal.
This is purely personal optimism but I would like to see the offense score a TD on at least 75% of trips to the redzone. OK, I can’t do it. I’ll take 60% and be damn glad about it. In 2013 KU scored a TD on 42.4% of redzone trips.
I'll check back in next week to review the goals for SE Missouri State and preview the Duke Blue Devils defense.