The Kansas Jayhawks are just falling over themselves in their excitement to host TCU this week. Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
Two days until TCU's first Big 12 game, both of the season and all time, and excitement is running high here on Frogs O' War. It would have been nice to have welcomed the Big 12 into the new and beautiful Amon Carter Stadium for our debut game, but the scheduling forces dictated that we hit the road to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Jayhawks so that's what we're going to do. However, it's been fifteen years since TCU football last played in Lawrence and it turns out that things have changed a bit since then, so we got in touch with Owen over at SBNation's excellent Kansas blog Rock Chalk Talk to answer our Kansas queries. You'll find both my questions and his answers after the jump!
HawkeyedFrog: Color me among the shocked when Kansas announced that it was hiring Charlie Weis to take over its head coaching position after dispatching Turner Gill. Two games into the Charlie Weis era in Lawrence what are the differences in approach and scheme between the two coaches, and how long do you think it will take Weis to build a winner?
Owen: The difference in approach is pretty significant. Turner Gill wanted to win and do so without being a typical football coach. He wanted to be a nice guy, run a fun little program, avoid the long hours and just make it happen because he entitled people and relied on self accountability. At one point he talked about his life in college and how he made the decision to change his life and it was on him. That seemed to be what he thought everyone would do. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. We had a program without discipline, without structure and it was a train wreck.
Now Charlie Weis is going to hold you accountable in the classroom, off the field as well as on the field. That change is noticeable. We had several players that are no longer here for a variety of reasons and attrition was probably more than the norm because his tolerance for unacceptable behavior has been slim. So what we have is a better conditioned team that is more disciplined, but we still have a talent deficit compared to much of the Big 12 and we still have some glaring confidence issues.
Weis will run a more traditional pro style offense so from a schematic standpoint that's the change, but that's far from the biggest change in the program. After two weeks I think we're realizing just how far we have to go so I think we're talking about a 3 year rebuild before we start talking bowl possibilities. That's not to say that he'll be given a pass in year two, but we might need year three before we're really talking about things improving to the point of competing for a bowl birth. I hope they don't believe that internally, but it's my belief based on a two game sample.
HawkeyedFrog: There's no way to sugarcoat it, losing to Rice sucks (As a fan of a team that has done more than its fair share of losing to Rice, I sympathize). What went wrong for the Jayhawks, and will it be fixable this season?
Owen: I'll answer your second question first. I don't think it's fixable against TCU. Plain and simple there is nothing to indicate this team is going to enter another game this season as a favorite. Game one wasn't great, but Kansas won. Game two just confirmed many of the concerns that were raised in week one.
Offensively we are fairly one dimensional at the moment. We can run the ball and do that fairly well but we don't seem to have the weapons in the passing game to take advantage of a bigger arm in Dayne Crist.
Defensively there are positives, but in general we're still a long way from calling it a strength. This was a group that was nearly last in the entire NCAA last year in most major statistical categories. I applaud the effort, but we aren't there yet.
HawkeyedFrog: Charlie Weis has gotten in trouble with his mouth before, in his first season with Notre Dame there was the infamous "schematic advantage" line, and in this offseason there was a stir among Frog fans when Weis had the Kansas team practice celebrating so they'd know how to act when they upset TCU. On the schematic advantage front though, Weis probably hasn't had as much experience coaching against a 4-2-5 as he has other defenses- how do you expect Kansas will attempt to attack TCU on offense?
Owen: Kansas is going to look to establish the run first. It's the only thing that has been a successful to date. Yes Kansas has put up passing yardage, but it's not a big number and it's disappointing by the nature in which it's been achieved. Rice ran a 4-2-5 and Kansas effectively ran the ball in through the middle of the field and then attacked the middle in the passing game as well. It was decent for a time, but when Rice decided that we weren't able to threaten anyone deep they simply focused in on the running attack and things sort of just grinded to a halt. I hope we see a new wrinkle against TCU, but I don't see the pieces in place to do much else.
HawkeyedFrog: Last season's Kansas' issues seemed to be mainly on the defensive side of the ball, only holding Iowa State to below 24 points and squandering several games where the offense put some points on the board (Baylor and Tech jump out at me as examples). What can we expect to see out of the Jayhawks on defense this year, who are the playmakers TCU will want to avoid and where do you expect the Frogs offense to have success?
Owen: The defense is better, but still a long way to go. Last year we were so far from assignment sound that it wasn't even funny. We also had a bunch of out of shape players that simply fell on their face by the 3rd quarter. This year we're better from an assignment standpoint and we are better conditioned but some of the old bad habits are still there. Fundamental tackling is an issue, confidence in attacking is an issue. No question there are problems. If I was going to pin point a playmaker or two I'd point to Toben Opurum and Bradley McDougald. They are both seniors, they played under Mangino and I think they have a little more sense of what it takes. Opurum plays end, McDougald is at safety. If you're going to get a big play from someone, it will be one of them.
HawkeyedFrog: It's our first Big 12 game as well as our first Big 12 road game so a decent sized Frog contingent is likely to make their way up to Lawrence for the game. Are there any local eateries you'd recommend for travelling Frog fans, and how do you like the new look Big 12 overall?
Owen: Free State Brewery is always a standby along with Jefferson's or Quinton's. There's also a good burger joint (so I hear) called "The Casbah" (spelling). These are all places down on Mass Street which is a bar/retail district that is sort of downtown Lawrence so to speak. Near the stadium there are a few places in the Oread hotel, the Wheel is an institution that has some good burgers.
HawkeyedFrog: Finally, prediction time. I know spirits may be down after last week, but what's your score prediction for the TCU game this Saturday and what record do you think the Jayhawks end up with this season?
Owen: I think Kansas ends up with 3 wins this year, I'm hoping for 4. This week is most likely not going to be one of them and I think the TCU defense is probably what scares me most. That's where this could get embarrassing. Optimistically I'm going to hope for 42-24 type of game, but I could see this going into the 49-10 type territory very easily.
HawkeyedFrog: Always comforting for me to hear the other team's guy predict a Horned Frog win. I'm excited for Saturday not only because it's our Big 12 opener but I always wanted to see what Patterson's defense would have done to Weis' Notre Dame teams (I know too many Domers) and Kansas is as close as I'm going to get to winning that argument. Our thanks go to Owen, be sure to check out Rock Chalk Talk not only for his TCU analysis, but I answered some questions for him as well that will be posted today or tomorrow.