Kansas has given TCU more trouble than any other team in the conference over the past four seasons, routinely sending Frog fans into a panic until the fourth quarter of their games. We sat down with Misterbrain of Rock Chalk Talk to figure just why the Jayhawks give the Frogs so much trouble, how close KU is to playing in a bowl again, and ... hey, we care about basketball now!
FOW: Kansas made a QB change this week, with David Beaty announcing Ryan Willis would get the start. What does Willis bring to the table that Cozart wasn't getting done?
RTC: Passing skills. Willis is by far the better passer, but it seemed that Cozart was preferred for his running ability. With an offensive line that can't seem to support the run, and a WR screen game that had been largely ineffective, Willis should help in stretching the defense vertically.
The same offensive line also worries me in terms of protection, especially since one of our best lineman just retired due to concussion concerns, but the old thing wasn't working so it's time for a change.
FOW: The Jayhawks have some nice offensive talent it seems, with Ke'aun Kinner averaging 5.5 yards per carry and Steven Sims with five touchdowns already. But the offense seems to bog down, and the points aren't coming consistently. Is this a turnover problem, a QB problem, or something else entirely?
RCT: It's an "all-of-the-above" problem. I think the root cause is once again lack of consistency on the line, which has really prevented anything from getting into a rhythm. The running game has been inconsistent but abandoned way too early, and ultimately if all you are running are bubble screens and bootlegs, it's easy to sniff those out.
FOW: That being said, no team has consistently played the Frogs tougher the past four years than KU, especially at their place. Is there something you guys don't like about us? Or maybe a matchup advantage? Do you expect this year to be more of the same, especially when you look at an early kick-off time and a TCU team that suffered a gut-punch loss a week ago?
RTC: I honestly have no idea why those games have been so close. Maybe because you guys wear purple like Kansas State?
I do think there might be something to the early starts and "trap game" scenarios, but it's pretty much impossible to show that.
FOW: Do you think Beaty can win at Kansas? What's a realistic expectation for him if he sticks around for the next 2-3 years? What will KU fans be happy with this year?
RTC: I think Beaty's success is going to be a product of his ability to recognize his own limitations. He recently gave back control of various units to their respective coaches after taking that control at the first sign of problems. But his strength has been recruiting, and his in-game tactics need a lot of work.
If he makes it another 3 years, he will have either learned a lot from his assistants before they move in, or he will have gotten enough out of them to improve the program and replaced them with other high quality assistants.
As for this year, it's hard to have any expectations tied to results since we still are extremely short on scholarship players. Improvement in process and effort is about all we can ask for.
FOW: Is there an offensive and a defensive player TCU fans should be keeping an eye on Saturday morning that could have a significant impact on the game?
RTC: The defense is the place to look, as we have a very good group of guys there. S Fish Smithson was identified as the #1 coverage DB by Pro Football Focus (https://twitter.com/PFF_JohnKosko/status/783776143543369728?s=09), DT Daniel Wise is in the top 10 (https://twitter.com/PFF_JohnKosko/status/781860704949116928?s=09, I haven't had a chance to look up the exact rating right now, this was after the Texas Tech game but before everyone else played), and Dorance Armstrong has been an absolute beast.
On offense, Steven Sims Jr. has been phenomenal when he has had a chance. His blazing speed has turned several short passes into long TDs.
FOW: What do you think happens Saturday in Lawrence? Can the Jayhawks knock off the Frogs for the first time in Big 12 play?
RTC: I want to think that this is the year that the Jayhawks finally pull off the upset, but it's hard to actually see that happens until it actually happens. Kansas is going to get some chances, and the defense should be able to take advantage of frequent lapses by the Horned Frogs, but ultimately I don't think the offense can keep up. TCU 38, Kansas 31.
FOW: Bonus Basketball Question:
Did you ever think you would live to see a day where TCU fans were looking forward to basketball season much like the Jayhawks do annually? What do you think of Jamie Dixon in Fort Worth?
RTC: It's always good to see another school join the club of basketball fanatics. Every year it seems like the Big 12 gets deeper and I get more and more amazed at the streak the Jayhawks have put together. Jamie Dixon is definitely a home run hire for TCU and, combined with the upgrade in facilities, should position you guys for some good years ahead.
Many thanks to Misterbrain, and be sure to check out my Q&A on Rock Talk Chalk right here.