Kansas blog, Rock Chalk Talk, agreed to answer a few questions regarding Saturday's game. Thanks to RCT for helping us out and answering a few questions. There's more after the jump.
DTN: Texas Tech and Kansas are basically mirror images of each other (great on offense, meh on defense). Do you see any subtle differences between these two teams?
RCT: Well, there certainly are a couple. Two Bob Stoops disciples running the programs with generally overlooked QBs, both in their respective recruitments and currently, with, as you said, high-powered offenses and not-so-hot defenses. But beyond that, I don't think there are any differences that stand out between Tech and KU. Both schools recruit plenty of the same players as well (for example, Michael Crabtree's Final Two was KU and Tech), and figure to be at similar points in the college football bell curve over the next couple of years.
DTN: Most Texas Tech fans know about Reesing, but talk a little about Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, two talented receivers for the Jayhawks.
RCT: Both are immense talents who play different positions, sort of. Dezmon Briscoe is the stud athlete on the outside, the sort of player who has a legitimate chance to play on Sundays. He is effectively replacing Marcus Henry, only he is (arguably) already better and only a true sophomore. He got benched early in the year because of his blocking (Mangino is a big-time stickler on WR's blocking skills) and struggled early in the season mentally (another reason for his benching), but seemed to really emerge last Saturday. If he plays that well on Saturday, I like our chances.
One theory for his immense success on Saturday was that OU focused much of their defense on Kerry Meier, ex-QB-turned-WR when he lost out to Todd Reesing to be the team's starting QB before last season. He has some of the best hands you'll ever see (he made an aboslutely ridiculous one-handed catch last week against Oklahoma; if you haven't seen it, YouTube it) and is sneaky fast (he has a weird stride, so it looks slow, even if he is moving pretty quick). He has essentially been Todd's check-down option, the guy who we always seem to find on third down. We sucked last Saturday on third downs, whereas we had previously been one of the country's best at converting on third down. The difference was Kerry Meier's relative lack of involvement in our offense, which likely had some to do with the opponent and some to do with his hip injury he suffered against Colorado. At least one of the two will have to have a monster game, or we will be getting into a shootout we can't win.
DTN: In your estimation, what's the most important thing that Kansas needs to do to stop the Texas Tech offense?
RCT: It is my major issue with this team, and the issue I bring up week-after-week. It is kind of a cheap answer, but we absolutely have to get to the QB. We have struggled with getting to the QB for most of Mangino's tenure, save a player-or-two, including last year, where our James McClinton, a defensive tackle, was our primary pass rusher. And while we are in process of recruiting some legitimate pass-rushers, right now we are stuck with some run-stuffing-sort-of defensive ends in Russell Brorsen and John Larson, with exclusive pass rushers Jake Laptad and Max Onyegbule coming on passing downs. Laptad and Onyegbule are pretty solid, I suppose, but that still leaves the majority of snaps with little-to-no pressure on the QB. I'm not expecting our defensive line to come out of nowhere and go all George Selvie on the Tech O-LIne, but it would be nice to get to Harrell once-or-twice and, more importantly, at least make him move around in the pocket. That, considering we're at home, is a reasonable improvement we could make that would make a large impact.
DTN: Give Texas Tech fans a couple of guys to look out for on defense and very generally, what type of defense can Texas Tech look forward to seeing?
RCT: First, I'll answer your second question; cushions. We enjoy giving WRs miles of space to work with, particularly with dangerous receivers who can burn us deep. Last week against Oklahoma, they had virtually zero 'big' plays, as they were forced to dink-and-dunk their way down the field. Of course, they did so with great success, but I suppose it beats getting burnt deep on several occasions. I would imagine we would play a similar defense against Tech, with blitzes (usually from #40, Mike Rivera) coming whenever we want pressure.
As to your first question, I'll give you a couple of names. As far as our best players, keep an eye out on #8 Joe Mortensen (MLB), #12 James Holt (OLB) and #25 Darrell Stuckey (SS). All have shots at being All-Conference, particularly Stuckey who is one of the few bright spots in the defensive secondary. As far as under-the-radar players go, keep an eye out for #16 Chris Harris (CB), who is replacing the shoes left by Aqib Talib and, before him, Charles Gordon. He isn't up to there level yet, obviously, but he is the only CB on this team who has proven he can actually cover some decent receivers, and will likely be matched up with Michael Crabtree whenever we choose to go man-to-man on him.
DTN: Kansas wins because . . .
RCT: If Kansas is going to win, at least two of the following are going to happen:
(A) - Get some pressure on the quarterback. Giving QBs as good as Sam Bradford and Graham Harrell all day-and-a-half to throw back there isn't the way to win. But we can't afford to blitz every down, particularly with a talent like Michael Crabtree creeping around on the perimeter, so some player on the defensive line will have to find a way to beat their man and get to the QB. Just for fun, I'll say that if it does happen, it'll be Jake Laptad #91.
(B) - Don't turn the ball over. Last week, two turnovers inside the 40 destroyed drives. While the homefield advantage should help alleviate some of those concerns, we still can't afford to be cavalier with the ball. I don't subscribe to most of the old coaches' philosphies, but one I do believe in, no questions asked, is the turnover one. You can't turn the ball over and win, 9 times out of 10.
(C) - Convert on 3rd downs. Last season and this year, prior to last week, we have been awesome on third downs. It's been a big reason for our awesome record. But we all saw last week what happens when you can't convert on third downs.