Once again this week, we joined forces with a fellow SB Nation blog to take a look at what we hope to see on the field between our teams this Saturday. A big thanks to irish1611 of The Ralphie Report for joining us. Discussion and analysis after the jump.
TB: Offensively, Colorado is weakest stopping the run. Unfortunately, this is also K-State's offensive weakness. Still, the Cats need to at least try to establish a running game. Last week was their best effort in this area to date, but it was also against Texas A&M's thoroughly inept defensive unit. We need to see another 10 or so designed carries for Josh Freeman, and Logan Dold needs to continue his crafty north-south running.
That said, even though CU's strength defensively appears to be stopping the pass, I think we can have some success tossing the ball. The Buffs are averaging less than two sacks per game, and Freeman has only been sacked thrice on the season. He should have time to throw, and if we can establish something resembling a running game, the play-action could be available. The key for the Cats, as always, will be offensive balance.
Defensively, it looks like our effort against A&M last week allowed the Aggies to slide past CU and out of the Big 12's offensive cellar. Rodney Stewart still scares me, as does just about any FBS running back against our defense, but with the struggles of Cody Hawkins and the offensive line, I think we can put pressure on the quarterback. The last few weeks we have been running what appears to be either a 4-3 or 4-2-5 defensive alignment; I think we need to stack the box in an attempt to take away the run, because Josh Moore and Blair Irvin should be able to handle man coverage on the outside. I'll have to defer to the TRR guys here, but I don't think CU has any outstanding receivers on the outside. At least, none who are among the Big 12 leaders in receiving. Of course, Josh Moore got burned by Mike Goodson last week at A&M, so my confidence in him may not be entirely justified.
Panjandrum: I think this match-up is either fascinating or horrible depending on how you feel about watching the conference's worst offense face the Big 12's worst defense...
That said, I think KSU has the advantage in this game. We know two things about the KSU defense: One, they can't stop the power running game. Two, they can't defend against mobile quarterbacks. As far as I can tell, Colorado has neither (though if I'm incorrect, please feel free to disagree). This means that KSU can probably dedicate more safety help to the run game, which is what they did last year in the second half against CU, and it was effective. Josh Moore and Blair Irvin are probably good enough that we can leave them on an island(s) against Colorado's receivers, and I don't think Cody Hawkins has the arm to really burn KSU over the top, so I think the Cats can take more chances with various blitz packages, and they can spend more time focusing on taking out Colorado's run game as best they can.
KSU's main issue on defense is when the opposing team adds a special dimension to the offensive attack (i.e. QB run game, 240 lb. halfback) they end up overcompensating, and it leaves some part of the defesive gameplan wide open. Due to some of the deficiencies that Cody Hawkins has at QB, I think KSU can just go out there and play some basic defense.
Now, that said, I still anticipate CU getting at least 400 yards of total offense. However, I think KSU will hold them to less than thirty points.
The key for KSU will be offense and special teams (duh). I really think that an increased dedication to the QB run game paid big dividends last week, and I expect to see more of that. Between Freeman and Logan Dold, I see KSU at least partially dedicating themselves to a some sort of a run game to keep the defense honest. The three times KSU has attempted more than 40 rushing attempts per game, they've won. I expect to see at least forty attempts this game as well. At least I hope they do.
Otherwise, in the kicking game, KSU has a weapon in Brooks Rossman, and I'd like to think that his range will only increase in the thin Boulder air. He'll allow KSU to be much more flexibile in it's gameplan this week. On the flip side, if KSU can keep CU from getting into the end zone, I like our chances because of how badly Goodman has struggled for CU. There's no reason that KSU can't go toe to toe with CU offensively. They should have more options to score points than Colorado does.
So, in summation, KSU needs run the football, stop Colorado from running the football, and hold tough in the red zone and force CU to rely on the kicker to score points. If they can do that, KSU might be able to get out of Boulder with a win.
irish1611: Well, your take on the KState defense was a little more positive than I thought it would be. We at the Ralphie Report are hoping that the CU offense will finally get jump started this weekend against a Wildcat team that has given up over 500 yards in the last four weeks. Being 12th in the Big 12 and 111th in the nation in total defense has us feeling that if the Buffs don’t get to the 400 yard mark against Kansas State, this team might not win another game this year. That was said with Texas A&M and Iowa State still remaining on the schedule.
This is a big week for Colorado Buffaloes football. It is as close to a must win as Coach Dan Hawkins has had in his tenure at Colorado. Lose four in a row with only Iowa State, Texas A&M and maybe Nebraska as possible remaining wins for the season, CU is facing a non bowl season after they went to one last year.
The Buffs defense hasn’t been as bad as the statistics show. The offense is giving them zero help as the last three weeks the Buffs offense has totaled an average of 259 total yards. That being said, I am befuddled with our defensive game plan against Kansas as we played a 3 – 4 – 4 allowing Todd Reesing to sit back in the pocket and carve up the Buffs defense in the second half while allowing the 93rd ranked rushing team in the nation to have easy leverage up front. The Buffs needed to apply pressure and continue to make Kansas’s running game a weakness. Let’s just say the Buffs have a tendency to make a team’s weakness a strength by games end. Against the pass, the Buffs have been better than predicted in the off season, being about middle of the road in the Big 12 conference in passing efficiency defense. The emergence of Cha’pelle Brown, Jalil Brown and now Jimmy Smith has helped provide some stability at the cornerback position. I still think that Kansas State is the best passing team the Buffs have faced thus far so once again the secondary will get challenged. If the Buffs come out with the same game plan against Kansas as they did in the second half and not make it a goal to pressure Freeman, the Kansas State offense will have no problem putting up 40+ on the Buffs. In my opinion, the Buffs have nothing really to lose and everything to gain on defense. The CU offense is horrible. The defense needs to realize that they have to start winning games and stop playing conservatively. I will be very disappointed if the Buffs don’t start pressing on defense to try and make Freeman and the Kansas State uncomfortable.
If our defense is considered the so called “strength” of this CU Buffs team, the rest of the squad is a weakness except for WR Josh Smith. Josh Smith passed the 1,000 yard mark for all purpose yards just six games into the year. The problem is that Dan Hawkins has not played Smith as often as he should be played, substituting the slower WR Cody Crawford into the game. I have no explanation for it other than it is just another note on a long list of problems that I have with the Buffs offense to this point. Cody Hawkins has been subpar and has regressed since last season. The Big 12 is full of great quarterbacks and Cody Hawkins is not one of them. In fact, he is battling for the worst in the Big 12 right now. Cody’s decision making has been a big problem this year and he is very limited physically. In fairness to Cody, the Buffs are really hurting up front, losing two starting offensive lineman and five potential game players on the line so far this year. It is a tie between Cody Hawkins play and the offensive line injuries as to why this team is ranked dead last in the Big 12 in all major offensive categories. The running game has been slowed against Kansas and Texas due to those injuries as well. It is really a sad scene right now for this Colorado team. RB Rodney Stewart shows flashes but it is hard to run behind a line that is very patch work right now. The good thing for the Buffs is that the last three weeks, they have faced three relatively strong defenses. This week we like to think Kansas State will provide the Buffs some ability to move the ball and get into a flow on offense. I mean, if Louisiana-Lafeyette and Texas A&M can move the ball, the Buffs should find some success. If they don’t it could be a long day for the Buffs.
TB: If I sounded overly optimistic about K-State's defense, then my words came across in a different way than I intended them. Our defense is a pure grade of awful, and I fully expect CU to improve its offensive averages on the year against us. As with all our games the rest of the year, the only real hope is to outscore the opposition in a shootout. The best we can hope for from our defense is a few timely stops and maybe a turnover here and there.
Panjandrum: Any time Kansas State gives up less than 500 yards, it's a moral victory around here.
The key, at this point, is...well, points. KSU is going to give up yards by the boatload. That's a given. The key is to keep Colorado out of the endzone and force them to kick for points because, frankly, I don't think CU has much faith in their kicker at all.
I think this is a 'something's gotta give' game for both teams. You say that if CU can't get 400 yards, they won't win another game. I think if KSU can't keep CU under 400, they won't win two more games needed to get to a bowl game.
At this point, we're going to find out, really, how truly awful our defense is. If Cody Hawkins and his patchwork offensive line can put up 450+ yards and 30+ points against KSU, the only hope we have to win another game this year is ISU, and the coaching search can begin. If they can find a way to get a win in Boulder, Ron can probably feel pretty confident that he'll be here next year.
Assuming, of course, that they can win a game in November. I mean, hey, how hard could that be?
irish1611: Took the words right out of my mouth. I was labeling this game as the “Battle of the Bads” this Saturday. For $50, you can watch the worst defense in the Big 12 go against the worst offense in the Big 12 as they fight it out for one week of supremacy until they are returned to the role of whipping boy the next week when CU plays Missouri and Kansas State plays Oklahoma. If Kansas State’s defense is truly as bad as the CU offense, it could be rather amusing to see who is the better of the two? It will probably be a 14 – 10 game now with both defenses being the story of the game. Nothing surprises me now.
The Buffs just gave Coach Dan Hawkins an extension until 2012 last week. The general consensus before the season was all positive for Hawkins as he was recruiting well without great success in the past and he got the team to a bowl game last year. This year, CU got bit by the ACL injury bug and our lack of experience and depth is really showing through. It probably isn’t fair to assess this year for Coach Hawkins due to all of the injuries and the tough schedule but many, including yours truly, is worried about his game day coaching and team preparation. This Buff team is very conservative on both sides of the ball and have been horrible on special teams. They shows little passion on the field and play timid at times. In all reality, a 3 – 3 record is probably where we would have pegged the Buffs at the beginning of the year with the defending Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl champions on the schedule as well as the #1 team in Texas but this team could easily be 1 – 5 with a loss to a FCS team. A couple of “half glass full” fans are using that “we would have taken 3 – 3 at the beginning of the year” line but they haven’t watched the incompetence that the Buffs play has displayed the last couple of weeks. Let’s just say most logical fans are off the high of a bowl game and recruiting like beasts in the offseason.
From an outsiders prospective on Ron Prince, we see his time at Kansas State as being numbered. I thought the Louisville game would have sealed his fate. You just hear some crazy stories at Kansas State from making defensive players run in the early morning after games to signing a boat load of junior college players. He seems like he is good for one big time win a year and a couple bad losses. Let’s say Kansas State wins at Boulder next week and gets the win against Iowa State for six wins, making Ron Prince a “six win kind of coach” for his career. I guess my main question is where is the upside? How long will six wins satisfy the masses in Manhattan especially when three of them are against non BCS opponents?
TB: Ha. That makes two straight "Battles of the Bad" for K-State. I was in College Station last week, and A&M is struggling.
As for Ron Prince, I think most of us are in a holding pattern about his future in Manhattan. If the Cats would have lost to A&M, his fate would have been sealed. But as it is, there's a chance now that we could end up in a bottom-of-the-barrel bowl game with two wins in our games against Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa State. That would almost ensure that he stays, but I'm not sure it demonstrates progress, which is what I'm looking for. Maybe he just needs a new defensive coordinator, or maybe he's just a bad coach. At this point, I'm not entirely certain, but I know in which direction I'm leaning.
EMAW: Unfortunately, it sounds like all of us are pretty frustrated with the progress of our teams so far. And, while this may be a Battle of the Bads, I think the game this weekend will mean quite a bit to both fanbases. For us, we'll be able to see if this team is able to progress at least on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, if we continue to give up 500 yards to lower tier offenses, we will have dug ourselves a hole that will be damn hard to climb out of. I think most of us would agree that 4-2 is pretty solid, but it's the predictions that we may be staring at only one or two more wins that are creating so much tension. Meanwhile, it sounds like the Buffs' fans are just plain frustrated by pretty much everything. I don't blame you one bit, you guys have had a rough year so far with coaching incompetencies and injuries.
As for the game this Saturday, K-State obviously has the upper hand on the offensive side, though it sounds like CU has the ability to create problems for our defense (I mean that seriously, not as a slight to our defense). I know I said this last week, but our offense is just going to have to shoulder the load. I know CU runs a different offense than A&M, but the overall approach should be the same. Big plays need to be held to a minimum. As long as our defensive backs can keep plays in front of them, we should fine. Offensively, I think we can still put up 40 points, especially if Logan Dold continues his strong running and the offensive line gives Freeman enough time to find the receivers. Like I say, the real challenge won't be scoring the points, it will be stopping them when Colorado has the ball. A couple turnovers by either team might even mean the difference in the game.
irish1611: I think as much as we are frustrated in Boulder, we also realize the Buffs have played the third hardest schedule in college football thus far with the combined record of the last 3 teams CU hasve lost to being 15 – 2. The Buffs have lost 17 players to injury at some point this year (missed at least one game) and 26 players in total to injury, suspension, eligibility, defection, etc. I agree with what EMAW said, this is a huge game for both teams in every which way imaginable. The Buffs will have 4 or 5 good solid recruits in town for the game and losing four in a row would be a hard sell to anyone, especially to a team in Kansas State that is beatable (CU is just as beatable). Whoever loses this game will probably not go to a bowl game, it is that simple so when you break it down that way, probably the biggest game of the year for both teams. I really expect both teams to be aggressive and there in lies my biggest concern of the upcoming game.
The Buffs are lacking playmakers on both sides of the ball. Gone are CB Terrence Wheatley and LB Jordan Dizon for the defense. DT George Hypolite is not as dominate a force as everyone dreams him up to be…he just has a cool nickname. Gone is a lot of the offensive lineman from last year replaced with inexperienced players. From all accounts, it sounds like there is at least a little optimism that Kansas State has some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and I have read a couple of articles that say they are improving although the numbers don’t show it. The game of football comes down to playmakers and I think Kansas State definitely has more. I would be absolutely shocked if Ron Prince doesn’t play extremely aggressive in this game and attack the Buffs. If Kansas State scores two quick touchdowns on the Buffs, this team is so young they may fold on there way to a 4 game losing streak. Prince should know that this is a vulnerable Buffs team right now and the last thing any opponent should do is let CU have a breather. I expect Kansas State to play press coverage on defense, put 7 or 8 in the box, and dare CU to beat them while applying pressure on Hawkins. I expect Kansas State to not run the ball in the first quarter…seriously, if they were smart they would go for the kill right away.
For the Buffs, it’s about three things this week. Winning the turnover battle, getting pressure on Josh Freeman and make a few big plays early for confidence purposes. If the Buffs can soften up the Kansas State defense enough to get both a running game and a mid range passing game going, it will be interesting to see how this Buff offense reacts when they are not lined up across from a top 30 defense. If there was ever a week for Darrell Scott to finally have a break out game this is when we would need it most. On defense, its all about making Josh Freeman play like he did against Louisville in the last three quarters and not the way he did in the first quarter. Force a lot of turnovers and keep the ball out of his hands. The Buffs don’t want this game to turn into a shoot out by any means, if Kansas State scores over 35, the Buffs lose.
TB: Being aggressive should be part of the game plan for us, but I'm not sure about throwing the ball all over the field early. You mentioned Freeman's play in the Louisville game, and the biggest cause of his struggles (in my opinion) was that we abandoned the running game. Louisville's defense realized we weren't even going to try to run the ball, so they brought a ton of pressure and got in Freeman's face, causing him to rush, make poor decisions, and make throws off his back foot. Freeman is a great quarterback when he has time, he needs to work on being a good quarterback when he's under pressure.
Since you mentioned Hypolite, I feel obligated to note that he was on KC sports talk radio one day this summer while I was driving to work, and I thought he was the most entertaining guest they've ever had.
Buff fans are understandably concerned about their offense, but I'm serious when I say you're going to score some points. Texas A&M was only averaging 22.8 points per game coming into last week and hadn't score more than 28 in a game this year; they put up 30, and if not for a goal-line stand against Cheeseburger Lane, they could have had more.
irish1611: There is one thing for sure this weekend is that if Freeman tries to carry the ball 18 times this week, CU better knock him out. I didn’t see the Texas A&M game. I don’t think anybody did but I was amazed the number of times the hands down best player ran the ball last week. I don’t condone head hunting to I do condone punishing teams for risking there best player. I am sure Kansas State fans are hoping that the number of carries is more in the 5 – 7 range not the 18 – 20 range. I am sure Freeman would like the stay injury free on his way to the NFL next year. I mean, Kansas State crumbles to a Colorado level offense without Freeman. Prince better protect his meal ticket.
EMAW: It's funny irish1611 mentioned Freeman needing to protect himself, because I had that thought run through my mind while watching the replay last night (FSN replayed the game "no huddle" here in KC). I'm sure every K-State fan gets a little pit in their stomach every time he takes off with the ball up the middle of the field; it's just natural to cringe when a quarterback takes off. I think the reason quarterbacks are often more susceptible to injury is because they don't run with their shoulders down to absorb the impact. Watching Freeman, he took several hits while running straight up. Luckily, he's big enough to take a good tag, but he is leaving himself open to injury. Although, on the flip side, it's probably better he doesn't lower his shoulders as that would make him more likely to hurt his arm or shoulder which would definitely knock him out of the game.
I don't blame you a bit hoping someone lines him up pretty good and knocks him out of the game. As long as it's within the rules and a guy isn't going for a knee, I would hope our guys do the same thing to other QB's. It's part of the game.