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Law School Exam: K-State vs. KU

For those of you who don't know, a law school exam basically entails a professor creating a situation that skirts the fringes of the physically possible, and then each student answers by basically arguing with themselves about all relevant legal issues.  That should be all the background you need to understand this post, although I didn't limit myself to any specific period of time to answer the hypothetical.  One thing you will notice is that I probably won’t use the words "clearly" or "obviously" because, well, you get destroyed on a law school exam if you do that and frankly, there really is no clear answer to this problem.

Essay
Suggested Time: 60 minutes
Legal Issue: College Football
Team one, designated "KSU", is coached by a second-year maniac who ran off three quarterbacks before his first year, five assistant coaches after his first year, and made his assistant coaches run stairs after an open practice prior to year two.  Despite this seemingly maniacal behavior, as well as dire predictions from rival fanbases, the KSU coach took his team to a 7-6 record and a bowl appearance in his first year, despite the team's combined record the previous two years of 9-13 and no bowl appearances.  In the coach's second year, the team currently has a record of 3-1.  The lone loss was a heartbreaker in the season opener to a traditional Southern powerhouse, on the road.  The three wins came against a whack team from the West, a lower-division patsy, and a top-10 conference foe (on the road).  The team has a quarterback bigger and stronger than a brick shithouse, two fast running backs, an average offensive line, and wide receiver ranked second in the conference, statistically.  On defense, the team swarms to the ball and beats the crap out of quarterbacks, sacking them on average four times per game and ranking third in the conference in total defense.

Team two, designated "KU", is coached by a sixth year coach who is bigger than Antarctica (and rounder).  He has taken the school's moribund football program to unprecdented heights with a career record of 25-35.  However, the last two years the team has been .500 or better and has picked up a couple victories over multiple longtime rivals who have traditionally treated "KU" like Edward Norton treated the black guy who broke into his car in American History X.  So far this season, "KU" (which is, remember, an FBS-level team) has played and soundly defeated four opponents who may or may not be able to defeat Southlake-Carroll (Texas) High School.  "KU" has a quarterback who completes 58 percent of his passes and is about as tall as the average American 5th grader, two talented, but young and unproven running backs, a pretty good offensive line, and an experienced if unspectacular wide receiving corps.  On defense, "KU" is solid at every position and has a playmaker at cornerback.

The two teams are scheduled to play this weekend.  Assess the relative matchups of both teams, substantiating your arguments by citing to the record.  UNLIKE EVERY OTHER LAW SCHOOL EXAM YOU WILL EVER TAKE, YOU MAY USE THAT WONDERFUL TOOL THAT IS THE INTERNET TO FIND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON EACH TEAM.

Two final bits of information.  The game is being played on KSU's home field, on which "KU" has not won since 1989, and has not scored a touchdown since 1997. Also, "KU's" coach is 2-18 in conference road games during his tenure there.  Last year, KU won by 19 in a game in which KU was coming off a bye week.  KU is coming off a bye week coming into this game this year.

In the first place, it appears KSU has played what is apparently a much more demanding schedule than has KU.  That could mean two things.  First, they will probably be accustomed to teams who are as big, fast and strong as they are, and accustomed to executing their schemes against such a team.  Second, they have dealt with the adversity of a close game, giving them an edge if this game comes down to the wire.

On the other hand, "KU" has put up numbers that just can't be ignored.  They rank third in the country in total offense, averaging 552 yards per game and 53.5 points per game.  They also rank third in the country in total defense.  Again, we must note that they have played four high school teams, but Southlake-Carroll is a damn good high school team.  On the other hand, KSU comes into the game 13th in the nation in total defense, but only 58th in total offense.

Because we can’t make any definitive statement from the offensive and defensive statistical comparisons, we’ll look to the third aspect of football, that being special teams.  KSU leads the country in punt returns, while KU leads the country in kickoff returns.  KSU kicker Brooks Rossman is tied for fourth in the country in field goal kicking, while KU kicker Scott Webb is 42nd.  KSU as a team is 42nd in the country in team punting, while KU is 95th, with KSU’s Tim Reyer ranking 11th in the country.  KU’s punter hasn’t had enough attempts per game to be ranked.

For brevity sake, let’s look at the average ranking of the two teams’ opponents in each category listed above:

KSU
--Total Offense: 80
--Total Defense: 41
--Field Goal Kicking: 22 (one unranked opponent, using 43)
--Kickoff Returns: 68
--Punt Returns: 49
--Punting: 75

KU
--Total Offense: 90
--Total Defense: 108
--Field Goal Kicking: 43 (no ranked opponent)
--Kickoff Returns: 62
--Punt Returns: 79
--Punting: 55

It can be argued that these statistics tend to indicate KSU has achieved its offensive, defensive and special team’s ranks against noticeably superior competition.  That does not prove KSU has a better offense, a better defense, or better special teams units than KU, but it does seem to even out the disparity in ranking.

Looking more closely at individual unit matchups, KU again has the statistical advantage in every area.  However, the NCAA does not mandate any type of uniform scheduling, so it’s perfectly acceptable for a team to play four high school teams if it so chooses.  Such schedules do wonders for the confidence of such teams, but make for many a long, Adderrall-fueled night among law students forced to make comparisons.  However, I am the unfortunate student assigned to answer this daunting task, thus I proceed.

The KSU passing game against the KU pass defense presents an interesting matchup.  KSU has been fairly successful throwing the ball, with its starting quarterback completing 62 percent of his passes.  However, he only has thrown three touchdown passes against four interceptions, and only averages 5.91 yards per attempt.  He has a favorite target, who is second in the nation in receiving.  KU would logically seem to counter that receiving threat with its cornerback playmaker, but the KSU receiver often lines up in the slot, so playing playmaker cornerback in an unfamiliar position may not be to KU’s advantage.

Statistically the running game is no match, as KSU really does not use much of a traditional ground game, averaging only 4.28 yards per carry.  KU only gives up 2.92 yards per carry, but again that’s against pimply faced high school offensive lines/running backs.

When KU throws the ball, it has met little resistance.  The little quarterback who could averages 9.59 yards per attempt and has thrown 11 TD passes against only one interception.  KSU figures to put up a lot of resistance, having picked off six passes while allowing only four TDs, and limiting opponents to 5.65 yards per attempt.  This area will probably come down to how the KU quarterback adjusts to a faster defense that brings pressure from all directions, creating havoc even for experienced QBs (see first road game against traditional Southern powerhouse).

Like every other aspect of the game, the rushing game presents the question of whether KU can continue to do what should be by far its toughest competition to date.  KSU only gives up 2.26 yards per carry, 79 yards per game, and three touchdowns on the year.  However, KU averages more than double what KSU has given up per carry (5.53 yards per carry), almost triple what KSU has given up per game (223 yards per game), and has almost quadruple the TDs KSU has given up on the year (KU has 11).

The coaching aspect of the game presents a difficult issue.  It is fairly clear the KSU coach has done a good job, considering he came in at a time when the team had experienced two losing seasons in a row.  On the other hand, the coach at KU has done a good job as well, getting his team to .500 or better the last two years, causing much rioting on campus.  And in the only meeting between the two teams, the KSU coach got thoroughly run over by the man whose profile looks the same when he’s laying down as it does when he’s standing up.  The KSU coach has proven he can beat traditional powers, but he hasn’t proven he can get his team and his schemes together on a consistent basis.  In addition, the KU coach and team had a bye week this year, just as they had last year when they won big at home.

So what do we make of this game?  On the one hand, there is the "OU argument."  An undefeated OU team, averaging more points and more yards per game than KU, got beat by a team, designated CU, last weekend in a game most figured OU would run away with.  To that point, OU had played a couple high school teams, one junior college team and one lower-division team.  CU was probably the best team they have played to date, and CU held them to only 230 total offensive yards and 24 points, both numbers significantly less than half of what OU had been averaging per game.

On the other hand, there is the confidence argument.  KU players have gotten a taste of success and a feeling for what its offense and defense should feel like when executed properly.

To counter, one might argue KSU appears to have a pretty obvious homefield advantage in this series, having won at home for 18 years running now, and not allowing a touchdown for the last 10.  This argument can probably be dismissed, because what has happened in the past has no physical bearing on what happens between the two teams on the field.  However, KU’s road record in conference games has been atrocious under Coach Antarctica, which may indicate the team plays poorly on the road.  One can only speculate as to the reasons for this.  Crappy motels due to a tight athletic budget?  Rumors that other fields are set up differently?  Bad pregame meals?  The reasons could be endless.

So in conclusion, I have no earthly clue what the resolution of this encounter will be, which is probably exactly what you want to hear, Professor BOTC.  My greatest sorrow is that I am still consigned to law student purgatory and cannot charge you $350 for the hour I spent working on this problem.