This week is killing me, for any of a number of reasons. Most of all, the days until the season kicks off (for me) at 11 a.m. Saturday (and then gets going for real at 6:45 p.m.) are draaaaaaaaaaaaaging by. Here are some news links for the last few days and some brief commentary.
From the Wichita Eagle, K-State beat writer Jeffrey Martin points out the offense's performance will depend on Josh Freeman's consistency. I'm not sure about that, I think it depends more on the offensive line's progress and consistency, because the performance of the big guys up front will determine whether Freeman has time to be consistent.
In the article, Ron Prince drops this line for the masses...
"Those people playing around him [Freeman] need to play well, and I think that goes with any quarterback," Prince said. "They literally can't do it by themselves.... Now keep in mind, this isn't a kid who is coming into his third year or something. He played as a true freshman, now he's a true sophomore."
Prince is obviously right, no quarterback can do it by himself. But why is he calling everyone else out? Freeman has shown he has all the ability in the world, but he hasn't shown that he can perform consistently at a high level. And yes, I do realize he was a true freshman. I've even defended his inconsistency last year on that very ground (see interview below with Saturday Sound Offs). The point is not that Freeman should be called out for his inconsistency, because at this point his age is the primary problem. The point is that everyone else doesn't need to be called out. Jordy Nelson played hard through pain last year and proved his worth the year before with eight touchdown catches. James Johnson and Leon Patton worked hard behind a substandard offensive line last year. The only non-performing group on offense is the offensive line, and Prince isn't making excuses for them.
And yes, I realize it's unfair to pick out one quote and tear it apart. You'll notice I don't do this everyday.
Martin has his outlook for K-State's season online at the Eagle. It's nothing earth-shattering, just notes that a record similar to last year's is probably expected, but that if things go well double-digit wins and a North championship is possible.
I tend to agree, and that's what is agonizing about this week. At times I think Auburn is eminently beatable and we will walk out of Jordan-Hare with a win. At other times, I fear that we'll suffer a four touchdown defeat. Most of the time, I think we'll probably lose a low-scoring, ugly game. And as mentioned before, it's very possible the Cats will be 4-2 when they travel up US-77 to face Nebraska. If that isn't contending for the North at that point, then Nebraska and Mizzou will have far better conference records than I think they will this year.
On the note of how the Cats will fare on the Alabama Plains, Topeka Capitol-Journal columnist Pete Goering seems to think K-State may need to alter the rules in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat. As 'proof' of his point, Goering notes that former KU coach Glen Mason and Auburn coach Pat Dye allegedly agreed to let the clock run in the second half of a meeting in which the Tigers were pummeling the beaks.
A quick perusal of College Football Data Warehouse suggests this game was probably the teams' 1988 meeting in Lawrence, won by Auburn 56-7. So, basically, Goering is comparing this year's K-State team to KU's 1988 team, and this year's Auburn team to AU's 1988 squad. Let's have a little look-see into the validity of such a comparison...
Glen Mason's first year as KU coach was 1988. I'm not breaking any news by saying first-year coaches sometimes struggle. Ron Prince is now in his second year at K-State, and I would venture a guess that this year's K-State squad has slightly better talent than KU's 1988 group.
KU's record in 1987 was 1-9-1. K-State's 2006 record was 7-6.
Auburn was SEC champion in 1987 (and 1988). Auburn finished second in the SEC West in 2006. Not much of a difference, but few are picking Auburn to top the SEC this year.
I can't guarantee the Cats won't get hammered at Auburn Saturday. But Pete kind of makes me think of the media who gave K-State no chance against OU in 2003, not to mention the ESPN announcers who gave the Cats no chance against UT last year. There's nothing personal between Pete Goering and I, actually I usually enjoy reading his columns. This just struck me as an odd comparison.
Keep checking in with the Auburn blog, Track 'Em Tigers, for updates on Auburn. Today, Jay mentioned that projected starting running back Brad Lester may not play Saturday, due to academic issues. And check in here tomorrow for Jay's excellent scouting report of his 2007 Auburn Tigers.