This week's focus group is a little more brief than usual, but it contains some pretty good info from our three site writers: TB, Panjandrum, and EMAW.
In keeping with the brevity of this week's focus group, I'm going to skip right to the questions.
As always, if you're interested in contributing to future focus groups, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise that we're nice people, and we're normal. Well, for the most part.
The Questions...survey says!
1. Does the Texas A&M win give you some hope for the rest of the season, or did we just beat a really, really bad team?
2. Josh Freeman running the ball: good thing or bad thing?
3. The Big 12 football schedule for this weekend is here. What's the most intriguing storyline for you? Mizzou trying to keep its title hopes alive? Texas trying to avoid a letdown? OU taking its frustrations out on KU? Nebraska trying to get its first conference win? Something else?
4. If we don't beat Colorado, do we have any shot at getting bowl eligible?
5. Colorado's offense has been awful the last three weeks. Can we possibly hold them under 500 yards on Saturday?
1. It really did nothing other than stop me from descending into all-out despair. Texas A&M has a few decent players, but their offensive line is young and beat up, and you can tell they are lost in their coach's new system. If we had lost that one, I would have pretty much thrown in the towel on the season and looked forward to getting a new coaching staff in here for next year. Now I'm just waiting to see how the rest of the season plays out.
2. Good thing. It gives us another offensive weapon, and it will make defensive ends think twice before charging upfield when Freeman drops back. I know we're concerned about Freeman taking hits, but for goodness sake he's 6'6" and 250 lbs. He's bigger than most linebackers and every defensive back. Wouldn't mind seeing him learn to slide, but other than that I'm a big fan of seeing Freeman take off downfield.
3. It has to be Mizzou/Texas for me. Last weekend's loss means this game is ginormous for the Tigers. If they lose, their best chance at a national title will have gone by the wayside, and who knows what will happen to the morale of a team that loses that kind of shot. But if they win, they're right back in the chase for the MNC. Texas, of course, could solidify its position as the best team in the country thus far with a win.
4. No, in my opinion. A loss to Colorado would almost assure us of four straight losses with OU, @KU and @MU coming up. We would either have to steal one of those and then split with Nebraska and Iowa State at the end of the season, or win both of the concluding home games. If we lose four in a row starting this week, I'll be very surprised if the team has any motivation for those last two games. In other words, a big game between bad teams in Boulder this weekend.
5. I suppose we could, but I kind of doubt it. Texas A&M's offense was the same level of awful coming into last weekend, and we made Jerrod Johnson look like Graham Harrell with the ability to run last weekend. Rodney Stewart is very likely to pick up about 190 yards rushing, and I'm guessing even Cody Hawkins will be able to hit a few wide-open receivers. Let's just hope they don't translate yards into points.
1. I don't know if it's given me hope. I think that I have a more realistic grasp of where KSU ranks in the pecking order and what they need to do to be competitive this year. We know that the Cats aren't the worst team in the conference, but we do know that they are capable of getting torched defensively by anyone. If KSU can get their offense rolling, they can compete against most of the teams on the schedule, but if they can't establish a run game (i.e. Texas Tech), it's going to get ugly because the other team will just march up and down the field and own the clock.
I think last week showed us that KSU is a poor man's version of Texas Tech - the early years or last year's version of Oklahoma State. The scary thing about that, though, is that Freeman IS Kansas State this year, and until he's gone, we won't know if any QB can have his kind of success, and whether or not we'll be successful after he's gone.
So, for this season, yes, there is a little 'hope' that we can get to a bowl game, but I'm still on firmly on the fence and leaning towards pessimism on the long term viability of Prince's program.
2. To me, good or bad is irrelevant here; it's necessary. The only way we're going to have balance with this offense is if Freeman runs the ball. For some reason or another, this team is not capable of just lining up and running the football against quality defensive teams. The added element of Freeman running designed QB runs helps the offense because the defense must be geared up to stop him, or Josh will pick up 5-10 yards a carry because if he gets momentum and leans, it's a five yard gain due to his strength and size.
3. As I mentioned, the conference is beginning to establish its pecking order, and to me, the most interesting game is KSU/CU. This is a make or break game for both teams' bowl hopes this season, and getting to a bowl is critical for two coaches with toasty seats. There are a lot of parallels between KSU and CU considering that they are both in year 3 of their respective regimes, and considering that they share similar woes (CU: anemic offense, KSU: horrendous defense), I think this is a true litmus test for both programs. The winner of this game probably sets themselves up very well for bowl eligiblity and a less stressful offseason.
Aside from that, I want to see OU/KU. I'm interested to see if KU can actually stand up to one of the best teams in the South. They mercifully avoided the OU/UT/Tech swing last year, so we'll finally see if this is a team that's ready to compete with the big boys of the conference year in and year out.
4. Absolutely not. KSU's back half of the season is just brutal, and another loss to a struggling team, followed by an inevitable dismantling by Oklahoma at home, and a two game road strecth against hated rivals KU and Mizzou, will probably leave KSU with a 4-6 record and demoralized for a critical two game stretch against NU and ISU at home. If KSU can pull this game out, every single game will be an opportunity for bowl eligibility, and after last season, I think that will be critical to keep the focus of this team and the fans for the next five weeks. If they lose this very winnable game, things could sprial out of control like the end of the 2007 season.
5. I think we can. As awful as A&M is, Johnson was a pretty good QB. Cody Hawkins may be the worst QB we've seen since Montana state rolled into Manhattan about a month ago, and he doesn't bring a skill set to the table that any of the other QB's did (Cantwell - arm, Desormeaux - legs, Harrell - arm, Johnson - dual-threat). Like last season, I think you can dedicate safety help to the run game against CU and hold them to a respectable outing. If Xavier Stewart is back this week to stand beside Gabe Crews and Daniel Calvin on the interior of the DL, and we go with a four-man front the entirity of this game, I think we've got a shot. Cody Hawkins can't really go over the top of the defense unless there's a giant breakdown in coverage, and he can't really scramble for yards (and he sucks at throwing on the run), so Colorado is really limited as to what they can do if we bottle up the run and force them to throw. Especially if they're behind.
If KSU can jump out to an early lead (i.e. 14-3 at the end of the first), and CU is forced to play from behind from the get-go, we're in really good shape, and I think KSU can keep them under 500, and maybe even 400 yards.
1. The A&M win gives me hope that we can still beat the bad teams of the conference. It was a good win for the offense and special teams, especially on the road. A&M could trot out 11 collies onto the field and the crowd would still be louder than a space shuttle launch. With that said, I have a little hope that we can beat the lower tier teams in the league. We are a middle of the pack team right now, and this win just confirmed that.
2. Josh Freeman running the ball is a good thing. He offers us a new dimension that defenses must be aware of. He's big enough and strong enough to avoid injury, but he should still try to avoid contact in the open field. The last thing I want to see is him trying to stiff arm a DB or lower his shoulder against a LB and end up hurting himself. 10 carries should be the max, unless we need him to get us a first down or touchdown late in the game.
3. The OU/KU slate should be interesting, because this will be the first Big 12 test since their loss to Mizzou last year. I forsee Todd Reesing continually pulling himself off the ground with tufts of dirt stuck in his facemask.
4. Mathematically, yes. Realistically, I think we can, but it depends on whether or not Colorado just plays well, or we play bad. Iowa State should be a win, considering it's Senior Day and our offense should be able to roll over them. However, it will take a concentrated effort to beat Nebraska. But, I can also see us pulling off a surprise win against KU, then losing to the Corn and going into that last game agains ISU at 5-6.
5. I can see us giving up 500 yards, no doubt. As one of the guys from TRR stated in the Midweek QB, we might see a breakout performance from Darrell Scott. If Colorado manages to put up 300 yards rushing against us, we will probably lose by two scores and there will be numerous holes in the walls of my house. Our key will be Brandon Harold staying in Hawkins' back pocket all game long, and the LB's meeting the ball carriers at the line of scrimmage instead of 3-4 yards upfield.
So because we think logically, we all seem to realize that the OU, KU and MU games are likely to go badly for our team. But of those, which game do we have the best shot at winning? OU and MU just lost, albeit to very good teams, and KU can't run the ball, the last two games against ISU and CU notwithstanding. I mean, it's college football, so pretty much everybody has a puncher's chance in every game, but is there one of these where we have a little better than that chance?
It's gotta be KU. They are the least balanced team of the three. Also, in a rivalry game, you have to throw everything out the window. I think this is the game the program wants the most this year, and for Ron Prince, a win against KU assures him firm standing in Manhattan, and he'll have a much more harmonious offseason when traveling to meet various Catbacker groups.
OU and MU will literally destroy us in Texas Tech like fashion.