Topics are wide-ranging in this edition, and they're all important. Let's get it going ...
First, the horse in the room. Opinions range far and wide regarding K-State's announcement that it will disband its successful Equestrian program because of the NCAA's want to move on from the sport. On a scale of 1-10 (10 is best), rate KSU's handling of the unfortunate reality.
00: Am I first? Woohoo! On a scale of 1-10, I'd rate the announcement at about an 8, as in it was very correctly presented by Currie and Schulz to the K-State community. However, I'd rate the actual decision somewhat lower, maybe a six. I can't shake the feeling that it never should have come to such a pass in the first place. We should be the sort of program that can maintain a non-NCAA equestrian team while adding other sports to make up scholarship numbers for Title IX compliance requirements. There are days when I don't understand the athletic department's need to stay so small. It might turn a nicer profit in the short term, but it's not good long-range forecasting, IMO.
Jon: Pretty much what she said. When the minimum sport load for Division I is 16 sports, it's appalling that K-State only offers 16. I understand that there are exterior pressures -- for example, we can't exactly have a varsity lacrosse team with no other Big 12 schools following suit. But there's really no excuse for the lack of a softball program, or men's tennis. In fact, that the Big 12 sponsors any sport in which K-State doesn't bother to compete bothers me deeply.
TB: A solid 9. I tend a little more toward the "do fewer things and do them better" viewpoint on this. We may be moving toward an era where K-State can consider expanding its varsity lineup, but I'm not sure we're there yet.
Kitchen: We have some tough graders in here, eh? I give it a 10. This was a situation that K-State couldn't have handled any better than it did. One sport is being forced out the door, so KSU, within the directives and rules in place, says "okay then, we'll make sure we not only take care of those who we pledged support toward, but we're going to add a sport that will over time benefit a greater number of student athletes who probably never would have come to K-State before we offered this program."
00 and Morse have mentioned the availability of sports programs ... to that, I guess I defer to the decision makers in place. If KSU doesn't offer a program, then there must be a solid reason for it -- whether it's an unfavorable feasibility or economic impact study, or something else. I don't feel like I'm operating on blind faith since we all pay attention to these types of things. I do believe our opinions are formed on less information than those who are getting paid to make the decisions.
That's just the ideology. As far as the University's message delivery, it used all available platforms, quoted all the right people who said the right things, and timed it exactly right (late at night). From my PR experience, it was all handled perfectly. Does any of this speak to soccer v. softball? Obviously not. But, that's a different topic.
Okay, back to football. We've all seen the flashy stat that says under Bob Stoops, the Oklahoma Sooners have never lost the game following Texas. But, what are your thoughts on OU in its current form? Is this team susceptible to K-State sneaking into Norman and stealing a win? Where's the "true contender" split, and does this weekend help define that?
00: Yes, this is definitely the weekend that the wheat is separated from the chaff, to use a Kansas-specific metaphor. But I'm still a bit of a skeptic when it comes to K-State playing OU anywhere, much less in Norman. I don't think OU is unassailable, of course. The offense looks a bit shaky, although Samaje Perine is great. The defensive line, long touted as the best in the Big 12, has been underwhelming during conference play. Does that mean K-State wins? Unless Waters can consistently find open receivers and we average about 4.0 ypc, I'm not seeing it.
Jon: You know how much attention I pay to stats like that? Look, never mind that it's a small sample size; there's an even worse problem with this stat. Yes, Bob Stoops is 15-0 the week after Texas. Did you know that of those 15 games, 7 were against the Kansas Jayhawks and 3 against the Iowa State Cyclones? Two-thirds of those games have been gimmes. How impressed are you now? Yeah, that's what I thought. Yes, K-State can win this game, just like they should've won the Auburn game.
TB: K-State can win this game. But we felt pretty confident about beating Oklahoma in Manhattan last year, and that didn't work out so well. We have to stop Perine and contain Knight in the pocket. After that, it's all about the guy we're about to talk about.
Kitchen: What gives me pause is that OU's season expectations are on the line from here on out, and this game is in Norman. Also, let me know how well Jake Waters is going to play. The Wildcats have to get a fantastic game out of him, or none of the rest of this conversation matters.
Who stops, or tries to stop, Sterling Shepard?
00: One word. Debo. That is all.
Jon: Yeah, McDaniel's going to be a busy boy Saturday. Luckily, as long as the front seven can keep the running game in check, OU's got very little other aerial threat to worry about.
TB: This is where I get nervous with Travis Green out. Danzel McDaniel is a good corner, and he should be able to body up against the slightly smaller Shepard. But he's going to need some help over the top.
Kitchen: TB, care to comment below and speak to how KSU uses McDaniel? I don't remember if Tom Hayes believes in letting one guy shadow another, or if he is a "this is your side of the field" type of guy. I'm worried about play-action a little bit. McDaniel (and the other corners) are bent on destroying ball carriers, and OU has plenty to worry about. A couple of good fakes could lead to some big opportunities down the field for the Sooners. *looks over at Dylan Schellenberg and Kaleb Prewett*
We've seen enough of the Big 12 by now to arrive at some general conclusions. Based on what you've seen, does the top of the league legitimately have three teams or four?
00: Still just three teams, though the difference between a third-place team and a fourth-place team is probably insignificant. One advantage of the round robin is that these questions can be answered on the field.
Jon: It's either got one team, three teams, or four teams. One of those three options is eliminated Saturday. Simply put, K-State hasn't been tested in-league yet, so can't claim to be in there but also can't be ruled out.
TB: No idea. I still have questions about Oklahoma and Baylor. Even with the fourth-quarter meltdown against Baylor last week, I still think TCU has looked the most impressive overall.
Kitchen: To answer this specific question, it's three: Baylor & TCU, and the winner of OU/K-State.
Because this hasn't happened since Morse was
already attempting a standalone mustache younger, the Kansas City Royals: Your thoughts on the team making the World Series.
00: Unlike almost everyone else at BotC, I'm more of an indifferent observer. But I love the narrative brilliance of a perennial doormat making it to the World Series. You can't even make this stuff up!
Jon: I was really starting to think I'd never get to experience this euphoria again. Worse, even the two major American sport championships I can claim as a fan are both tainted (Don Denkinger's blown call and Brett Hull's skate in the crease). Can I please just have a clean and indisputable World Series title now? Thanks, Jeebus.
TB: I feel a little like the 65-year-old guy I stood next to in 2003 must have felt when he saw K-State, f/k/a/ Futility U, beat the greatest team in college football history to win the Big 12 title. It's a day I wasn't sure I'd see in my lifetime, which is amazing considering that by the averages I have another 45 years or so to live. Seeing it all play out here in Kansas City has been something I won't forget.
Kitchen: I can separate emotion from sport or life in general as well as or better than most, and I shed a tear watching the final out and celebration after the ALCS was wrapped up. My first real glove as a five-year old was a George Brett-signed Wilson. I still have another glove with several Royals autographs on it that I got through the years. I suffered like every Royals fan did, and I couldn't fight how good it felt to let go of 29 years of punchlines, terrible play and the general, always-growing despair of "no end in sight."
And this is really what I hear Morse saying: "Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin' there in your ghost manger, just lookin' at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin' 'bout shapes and colors ..."