Yesterday, our good pal Ulysses S. Cocksman posted his interview with Jon over at Barking Carnival. Today, the camera's swung around the other direction, as Jon grills the Civil War hero turned adult film star about the Longhorns of Texas, his expectations for Saturday, and other topics of morbid interest.
Jon: So, you talked with me about the non-rivalry, and I'll turn the tables on you. As I mentioned, it's not a thing we sweat over; after all, we're not Colorado, desperately looking for someone to hate us. We've got Kansas for that. But at the same time, we see Texas people talking about us almost as much as we see Jayhawks obsessing over us. (The difference, of course, is that Longhorns are respectful about it.) Where do you stand on this matter? Is K-State still just that damned pesky team Texas can't beat, or is it a rivalry?
USC: It’s hard to call it a rivalry, just given the short history of it, but it definitely extends well beyond any notion of peskiness. I guess any proper rivalry is just a function of hate multiplied by time, and we’re only missing the back half of that equation. And it's just semantics anyway, because the hate? Oh, the hate is there friend, and it is so, so real. You can only suffer so much repeated emotional devastation without engendering some profound disdain, and no team since the inception of the Big 12 has done more to that end than K-State. I mean, I’ve come to hate Manhattan by extension, and I’ve never even been there. God, just thinking about it makes me want to burn down a damn Applebee's SO MUCH.
Jon: The Big 12. Obviously, nobody likes this conference, but at the same time the teams in the conference don't necessarily seem to object to being together. What would you do to fix it, and who would you like to see join in the event of expansion?
USC: I think the most effective solution would be to fire the whole thing into the sun, but that's probably not logistically feasible. For me the real answer was there back in 2011 when the groundwork was laid out for the Longhorn Network. Now, I'm of the opinion that Texas shouldn't be begrudged for having its own network, per se. Third-tier rights are great, capitalism is great, having Vance Bedford beamed into your living room isn't just great, it's one of the truly sublime joys in life. That said, I always wished that Texas had used what leverage it had with ESPN to push hard for a centralized Big 12 Network, with satellite networks for the individual schools negotiated by each where possible.
Texas is always going to get theirs, but missed a tremendous opportunity to strengthen the conference as a whole, knowing that having ESPN in your league's corner is a HUGE boon to the national perception of your relative quality cough cough SEC cough. If A&M and Missouri hadn't caught a case of the feels over it and wandered to more lucrative pastures, TCU and West Virginia rounding things back up to twelve would've been a pretty solid group.
If I could cherry pick two programs to fill the conference in now, I'd go with Notre Dame and Houston. The Irish fill the obvious need for another huge anchor program to bring national clout and legitimacy, with the added benefit of soaking up a great deal of our status as the most entitled, monied assholes in the room. The Cougars meet all of my own selfish desires for Southwest Conference nostalgia and a renewed conference foothold in East Texas in the absence of the Aggies. I'm aware that one of these is astronomically less likely than the other, but I don't go to sleep at my desk to dream small.
Jon: The coaching situation at K-State is such that national sites are now engaging in some rumor-mongering. This might the last time you'll see Bill Snyder across the sidelines. How do you feel about that, deep down?
USC: Deep down? Terrible. On the surface? Also terrible. Listen, for as much I don't enjoy seeing the Cats kick the shit out of my hopes and dreams on a regular basis, I can't think of a single coach that I hold in higher esteem than Snyder. I take no joy in the possibility of his career coming to an end, because that suggests that we are all mortal, entropy is inevitable and magic isn't real. Frankly, it's depressing.
I also like the idea of other teams in the conference actually being good, and in the gulf (abyss?) between The Great Depression and Bill Snyder, that just wasn't true of KSU football. I don't think the world is ready for another Ron Prince Era, and while I don't think that's the likely outcome, it's a sobering possibility.
Jon: Earlier in the season, it seemed like Texas had a major problem in the locker room, with the upperclassmen and Charlie Strong recruits sniping at one another. Does winning solve all ills, or is this a fundamental issue between Mack Brown guys and Strong guys that will linger until all of Mack's kids have graduated?
USC: I don't know that winning solves all ills here, but as Scipio noted somewhere, it's pretty likely that Charlie is fine with – or even encouraging of – some conflict in the locker room. The kids shouldn't be content to quietly wait their turn, and the upperclassmen shouldn't be so unengaged and complacent as to not take the challenge seriously. Some tension there is healthy, and probably necessary.
That said, this thing is definitely not going to be firing on all cylinders until the changeover from Mack's guys to Charlie's guys is complete, and it would be nice if we weren't fighting in the trenches of the Twitter Wars in the meantime. We're probably two losses away from this transitioning from feisty sniping to West Side Story featuring the Macks versus the Strongs, and I think Tyrone Swoopes would make a lousy Maria.
Jon: Obviously, as more of Strong's talent grows into the program, changes happen. Other than Jerrod Heard, who's stepped up this year?
USC: On offense, Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe have stepped in as true freshmen and been tremendous on the line. Williams may well be the best player on that side of the ball right now, which is absolutely remarkable for a left tackle six months removed from his senior prom. John Burt has flashed a bit at receiver as a deep threat, and I imagine you'll see Heard fling one downfield to him at least once on Saturday if he can find the time.
The brothers Foreman have solid potential in their second year that's just starting to be realized, especially with D'Onta at tailback. He's been running well in relief of Gray, and has much more upside on any given play – hopefully he'll get more touches each week. Armanti at receiver keeps looking like he's ready to do some things, but he's had some maddening drops (which puts him in good company with the rest of the receiving corps, honestly.)
On defense, the biggest bright spot of the youth movement has been Malik Jefferson. He's had his growing pains, but he's an absolute nightmare on blitzes, which are frequent. There's a ton of youth in the secondary, with… um… uneven results. They're going to be very good eventually, and at times they are now, but they still have a long way to go.
Jon: We know we can expect Texas to run the ball. We know K-State is very good at defending the run when the pass isn't much of a threat. Where do you see that battle going on Saturday?
USC: I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll see Kent Perkins return at right tackle, which would be pretty big for pass protection. Daje Johnson should be back at receiver this week, and he's been a big play threat wrapped in a poorly-conceived song release wrapped in an infuriating drop when healthy. With those two pieces, there's a chance that the passing game will open up enough to keep the linebackers honest, though there's also the chance that we'll just see more footballs clanging off an extra pair of hands. If all else fails, we'll fall back on the Tyronesaurus / Swoopesdozer package and pray, since he seems to be made of pure, unstoppable forward progress, just a year removed from being primarily a negative yardage threat when running.
Jon: You've just been shanghaied into serving as K-State's offensive coordinator on Saturday, and because you're not a weasel you've decided to give it your best effort. How do you attack the Longhorn defense?
USC: Hold on, what's the pay like? Because my effort is pretty tethered to compensation in almost all cases, this one especially.
The temptation is to just attack a secondary that's had no trouble with either bending or breaking in most games this year, and hit those huge, empty spaces of green in the coverage. But they played a little better against OU, and what remains of the K-State passing attack looks like hot garbage right now, so I'm running like a madman. Just run everything, in all directions, from all formations, and maybe hit them with the actual kitchen sink for good measure.
Hassan Ridgeway is playing like a grown-ass man on the defensive line right now, and that's bringing up the play of everyone around him, but it's still not a terribly strong unit overall. If you get the linebackers behind them thinking and reacting to a lot of looks, they could be in real trouble. And the safeties having to come up in support too much is frankly terrifying as a Longhorn fan. As a last line of defense, Dylan Haines frequently looks like nerf projectile throwing himself off of runners, his arms dangling impotently at his sides as he falls harmlessly by the wayside, and now I'm getting a little queasy just thinking about it, and you know what I quit, this job is bullshit anyway. Throw nothing but 20 yard sideline outs.
Jon: Finally: since we all know that everyone who owns any burnt orange apparel is convinced K-State's going to win this game even if they don't deserve to, how badly do the Longhorns lose?
USC: It's a hard-fought game late, with Texas up by 7 and punting away with a few ticks left on the clock. The snap is high and well in excess of 100 miles per hour, lodging in Michael Dickson's helmet and sending him hurtling out of the back of the end zone for a safety. On the free kick, Nick Rose is disoriented by his bangs falling across his eyes, and somehow manages to kick it high and completely backwards, where Kansas State fields it for a touchdown. A piano falls on Dickson on the sidelines and one random coverage guy bursts into flames. Ballgame.
Our thanks to Brave Ulysses for a pair of wonderfully entertaining back-and-forths. We're hoping to also get the perspective of our other Texas colleagues over at Burnt Orange Nation before the week is out.