Memphis fans have history with Kansas. The 2008 NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Final will be etched in Tiger fans memories forever (Memphis fans, don't click the link). But what do we know about Kansas football? Probably not a whole lot. This week Andy Mitts, managing editor of Rock Chalk Talk, and I sat down and hashed out a Q&A of sorts to lead up to Saturdays matchup.
UD: The firing of Charlie Weis (last season) created an opening for Michael Cummings to start under center. After Cummings was injured in the spring game the Jayhawks moved back to Montell Cozart (as starter). How did Cozart performa last week as opposed to last season and what should we expect from him this weekend? Also, how does Cozarts playing style fit in to the new head coach, David Beaty's, scheme?
RCT: Cozart was really rocky at the start of the game. It was so bad, in fact, that he was replaced by true freshman Ryan WIllis for two snaps, until it was clear that Willis wasn't going to fair any better. Once the line settled in a bit, Cozart seemed to trust his play-making ability and the offense really started to open up.
UD: I would be remiss if I didn't speak on the firing of coach Weis and hiring of coach Beaty. Memphis was in similar situations with bad season under coach Porter compared to now with coach Fuente. Although early on the record would indicate little change there was a noticeable difference in the product on the field. Through one game have you been able to tell much difference in the team on the field?
RCT: Weis was really only good at three things: getting paid lots of money from his time at the New England Patriots, sucking the life out of desperate football teams, and doing as little work as possible. It's becoming increasingly clear that he benefited from insane talent (Tom Brady) and systemic cheating (DeflateGate) to get results that severely overestimated his abilities, and rode that good fortune into the ultimate golden parachute (continued pay from Notre Dame).
The difference on the field was night and day, and honestly we saw the difference immediately last year when Bowen took over. Bowen was willing to try new things out all the time, immediately moving to Michael Cummings as his QB and tweaking gameplans to utilize his player's strengths. But with Beaty and OC Rob Likens, we see the Jayhawks in the first quarter and a half, it was clear that the players knew what their assignments were and understood how the gameplan was supposed to work. With Weis at the helm, we routinely saw a mish-mash of random plays that were supposed to exploited a weakness in the defense, but instead showed that our team had no clue what was going on.
UD: In last week's loss the Jayhawks stormed back from a halftime deficit to make the game competitive and almost force overtime. What are the takeaways from the second half that could carry over to the Memphis game?
RCT: There is definitely a lot to be positive about, but much like Royals fans until about 2 years ago, there is a sense of impending doom that any optimism will be met with extreme misfortune. The offense definitely seemed to find it's rhythm, and Ke'aun Kinner looks to be a special kind of back. If Kansas can get the offense clicking early, then it will only take a few key stops to get out ahead and keep it going.
Ultimately, the biggest takeaway is that this team is going to fight even if they face a large deficit. Last year, it was tough to get anyone to look like they cared once they fell behind.
UD: Kansas' only game that they seemed to be favored in was the season opener. What type of improvement do you see, given the personnel in place, and are there any games you foresee the Jayhawks possibly moving to be favored? Or maybe a better question, what winnable games do you see on the schedule?
RCT: Yeah, the Jayhawks are expected to be double-digit underdogs in each of their remaining games. About the only way I see that changing is if Rutgers completely implodes this week, or Iowa State suffers a rash of injuries Other than that, Kansas is going to be heavy underdogs the rest of the year.
Overall, this team is extremely raw, thin and young. As the season goes on, I expect the overall play of our team to get better but with strength of the opponents increasing, I doubt we are going to see the results on the field. Kansas could potentially win against Rutgers or Iowa State, and if everything broke right Kansas might be able to get lucky in a complete shootout with Texas Tech, but other than that, I don't see them having any sort of chance right now.
UD: Much like you asked me, in your opinion, what are the key matchups you look forward to watching on Saturday?
RCT: The Kansas D-line against the Memphis running game is going to be crucial. Kansas got destroyed by an offensive line that was supposed to be the weak point of South Dakota State and they just couldn't seem to get any sort of push at all the entire day. It took SDSU going into conservative mode for Kansas to make any sort of headway. If Kansas is to have any sort of chance, they can't let Memphis run wild.
UD: Finally, let's play predict the game. How do you think the game will flow and what do you think the final score will be?
RCT: As much as I want to predict a good game for the Jayhawks, I think this game doesn't go well at all. I'm guessing the Jayhawks get pushed around early, go in to the half down 35-20, come out firing at the half and get it close at a score like 42-34, but then their lack of scholarship layers bites them and they run out of steam. Predicting a final score of 56-37