Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mizzou Sanity Roundtable: Week 3

I probably should have split this into two parts, but...well...as you'll soon find, the entire second half of this exchange is 100% without substance, and I would feel bad if you were to wait till tomorrow for Part Two and then went, "This is what I waited for??" So instead you get all ~4,000 words at once.

1. We're almost through with the non-conference slate. At this point, what's your biggest concern regarding your team? (And be more specific than "offense," "defense," or "special teams.")

2. Are you more or less confident about your team's chances of winning the North now than you were at the beginning of the season?

3. What have been the biggest surprises (good and bad) in the Big 12 as a whole so far?

4. Prediction for your team's game this week?

Bonus question: how freaking bad is the Big Ten this year?

The Beef: 1) My biggest concern is that we do NOT have any sort of blitz packages. I have only seen us blitz a handful of times over these first three games, and I keep thinking/hoping/praying that we are keeping things intentionally vanilla on defense. Now, we should be doing a better job of creating pressure just lining up 4-3-4, but we are going to need those packages (both run and pass) to do what we want to do come conference season.

2) I am equally as confident. I think our defense is a little worse than I thought it would be (right now) and our offense is a hair better. I also think the league as a whole is weaker than I thought it would be.

3) OU winning the way they have. kU taking care of business they way they have. UT doing it the way they have. ISU winning last weekend….good for them.

4) Since I have to believe I came the closest last week on the score prediction (missed by 3 points total) I feel confident in saying, I think we will win. I don’t think Daniel sees the 4th quarter and I think Derrick Washington scores his first TD in some extended work in the 4th quarter. I like Mizzou 48-17.

5) Penn State all the way baby!!!
Doug: 1) The impending over-use of Aqib Talib. In two straight series against Toledo, an offensive possession and defensive set, Talib was on the field for every single play. I understand that he's probably the best play-maker KU has had in quite awhile, and Mark Mangino is trying to take advantage of that fact, but you can't wear the man out, otherwise you lose the best corner in the conference.

2) Actually, more confident. KU has really be clicking on offense, yes, they started slowly against Toledo, but eventually they piled up the points and shook off the turnovers and miscues in the first half. The biggest test for Kansas in winning the North comes immediately at the start of conference play when they travel to Manhattan. If KU beats KSU, a strong possibility, I think the Jayhawks will be in great shape to win the North.

3) The good and the bad in the Big 12 comes from the Sooner State. Oklahoma is really good. I mean, really, really good. Like causing-major-frustration-for-the-BCS-in-November good. And, as good as Oklahoma is... that's how bad Oklahoma State is. The Cowboys were supposed to be a break out team this year, especially with a question mark of team for Texas. Instead, the Cowboys just seem broken.

4) Ned's coming to Lawrence! Does that mean FIU is breaking their D-I leading losing streak? Hell 2 da naw. KU 42 FIU 10.
Michael Atchison: 1. The third quarter lull. This is a symptomatic of something we’ve seen repeatedly in recent years, namely the inability to handle prosperity. We’ve seen it before where a big win is followed by an uninspired performance. Now, we’re seeing big leads being built up in the first half, only to be followed by relatively passive play to open the third quarter. To be as good as they can be, I think this team needs more of a mean streak, a go-for-the-throat mentality, and I haven’t seen that yet.

2. About the same, really, maybe about one percent less confident. The rushing defense scares me still. I’m worried that there’s going to be a game or two where the offense sputters or gives up a big play – an interception or punt returned for a touchdown – and the opponent is going to go up by 10 or 14 points and control the game with the run. With that offense, Mizzou is always going to be in the game because a touchdown seems to be a possibility on almost any play. But there’s not much room for error.

3. Off the top of my head, I’m surprised how hard Texas has had to work to make it to 3-0. I just assumed that they’d roll people, and that hasn’t happened. I’ve only seen a little bit of one of their games (against TCU) so I’m in no position to diagnose it, but it looks funny on paper. I’m also a little surprised at how easy Kansas has made it look. I realize that their schedule has been pretty slight, but that hasn’t stopped them from yakking on their shoes before in the non-con. I expected that they’d win all of those games, but I thought that they’d look bad in doing it at least once. But it has been clear sailing.

4. The only thing that keeps me from thinking that the score will be completely out of hand is Gary Pinkel’s reluctance to run it up. That said, I think it will be tough for the Tigers NOT to score 50 this week. I’ll take Mizzou, 56-13.

Bonus question: I don’t know. The knee-jerk reaction is to pile on and savage them, and Michigan, Minnesota, Northwester and now Iowa (wow, didn’t see that coming) certainly have some ugly losses. But Michigan bounced back and beat down Notre Dame, which is a bad team, but it was a thorough destruction, and Illinois went on the road and whipped Syracuse (again, bad team, but thorough beating). Don’t get me wrong, the league isn’t good, but I’m not sure it’s as bad as everyone would have you believe.
ZouDave: If not for me doing a presentation at 8:00am, I think this would have been our fastest roundtable yet. Ultimately, I'm responsible for that and it's up to me to fix it. We just have to get better.

1 - Run defense. I was really hoping we'd have an easy time against WMU, who came in with I believe -25 yards rushing on the season. Ok, not really, but they hadn't run at all this year. And they didn't exactly gash us, but they did still more than double their previous 2 games' effort in one game against us. It was working just well enough that they didn't have to abandon it, and they actually used it to make a minor comeback. This is WMU and we were at home, nothing should have been easy about them running the ball. It's a concern. Nebraska is a strong running team, Texas A&M is a strong running team and Oklahoma is a strong...everything. We're simply going to have to get these 14 - 21 point leads against NU and aTm otherwise I'm not sure we can stop their ground game long enough to score.

2 - Since I was pretty confident that this was the year, I'm going to say the same. I haven't seen anything from Nebraska that makes me fear them more. I already knew that the game against them is the one we have to win to have ANY chance at winning the North. It's not going to be an easy game, but I just don't see from them a team that is clearly better than us at any position. And while ku has certainly looked strong, we have no idea how much of it is because they're actually really good or if they're just playing against opponents that make them look good. We may not know the answer about ku until November, because even if they lose some conference games that might not mean they're necessarily good or bad. Getting way ahead of myself here, but what if the game at Arrowhead between Mizzou and ku is a winner-goes-to-the-title-game event? As Andre the Giant says "Dere will be no soo vye vohs!"

3 - Uhhh, Christ I don't know. I'm not surprised ISU sucks, but I am surprised they beat Iowa and not their other 2 opponents. I'm not surprised Mizzou is 3-0. I'm not surprised NU is 2-1. I'm not surprised ku is 3-0, and only mildly surprised they're beating teams by 40. I'm not surprised Oklahoma is this good, as I predicted them to be undefeated champs of the Big XII. I'm mildly surprised Texas is struggling. Not surprised by aTm, Tech, Baylor, Colorado or k-state. Who's left? Oh yeah, Oklahoma State. Yeah, I'm REALLY freaking surprised by them. They suck out loud. They're Mizzou 2004 only not as skilled, all the way down to losing at Troy on national television. I was counting on them to beat both of the kansas schools and I'm not sure I see that happening now. Both games are in Stillwater, so maybe things are better by then or maybe both teams continue their road struggles but them being down really throws the whole North back into a quagmire. OSU could easily be 0-3 against the North this year. Too bad they're not on our schedule.

4 - This one is hard to predict because I don't know where Pinkel will take his foot off the gas, but I do know it will happen before halftime. We have to score heavier in the first half than we ever have if we want this one to be the laugher it should be. I think Chase makes up for his "bad" game last week and comes out like he did against Ole Miss. 300 yards and 4 scores in the first half, focusing on Franklin and Coffman this time since last week was the Rucker and Maclin show. Temple will get another rushing TD, but won't get enough carries to get 100 yards. Chase Patton gets the 3rd and starts the 4th, and Dominic Grooms gets to finish the game out. Washington will see extended time. Maclin will be on the field most of the game, getting more yards. Jason Ray gets his first score from Patton in the 3rd. Final is 52-13.

BONUS - Not bad enough that ESPN will stop talking about them. No matter what the Big Ten does, it's news. And no matter how much noise the Big XII makes, we're still terrible.
Doug: Oh yeah, on the Big Ten. It's really not that shocking. Every year, teams lose players to elegibilty and the Draft, and it is becoming harder and harder for the powerhouses to just reload. That said, I think Ron Zook is actually a pretty bad coach, Lloyd Carr needs to retire and no matter what the Big Ten does, ESPN will always pimp the conference hardcore, because the Big Ten is the Yankees-Red Sox of college sports.
The Boy: 1. Ditto on the run defense. WMU's RB's were far from strong, and they ran around the corner untouched numerous times. That will be an eensy teensy problem when Nebraska comes to town. I've said on numerous occasions that Marlon Lucky can't create much on his own, but he's pretty competent at running fast in open space. I do think we're holding back on revealing blitz packages and things like that, and I think we'll have some tricks up our sleeves on 10/6 in that regard. However, Lucky will get his yards. And double ditto on the fact that ATM and OU can indeed run the ball. KSU possibly can too. Luckily we're capable of winning shootouts. It ain't preferrable, but we're capable of doing so.

2. Maybe a hair less confident...which is funny because I've actually been less impressed with Nebraska than I thought I would be. I think my drop in confidence simply stems from the fact that I always get less confident when the big moment approaches. I've been scarred too many times, yadda yadda yadda.

3. I guess I'm willing to cut OSU one single ounce of slack for their suckage because they've been beset by injuries. The troika of Reid-Bowman-Savage was supposed to carry them to success, but Savage has missed the last two games and Reid got banged up against FAU. That said, watching the team against Troy, there was a definite smell of "2004 Mizzou-level cancer"...with Reid laughing on the sidelines in the fourth quarter. It's definitely easy to suspect that there are two different camps forming on the OSU sideline, and that's just deadly. Bottom line is, OSU's season rides on the Texas Tech game this Saturday. Win that, and there's plenty to play for. Lose that, and the road to 6 wins gets almost unmanageable. After presumably beating Sam Houston next week, they'd still have to win 4 of 7 against Texas A&M (road), Nebraska (road), K-State, Texas, Kansas, Baylor (road), and Oklahoma (road). That means pulling at least one strong upset, and for a team with apparent chemistry problems, that's damn near impossible.

Then again, those chemistry issues could all be only in my head. We shall see.

4. Being that we do have a competent 2nd string offense, it really will be pretty hard to stop before 50. And being that the defense only gave up 17 points to WMU, I don't see ISU hitting double digits. I'll say 52-6...though our 2nd string defense is so young and thin that I guess a late ISU TD is possible.

Eh, screw it...52-6.

5. Bad enough that I could see Illinois doing us a favor and reaching 6 wins. Seriously, Oklahoma "Chemistry Problems" State beats Schnellenburger Atlantic by 36, then Minnesota loses to them? Ugh.

And now...just like last week...I open up the floor. Anybody have any questions for the Sanity Quorum?
The Beef: Can Atch and I fight again about something?
ZouDave: Are you asking for permission?
The Beef: Well…gives us something to fight about and let us go “Good Cop, Bad Cop” on it…we have to entertain our 7 readers
The Boy: Go ahead...by all means...
The Beef: Ok….but we need something to fight about…gold pants? Attendance? Time of game? Good fans vs. people with kids? :-)
The Boy: I must say, I love how the NCAA created the running clock rule last year, realized that one tiny little portion of it (the fact that the clock started even in the last two minutes of each half) didn't work too well, and scrapped the whole thing. I've ranted about this before, though, so I'll stop there.

And there's nothing better than an old gold logo on yellow pants. Mmm, mmm, mmm...
The Beef: Alright…how about this….

Because of the spread offense being so popular and so many passes being thrown, as well as the departure from the wishbone and option which kept the clock running, are we stricken now with 3 and a half hour games or is there something that can be done?
ZouDave: An argument on the Subscribers board on Tigerboard is centered around the idea of whether or not it's okay to be annoyed by people who wear Mizzou shirts to football games that are not Mizzou colors. I did see a lot of people on Saturday wearing green, blue and red shirts that said "Mizzou" on them. I'll admit it, this annoys me. I'm okay with girls wearing pink shirts, because at least nobody is going to confuse that shirt for that of another school or something. But when I see blue or red in the Mizzou crowd, I immediately assume this person is NOT here for Mizzou.

So what say you, oh wise ones? Should Mizzou fans make more of an effort to wear team colors at our games? And should I have the right to slap people wearing Cardinals hats, Rams hats or (for the love of God) Joe Montana Chiefs jerseys at a Mizzou home game?

And I think "stricken" is the wrong word. I'm not at all concerned with the length of the games, because I love college football. If we're getting more plays in a game, I'm okay with it. It's not like it's inherently helping one team over another, so there isn't a clear advantage that can't be countered with controlling the ball when you have it.

Bring on the games and damn the length. I'm all for it.
The Beef: I am just trying to be mindful of fans who look for any and all excuses…and I am waiting for “the games are too long” to start entering the fray.
The Boy: My wife wore a gray Mizzou shirt Saturday, only "MIZZOU" was spelled out in red. Basically looks like an OU shirt...which makes sense, since she grew up a big OU fan (10 minutes from OKC). From afar, though, it was simply a grey shirt, and it blended in with the others. That, plus the fact that she brought some great muffins to the tailgate, made it an okay thing in my book.

As for the games...the only part I mind is a) it seems to add like 20-30 to live blogging, which sucks, and b) it takes longer for me to enter the play-by-play into my database when there are an extra 15-30 plays. In other words, it only affects the nerdiest portion of my brain.
Doug: The easiest thing that can be done is change the clock stoppage on first downs to only the last two minutes of the first half and the end of the game.

I think you would shave a few minutes off the game that way. I think the NCAA had the right idea with starting the clock once the ball was set on change of possession. I think that gave new wrinkle to game planning that coaches did not want to even attempt to adjust for that change and so the NCAA caved. Limit the clock stoppage and I think you'll see the pace move along nicely.
Michael Atchison: Holy cow, the FC (fanatical correctness) movement kicked into overdrive this week. I don’t have much interest in arguments over what makes “good fans,” as they always devolve into some form of “I enjoy my leisure activities with more vigor than you enjoy yours!” It’s quite possible that you obsess over football more than the average person, but that’s not exactly an accomplishment, you know? I probably enjoy a nice viognier and the collected works of The Hold Steady more than you, but I don’t think that makes you less of a person. Since Saturday, I’ve read lectures about when and if it’s ever appropriate to fail to attend a game, the colors fans should wear (including a budding movement to outlaw gold – one of our colors – in favor of a theoretical sea of black that will never happen), when standing is not only appropriate but mandatory, and whether it’s traitorous to prefer an early kickoff to a late one. Would it make for a better atmosphere to have the whole stadium color-coordinated? I suppose. I always wear the colors for football (though I don’t always do the same for pro sports; I’ve shelled out $150 for tickets, parking and concessions so guys can make seven figures to play a game; do I really have to dress like them, too?), but I can’t get too fired up if a handful of folks are in pink, purple or mauve, as I really don’t think it affects much of anything. I can’t imagine shuffling out of Faurot Field after a heartbreaking two-point loss, pointing at the girl in the green shirt and shouting “j’accuse!”

People care about different things at different levels of intensity. If someone bothers to spend the time and money to attend a game, I’m not going to get too exercised over what they wear.

And you should always have the right to slap any grown man wearing any jersey of any sort. It’s the equivalent of wearing Underoos.
The Beef: We are going to have to point most of our folks to reference.com to figure out what viognier is/are.

I go gold unless it is blackout…then I go black…unless it is too cold…then I wear a jacket that happens to be yellow’ish but not by design. I will say my first Mizzou sweatshirt was blue with white letters…

Black out will never happen…but it does make us look more slimming…the best blackout we ever had was the 2003 NU game…which when it started raining ironically became one of the better gold rush’s because of all the rain ponchos.

And really? I cannot wear a Jets jersey when I see them play at home in a couple of weeks? It is Wayne Chrebet though. I got it on sale…in Baltimore no less (don’t ask).
Michael Atchison: Well, obviously, there’s an exception for Wayne Chrebet.

I sort of enjoyed Mike Leach’s rant last year wondering why the NCAA Football committee was trying to make sure that games would include less football. Though sometimes, as I sit through the fourth quarter of a 90-degree scorcher or a 40-degree rainstorm, I wish the games moved more quickly. The 20-minute halftime is here to stay because marching bands are sacred. The NCAA probably ought to adopt some NFL-style rules and limit the stoppages. Is it really important to stop the clock to move the chains in the first quarter? The pros seem to manage without it. Let’s only stop the clock for out-of-bounds plays and first downs in the last five minutes of each half. How’s that for a start?
ZouDave: I know it may not be "cool", but I like wearing jerseys to games. They're comfy, they're going to fit the color scheme, and I just don't mind them at all. I don't own very many, and generally only wear them on game day or maybe an old one to mow the yard, but I'm good with jerseys.
Besides, ESPN says it's ok!

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=rules/070905 (rule 10)
Michael Atchison: Rule 10 says it’s OK only if you belong to an age demographic that I departed some years ago. And mind you, it’s ESPN. They think it’s OK to put Skip Bayless on the air.

Obviously, it’s a matter of personal taste. If you’re the kind of person who wore a Darth Vader costume to the last Star Wars movie (Revenge of the Ewoks, or whatever it was called), you should feel perfectly comfortable pretending you’re a 21-year-old college student who plays football. Who am I to judge?
ZouDave: That's it! You're only about a 5 minute drive from me. I'm kicking your ass!
Michael Atchison: Oh, hell, you wore the Vader costume, didn’t you?
ZouDave: you're dead to me
Michael Atchison: I’ll be at the Gymboree in downtown Parkville (just a stone’s throw from your office) at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow if you want to settle this like men in the giant pit of ambiguous foam rubber shapes.
Doug: Hmmm... yeah... I got nothing.
The Beef: So can we just rename these Sanity Roundtables, “Who will Atch piss off this week?”
Michael Atchison: I give you guys tips on how to dress for success and what wine pairs with spicy Asian cuisine, and somehow I become the villain. The era of the Esquire man is over.
The Beef: I already knew how to pair wines...I just did not know how to spell viogneir...and clearly neither does Microsoft.
Doug: I think we should just be saving all of this for "Mizzou Sanity: The Unauthorized Story"... you know when we hit the big time.
The Beef: I wonder how much of this our esteemed leader decides to leave in there.
Doug: I think every sports-related blog needs at least some Skip Bayless bashing at least once a week.
The Boy: Oh it's all staying. I unexpectedly got pulled into a meeting and came back to a long conversation about ambiguous foam shapes, Vader costumes, and yelling "J'accuse!" at sorority girls or something. If I had to read it all at once, Sanity readers do too.