Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turner Gill out. Who do you want as Kansas' next head coach?

Turner Gill is out as Kansas' head football coach. So, step one of the first important hire of the Sheahon Zenger era in Kansas' athletics department is complete. Step two is finding, negotiating with and hiring the next head football coach.

See the poll to the right to vote for who you think should be the next head football coach:

- Jim Leavitt, former head coach, South Florida
- Mike Leach, former head coach at Texas Tech
- Kevin Sumlin, head coach at Houston
- Larry Fedora, head coach at Southern Mississippi
- Jim Tressel, former head coach at Ohio State
- Brent Venables, defensive coordinator at Oklahoma
- Dave Doeren, head coach at Northern Illinois

Or, perhaps you have another candidate who you believe should be considered. If so, please post below with your thoughts.

Hey Jay...just shut up!

We're all reasonable adults here, aren't we--I who write this blog and those of you who happen to frequent it? If so, then let's just wrap up the Kansas-Missouri conference alignment debate as follows--you (University of Missouri) did what you thought best for your institution and left the Big 12 for the SEC; we (University of Kansas) likewise made a decision which we think is best for us and the league to which we remained loyal by publicly indicating no desire to continue playing MU in any sport. As reasonable adults, let's simply respect the decision of the other school and agree that "you do what's best for you" and we'll not judge your decision.

Sounds all well and good except for one snag--the governor of the state of Missouri doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut and has played too direct a role in this whole sad breaking of tradition.

Let's have a quick review, shall we? Jay Nixon, Missouri's governor, got famously in the middle of Mizzou's 2010 flirtation with the Big 10 by calling into question the academic prowess of Big 12 schools Texas Tech and Oklahoma State while lauding the academic brilliance of the Big Ten schools. Now, Nixon is on the record as saying that the KU-MU rivalry is "...a tradition that should continue, and we're hopeful that it will. It's good for the Kansas City economy."

Whoa there, Gov--if you were so concerned about the Kansas City economy, where were you weeks ago when MU officials and the Board of Curators were deliberating on your state school's participation in the Big 12? Kansas City officials were publicly pleading with MU to stay in the Big 12, citing the economic impact that this move would have on K.C.

Nixon was in the middle of swirling the Big 12 instability pot in 2010. And, now he's being disingenuous by suggesting that if only KU would want to continue to play MU, all would be well in K.C.

The impact to Kansas City goes far, far beyond a KU-MU football game in Arrowhead. The biggest impact to Kansas City is the likelihood of losing the Mens and Womens Big 12 Basketball Tournaments now that no Big 12 school is located in the state of Missouri--home to Kansas City's Sprint Center. The $16+ million impact in economic impact from the tournament dwarfs what the KU-MU football game means to the metropolitan area of Kansas City.

So, Governor Nixon, do us all a favor and stay out of this. You've been far too involved already and your most recent comments are a transparent attempt to deflect responsibility for what Missouri's decision will mean to Kansas City and this region.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Week 13: College football predictions

Last week: 5-5
Season to date: 87-34 (.719)

Missouri over Kansas. The last game, at least in the foreseeable future, of this rivalry. The last game--likely--of Turner Gill's coaching tenure at Kansas. Lots of "lasts" in this one, which is a poor facsimile of the drama we witnessed in Arrowhead in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Expect a crowd of around 50,000 to witness this MU victory--Tigers by 18 in a game which will be close at half.

Baylor over Texas Tech. This neutral site game, in Arlington, TX, will feature a Bear team who has won three straight, including last week's whopper over Oklahoma, against Tech, losers of four straight. Baylor by a touchdown.

Oklahoma over Iowa State. Iowa State stunned the BCS world last week with its win over Oklahoma State. The Cyclones won't make it two in a row against the state of Oklahoma--Sooners by 24.

Nebraska over Iowa. This game is about bowl positioning for Nebraska, loser to Michigan last week and a non-participant in the first Big Ten championship game. Win this one and NU finishes 9-3. NU by eight.

Alabama over Auburn. Last year, Alabama blew a 24 point lead in this game to eventual national champion Auburn. This year, the Crimson Tide tries to get revenge and stay firmly in the BCS title hunt. Bama by 14.

Michigan over Ohio State. The stakes are huge for Michigan--try to break a seven game losing streak in this rivalry and stay in contention for a BCS berth. Michigan by 10 in the Big House.

Stanford over Notre Dame.
The Cardinal suffered an extremely disappointing loss last week at home against Oregon, effectively ending their national title hopes. They rebound this weekend against Notre Dame. Stanford by 10.

Game of the week--LSU over Arkansas.
If anyone needed further proof of the SEC's dominance of college football, look no further than the current 1-2-3 ranking--LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. In this battle of #1 versus #3, look for LSU's home field advantage to help them win by four.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Big 12: November hoops

November is the silly season in college hoops. On one hand, you have schools feasting on foes with directions in their names (see Baylor and Kansas State) and, on the other, you have schools participating in high profile tournaments and "classics" who quickly find out how they stack up against quality competition (see Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma State.)

Let's break down what we've found out...and, what we still don't know.

- Kansas: A week ago, Kansas was humbled in the second half against a highly talented Kentucky. Last night, KU proved that they belonged by going toe-to-toe with Duke, in a March tournament-like atmosphere, before losing late. What we know: Kansas' identity will be with its tough defense and ability to penetrate and dish. What we don't know: Will Kansas' bench mature enough to provide at least a few quality minutes in big games? Last night, KU's reserves played 30 minutes yet netted zero points, zero rebounds and zero assists.

- Missouri: Who saw this coming? Missouri played discipline basketball, on both ends of the court, in blowing away Notre Dame and California to win the CBE Classic. Yes, the Tigers will ultimately miss Lawrence Bowers but, for now, they look to be a definite contender in the Big 12. What we know: MU's guards are quick, can shoot and have matured into potentially the best backcourt in the conference. What we don't know: Will the lack of bigs, beyond Ricardo Ratliffe, equate to a top four finish in the Big 12?

- Baylor: We know the Bears are talented. But, seriously, Baylor plays no one of note until a December 17 visit to BYU. What we know: We don't--play somebody!

- Texas: The Longhorns are 2-2 after back-to-back losses to Oregon State and North Carolina State. What we know: J'Covan Brown will contend for player-of-the-year honors in the conference.

- Oklahoma State: Highly touted freshman LeBryan Nash is only shooting at a .370 clip and the Cowboys looked bad last night against Stanford.

- Texas A&M: A&M (3-1) lost to the only quality team--Mississippi State--that they've played to date. What we don't know: I'm still trying to figure out why the Aggies were picked third in the league, behind KU and Baylor.

- Kansas State: The Wildcats have played three games--all wins--against nobodies. What we know: Let's simply call this an "incomplete" grade, shall we?

What's coming up of note:

- Missouri faces Villanova on December 6 in Columbia.

- Bob Huggins returns to Manhattan on December 8 as West Virginia takes on Kansas State.

- KU continues its killer schedule against #3 Ohio State on December 10, in Lawrence.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who'll be the next coach at Kansas?

It's official--we can now turn our attention from the Turner Gill death watch to the question of "who will Kansas get to coach after Gill is fired?" Gill's Kansas team turned in another uninspired effort today against Texas A&M causing Kansas fans to compare, via social media, the current state of Kansas football to that of the Bob Valesente era--long considered the absolutest darkest period of Jayhawk gridiron history. (Lighten up, KU fans--the end of the Valesente reign was so bad, nobody cared. At least now there is legitimate interest in Kansas' football program.)

The usual suspect names will come up but let's look at a list of legitimate possibilities, focusing on who Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger might have on his speed dial list:

- Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois. Doeren was hired by Zenger at Northern Illinois and is 19-6 thus far in his two seasons there. Doeren was an assistant at KU under Mark Mangino and a former head coach at Shawnee Mission Northwest.

- Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston. Sumlin was rumored to be in the mix when Gill got the Kansas job. Two years later, Gill is about to be fired and Sumlin has the Cougars at 11-0. You may ask why Sumlin would now leave Houston--isn't there allure to bringing his skills to the Big 12?

- Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma. Venables' name is on the list whenever a Big 12 opening occurs. It'll show up again when Gill gets fired but I doubt that he leaves for Lawrence.

- Jim Leavitt, former head coach, South Florida. Ironically, Leavitt was fired the same year as Mangino was let go at Kansas, paving the way for Gill. Leavitt is a disciple of Bill Snyder and Zenger served on Snyder's staff. Is Lawrence a destination for Leavitt to redeem himself after the messy divorce from South Florida?

- John Latina, assistant head coach, Notre Dame. Latina is another former KSU assistant (are you noticing a trend here) who was on the same staff as Zenger in Manhattan.

- Dennis Franchione, head coach, Texas State. Franchione is a Kansas native and served as head coach at Texas A&M, but resigned under controversy. He's in year one at Texas State.

And, if you truly want to think outside the box, consider the name "Terry Donahue." Donahue, now doing college football broadcasting, is the former UCLA coach who has the most wins in Pac-10 history. Donahue served seven seasons as a Kansas assistant and his wife has Kansas roots. Donahue is 67 but might be lured back to Lawrence by the possibility of revitalizing a program which proved, in 2007-2008, that success could be had on Mt. Oread.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Week 12: College football predictions

Last week: 7-2
Season to date: 82-29 (.739)

Texas A&M over Kansas. A&M has lost three straight with two of those losses coming in overtime. Kansas has lost eight straight. The Jayhawks travel to Kyle Field for the last time in a Big 12 conference game. The Aggies will rebound big over KU--Texas A&M by 20.

Kansas State over Texas. Texas is favored but how can you bet against the Wildcats in this season-of-seasons for Bill Snyder, Collin Klein and crew? This one, like KSU's last two games, will be close but I expect the 'Cats to win by four.

Missouri over Texas Tech. Gary Pinkel won't be on the sidelines on Saturday and that's a shame, as it's Senior Day in Columbia. MU is coming off an important win over Texas while Tech is headed south with three straight losses. MU becomes bowl eligible by beating Tech--Missouri by 12.

Oklahoma over Baylor. The Bears became bowl eligible last week by beating Kansas and hope for a huge win for the program in a home game this Saturday. OU will effectively clamp down on Robert Griffin III and his talented set of receivers--Oklahoma by 10.

Oklahoma State over Iowa State. The Heisman watch for Brandon Weeden continues--OSU by 25.

Nebraska over Michigan. The Big Red invades The Big House. Nebraska's running game, behind Rex Burkhead, is too much for the Wolverines--NU by a touchdown.

Houston over SMU. The Ponies started the season 5-1 but now have lost three of their last four. Facing Houston is not the cure for reversing that trend--UH by 30.

Ohio State over Penn State. Sadly, football is now secondary to all of the drama at Penn State. OSU by 14.

Florida State over Virginia. This could be an upset special--Virginia is having a terrific season and Florida State is coming off a rivalry game win over Miami. I think FSU wins by four in this one.

Game of the week--Oregon over USC. Some might pick USC for the upset here given Oregon's big win last week over Stanford. But, the Ducks are playing at home and are peaking at the right time. Oregon's speed will overwhelm USC--Ducks by 10.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strange seatmates

Guess who Section 10 spotted sitting together last night in Madison Square Garden at the Champions Classic? Taking in the Kansas-Kentucky game together were none other than former KU athletics director Lew Perkins sitting next to former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson. Hmm...

A couple of rows in front of Perkins and Peterson was Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics and father of Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers.

Grading Kansas-Kentucky

The first Champions Classic is complete and the premiere version of this three-year double-header had an electric atmosphere. The first game featured Duke and Michigan State and just so happened to coincide with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's quest to become the all-time winningest coach in Division 1 history. And, the second game matched up the two winningest programs in college hoops--Kentucky and Kansas.

Let's grade out Kansas' effort in their loss to the number two ranked Wildcats.

Tyshawn Taylor: B. Taylor led the team in scoring and single-handily worked to keep Kansas in it after falling well behind in the second half. Taylor did too little too early when Kansas could have distanced itself from Kentucky given the 'Cats first half turnover and shooting woes. Taylor is the only Jayhawk who has started before in a game of this magnitude--he didn't look it in the first half but certainly came to play in the second half.

Thomas Robinson: C+. On paper, Robinson's line looks good--11 points and 12 rebounds. But, Robinson fouled out and continued to show a penchant for allowing his man to get the ball and then guarding versus denying the post. Robinson will learn from this game as he went up against a stud, Terence Jones, and had his moments. He needs to watch his emotions as teams will go after him knowing that KU has little quality frontcourt depth.

Jeff Withey: B-. I was impressed with Withey's combativeness in a game where I thought he might play passive.

Elijah Johnson: C. Johnson only had two points until late in the game. And, his effort was summed up when he had the baseline, drove, then tried to dish off versus going to the rim for the dunk. Johnson was clearly flustered by Kentucky's length.

Travis Releford: D. Let's be blunt--Kansas has to have Releford improve and play to his potential in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance at another conference crown and post-season wins. Four points and three rebounds, plus several errors on both ends of the court, won't cut it.

Justin Wesley: B. Wesley did a serviceable job on the defensive side of the ball and supplied some quality minutes, netting five points and five boards.

Connor Teahan: C+. The former walk-on hit a couple of threes but was exposed defensively, had two turnovers and four fouls.

Naadir Tharpe: D. In nine minutes, Tharpe committed two turnovers and missed all four of his shots, including an ill-advised three from Queens.

Kevin Young: C-. Not yet ready for prime time, Young played just two minutes with two rebounds.

Coaching: C. Bill Self tried to prep his team for the "men" they would play last night. And, early at least, it seemed as if Kansas was ready for this marquee match-up. Self can't be happy with last night's ball movement and had to resort to asking his best guard--Taylor--to drive the ball, while spreading the floor, late in the game given the lack of any other offense.

Intangibles: A. Kansas won the war of star power. Sure, Kentucky had Ashley Judd in the Garden but KU boasted Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd, along with their pal Josh Groban (sporting a Jayhawk sticker), plus former players Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Russell Robinson and Cole Aldrich.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 11: College football predictions

After last week's hiatus, we pick up with this weekend's action and our latest round of predictions.

Week nine predictions: 6-4
Season to date: 75-27 (.735)

Baylor over Kansas. It's hard to name a more electrifying college quarterback in recent memory than Robert Griffin III. He sometimes reminds me of Cam Newton and sometimes of Vince Young. Yet, the thing that distinguishes RGIII is his passing accuracy, especially while on the move. Baylor's track squad masquerading as a football team, which put up 697 total yards last week against Missouri, will score points in bunches--BU by 22.

Missouri over Texas. In what might be considered a mild upset, I like Missouri at home over the surging Longhorns. This match-up featurese the top two rushing teams in the Big 12. Missouri by three.

Kansas State over Texas A&M. How will KSU react after last week's classic loss at Oklahoma State? Leave it to Bill Snyder to get his team up off the mat and prepared for another quality foe. KSU by four.

Oklahoma State over Texas Tech. It's hard to figure this Texas Tech team out. It's not hard to figure out Oklahoma State--number two in the country and on track to play in the national championship game. OSU by 14.

Arkansas over Tennessee. The Hogs roll at home by 17.

Boise State over TCU. This game isn't as meaningful as in years past and TCU will struggle on the blue field in Boise. Broncos by 12.

Florida State over Miami. This in-state rivalry game features two teams who have not lived up to pre-season hype. FSU, at home, will win by a touchdown.

Nebraska over Penn State. The story in Happy Valley is about everything other than this football game, a match-up between traditional powers. It's hard to imagine Penn State being able to find focus to actually play a game. NU will win big by 14.

Game of the Day: Stanford over Oregon. Stanford must beat the Ducks to stay in contention for a national championship game shot. Oregon is one of the hotter teams in the country right now. In a close one, Andrew Luck and his mates will win late, by four, at home.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Things that make you go "hmm..."

We're sorry, fans of Section 10, for the recent hiatus. Sometimes work just gets in the way, huh?

Here are some "things that make you go 'hmm...?'"

- Why is it when a quarterback spikes the ball after the snap from center, to stop the clock, it's not called intentional grounding? He's between the tackles and he's not throwing to anyone. And, if it's not intentional grounding then it has to be a fumble, right? Let's place that one in the "stupid rules" category of sports, along with the NBA rule of calling timeout, late in a game, and getting the ball automatically at halfcourt.

- Iowa's record in its last 26 football games, where the margin was four points or fewer, is now 9-17 after yesterday's upset of Michigan. But really, with that record you're paying Kirk Ferentz how much money!?

- The much-discussed Kris Humphries-Kim Kardashian marriage lasted 72 days. That makes it the shortest, high profile nuptials involving an athlete. The former "record" was held by the Dennis Rodman-Carmen Electra marriage, which stretched out for five months.

- Air Force and Boise State are rumored to have been offered spots in the Big East's football league. Does it strike you as odd that any school located in Colorado Springs or Boise would be involved in a conference with "east" in its name?

- Likewise, Missouri will soon officially head to the SEC and be placed in the Eastern Division of that league. Makes perfect sense geographically, right?

- Finally, Kansas' season-long mantra for football has been the "believe." The problem is, Kansas fans, and perhaps players and staff, aren't sure what they're supposed to believe given the Jayhawks' 2-7 record and 0-6 mark in conference play.