The Oklahoma State Cowboys travel to Lawrence on Saturday for a crucial Big 12 matchup. The Pokes opened as 28-point favorites and have since seen the line drop to -24.
We caught up with Andy Mitts, site manager of SB Nation’s Rock Chalk Talk. He was gracious enough to answer the burning questions we had about this years Jayhawks. See what he had to say. You can also check out our answers to his questions here.
CRFF: In my honest opinion, it seems that Kansas is starting to buy into what David Beaty is selling in Lawrence. While it may not show up on the score column, I said on our podcast that KU is showing at least a pulse. Do you agree? Is David Beaty the guy for KU?
Andy: He's definitely the right guy for right now. The main issue we had when he was hired was a lack of talent and bodies due to all the scholarships we lost when Charlie Weis ran off of players in droves. And Beaty has definitely gotten talented guys to help plug those holes. As long as our primary concern is recruiting, he will be the guy.
When it comes to Xs and Os on the field, he is woefully unprepared. There have been numerous questionable on field decisions, and the QB carousel is completely unnecessary. His decisions led directly to the loss against TCU, a game the Jayhawks should have won. Most of this is likely attributable to him going directly from a position coach to a head coach. If he can develop some coaching skills over the next couple of years as the talent improves, he could easily stay here long term.
What has been the biggest problem for Kansas over the last seven or so years? Is it coaching, talent, leadership? Give me your insider opinion.
Andy: All the above, and each of those had its time. When Mark Mangino was fired, there was still a good talent base to work with. But that firing caused some recruits to reevaluate and the talent immediately started slipping. Turner Gill was probably the worst possible option for the next coach, as his arbitrary rules (confiscating cell phones the day before the game, no women in the player rooms after 9 or 10pm, etc) alienated a lot of guys, and his lack of discipline led to many players coasting.
After Gill was fired, the hard pivot to Charlie Weis fixed some things, but made others worse. Players who weren't performing academically were dismissed, and the student part of student athlete was emphasized. But this left a dearth of talent that couldn't be filled by a coach who called his team a “pile of crap” during Big 12 Media Days. It became increasingly clear that the Charlie Weis era was completely about rehabbing his image after Notre Dame, so as things started to go wrong, players were quickly dismissed and given much larger shares of the blame than they probably deserved. Ultimately, Weis burned it all to the ground trying to fix it.
Who should Oklahoma State be on the lookout for on the offensive and defensive sides of the football for KU?
Andy: Offensively, I'm just not sure. If Ryan Willis is the QB, then there is the potential for big plays down the field, but we never know with Beaty waiting until the last minute to name the starter. Steven Sims is a guy to watch, as his blazing speed can turn any short pass into a huge gain. Also, RB Ke’aun Kinner and WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez are threats to break out in a big way.
On defense, there are almost too many to name. Fish Smithson is a beast in coverage, Daniel Wise is consistently rated as one of the top DTs in the country (Yes, the country) and Dorance Armstrong Jr. leads the conference with a sack per game. Manning those three leaves out all the other big playmakers, like Brandon Stewart, Bazie Bates IV and Damani Mosby.
For our readers who are going to the game, what is the one spot in Lawrence that is a “must-visit” for out-of-towners?
Andy: I haven't been to Lawrence in years unfortunately, but Free State Brewery is usually a solid choice. But for atmosphere, the best off-campus place to go is downtown on Mass Street. Unfortunately for your readers though, it is at its best after a big win, so they won't get to see it without suffering a little heartbreak first.
How do you see the game going? What is your score prediction?
Andy: I have a hard time thinking that Kansas can keep this close. Oklahoma State has given Kansas every reason to believe, both in past trips to Lawrence and in games this year against Iowa State and Central Michigan, but I think the Cowboys are just too talented. Kansas keeps it close thanks to that defense at home, but I have to go Oklahoma State 28, Kansas 24.
BONUS: How many games does KU win in basketball this year, and do they go for #13?
Andy: All of them? No seriously, I'm guessing they lose 1 in the non-conference, and go 16-2 in the conference, winning the Big 12 by at least 2 games.