The Tigers are 2-3 on the season and have four Top 25 foes remaining.
Gary Pinkel has had a successful run in his decade-plus at Missouri. After experiencing losing seasons in three of his first four years in Columbia, the veteran coach has taken Mizzou to the postseason six consecutive times. That six-year run includes three bowl victories and two Big 12 North Division titles, which shows that Pinkel has built a solid college football program and has had more than just a two- or three-year run with a great quarterback.
Toben Opurum spent his first season at Kansas on the offensive side of the ball, leading the Jayhawks in rushing as a true freshman in 2009. He scored a touchdown in each of his first six games. He knows what it’s like to score points.
The past two seasons, Opurum has learned what it’s like to give up points — a lot of points. In 2010, his first season on the defense, Kansas ranked 98th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up an average of 34.4 points per game. This fall, the Jayhawks have taken several large steps back.
After five games, Kansas ranks 120th in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. The Jayhawks have given up at least 42 points in all four games against FBS opponents, including 66 vs. Georgia Tech and 70 vs. Oklahoma State. Last week, KU trailed O-State 56–7 at halftime.
“It is embarrassing, and is something I do not want to be a part of,” said Opurum, when asked what it’s like to see an opponent score 70 points. “We cannot do anything about it right now. We need to put it behind us and continue to work hard.”
Turner Gill is now 5–12 in his one-plus season as the boss in Lawrence, but only two of those wins (Georgia Tech and Colorado in 2010) have come against BCS conference opponents. Last season, Kansas was outgained by a staggering 219.4 yards in its eight Big 12 games. This year, the Jayhawks have allowed an average of 632.7 yards per game to three the BCS conference foes they have faced. To be fair, KU has played Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State — three of the top offensive teams in the country — but its defensive numbers are still alarmingly bad.
Here are a few more stats to chew on: The Kansas defense is allowing 7.8 yards per play, the worst in the nation by almost a full yard. The Jayhawks have given up 34 touchdowns, 15 more than any other team in the Big 12. They have yielded 21 plays of 30 yards or more, nine more than any other team in the Big 12.
“We just have to keep improving,” Gill said after the O-State game. “We have some work to do on that side of the ball, or all sides of the ball for that matter. We just have to keep working. We have to improve.”
The Jayhawks don’t have much time to figure things out. The mighty Oklahoma Sooners — featuring an offense that has scored 113 points the past two weeks — visit Lawrence this week, and KU still has dates with Kansas State (which beat the Jayhawks 59–7 last year), Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M and Missouri.
“We have people getting mad and we have people that are sad,” cornerback Greg Brown said. “We need to keep our heads up because it is still early in the season and we can still turn it around.”
AROUND THE BIG 12
• Texas A&M lost seven straight games in Lubbock from 1995-2007, but has now won two in a row on the road vs. the hated Red Raiders. With the Aggies off to the SEC, it’s highly unlikely that these two teams will meet in the near (or distant) future.
• A big key to Kansas State’s 6–0 start has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats lead the Big 12 in total defense (298.8 ypg) and rank second in scoring defense (16.6 ppg). Last year, K-State ranked 11th in total defense (445.7 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (29.1 ppg).
• The Big 12 is home to three of the top 10 scoring teams in the country — Oklahoma State (first, 51.4 ppg), Texas Tech (eighth, 45.8 ppg) and Oklahoma (tied for ninth, 45.0 ppg).
• Texas has given up 50 points or more three times in the Mack Brown era, all to Oklahoma — 63 points in 2000, 65 in ’03 and 55 in ’11.
• Iowa State’s three wins have come by an average of 2.7 points per game. Its two losses have come by an average of 23 points.
• The losing team has averaged 35.7 points in Texas A&M’s last three games.
• Missouri’s Henry Josey ranks 11th in the nation in rushing (117.6 ypg) despite not having more than 14 carries in any single game this season.
• Baylor has scored 35 points or more in five straight games (in the same season) for the first time in school history.
There are two things you need to know about Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz.
The first: He might have the most normal name in his family. Jantz’ father is named Foxx, who has a twin brother named Wolf and another brother named Stig. Steele has brothers named Truk and Brogan.
The second, and far more important to Cyclone fans: He is a winner.
Jantz, a transfer from junior college who won the job in preseason camp, has led Iowa State to a 3–0 start by making the right plays at the right time. The Cyclones have won their three games — over Northern Iowa, Iowa and UConn — by a total of eight points and have trailed in those three games a combined 10 times.
Jantz recovered from a slow start against UConn — he was intercepted three times in the first quarter — to rally Iowa State from a 10–0 deficit in the first half and a 20–17 deficit in the fourth quarter. The week before, ISU trailed Iowa on five different occasions, including twice in overtime, before winning 41–38 on the final possession of the third extra session.
Jantz, a native of Agoura Hills, Calif., has made plays with his legs as well as his arm. In the first two games, he combined to rush for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He was bottled up against UConn (negative-10 yards rushing on three attempt due in part to a leg injury suffered just before the half), but his ability to tuck the ball and run will cause problems for opposing defenses all season.
Iowa State is 3–0 for the first time since 2005 and one of only five 3–0 teams in 2011 that already has two wins over BCS conference opponents.
“The confidence continues to build as we find a way to win football games,” says Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. “I have a confident group of young men to begin with. They have to focus on improving and moving forward.”
Moving forward, Iowa State’s schedule will become far more difficult. After a week off, the Cyclones begin a five-game gauntlet that features home games with Texas and Texas A&M and road dates against Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech. In addition, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma await in the month of November.
AROUND THE BIG 12
• Kansas has allowed 45 points or more in six of its last nine games vs. BCS conference opponents. The 2011 Jayhawks rank 119th in the nation in rushing defense and total defense.
• Of the five quarterbacks who have not yet thrown an interception on the list of top 25 leaders in passing efficiency, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Texas Tech’s Seth Doege have the most touchdowns — eight each.
• Western Illinois had 44 total yards against Missouri last week and only one of the Leathernecks possessions lasted for more than three plays.
• Last Saturday against UCLA, Texas true freshman Malcolm Brown had what figures to be the first of many 100-yard games in a Longhorn uniform. Brown carried the ball a season-high 22 times for 1110 yards and scored the first touchdown of his career in Texas’ 49–20 win over the Bruins.
• Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 with 24 plays from scrimmage that have gone for at least 20 yards.
• Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones attempted only 27 passes in the Sooners’ win at Florida State. It was the fewest he has thrown since becoming the starter at OU early in the 2009 season.
• Texas A&M will not play a game outside College Station in the month of September for the first time since 1984.