Royals have concerns; K-State, KU football finding different ways to be exciting in 2017

I’ve written this before, but for those who may be new …

I grew up in Northeast Kansas and read the Topeka Capital-Journal sports page as my daily devotional. It was the front page of that section where I was introduced to Pete Goering. Years before I would come to recognize his influence in my future work, Pete taught me how long-lasting brevity’s impact can be. 

Personally, I regret not making more of an opportunity to seek out his in-person guidance when I worked at the TCJ. I let intimidation get the best of me. But, in the years since, I’ve always felt my way to honor Pete was by penning occasional Musings columns in the style I grew to love so much from him.  -ck

Of course, former Royals prospect and current San Diego Padres slugger Wil Myers hits for the cycle on the same day the Kansas City Royals have one of their worst offensive days so far in 2017. 

– I don’t think any Royals fan would trade the success that followed Myers getting traded, but still … of course he did.

– It’s hard to think the Royals starting rotation will continue on its 2.88 ERA clip. Just like it’s hard to think the offense will continue its 27th-ranked .610 OPS effort.

– But, if the pitching comes back while the hitting goes up, where does that leave a team already inducing more doubt than inspiration while starting 2-4?

– Especially if the bullpen doesn’t get things figured out, like, soon?

– My feeling is it puts us back with those Royals teams from the early 2000s.

– In other words, exciting teams that lost more than they won.

– It’s exciting to wonder what Kansas State football will look like in 2017.

– A healthy Jesse Ertz at quarterback running, and throwing to talented receivers, and running …

– Along with a defense that will at least be solid and stands the chance of being really good …

– Along with experienced, talented special teams units …

– All led by a legendary coach in Bill Snyder who, thanks to season-long narratives, won’t ever have to remind his team he beat cancer during the offseason.

– Now, go back and read those last few thoughts with the Wabash Cannonball playing in your mind.

– Pretty exciting, no?

– There is some building excitement in Lawrence, too.

– David Beaty and his Kansas Jayhawks football staff are making some waves by securing early commitments from talent-rich Louisiana.

– For a program willing to find hope and momentum in any form, a word of caution to fans on pinning hopes on football recruiting.

– Yes, KU’s 2018 class is currently ranked No. 12 in the nation.

– That’s pretty sweet, but it is a long way and a lot of games to signing day.

– The question will be whether KU fans and admins will be able to stomach another year or two of three wins or less per season before that talent arrives and begins the development process (assuming the class stays intact).

– Even if KU wins 4 games per year the next two, Beaty’s record would be 10-38 and no bowl appearances in four seasons.

– Would something like that be good enough to keep waiting and hoping?

Advertisements

Big 12 Football power rankings – Power? What power?

All the sads, Big 12.

There have been seasons where the Big 12 unfairly took heat for not being a true contender on the national stage. 2016 is not one of those seasons.thumb-440352_960_720

After a second-consecutive weekend of getting put in its place, it is clear the Big 12 doesn’t belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. (Unless … we maybe pretend some other teams like Houston are part of the Big 12, kind of a “just the tip” deal, you know, with all that Big 12 expansion stuff happening.)

Yep, three weeks in and that’s where we are already. That’s nice.

*Houston* (3-0) — The Cougars have swag. They have support from J.J. Watt. They *appear* to have a good track on getting a Big 12 invite if and when that step is finally reached. That said, is it too late for the Big 12 to claim Houston as its own? 

1. Texas (2-1) — The Longhorns will need an immediate recovery to bounce back after losing to a Cal team it shouldn’t have. Tough performance, and with Notre Dame getting manhandled for most of its game with Michigan State, it looks like Texas may be just as Big 12 average as the rest.

2. Oklahoma (1-2) — Keeping Oklahoma at the No. 2 spot in these rankings – despite getting dominated at home by Ohio State – is a full indictment on the non-strength of the Big 12. More than a few times, Baker Mayfield looked like he was pressing, and after going 1-2 in the non-con, it’s too late for Bob Stoops to press the panic button. This season’s big potential is gone.

3. Baylor (3-0) — Remember that one time when programs would build excellent seasons by eating cupcakes? Baylor has found a way to screw that up like Baylor normally finds ways to Baylor things up. After slow-cooking Rice, the Bears have three wins, some questions after multiple slow starts against inferior opponents, and zero prestige — a championship-killing calling card of recent years.

4. TCU (2-1, 1-0) — The Frogs opened Big 12 play with a business-minded performance against Iowa State. It won’t wow anybody, but it’s a tough, efficient, unsung showing that never gets enough appreciation — kinda like Gary Patterson’s khakis on a hot day.

5. Kansas State (1-1) — Had the competition been a little better, the Wildcats would have jumped a spot or maybe even two in these rankings. Penalties aside, this was the most dominant effort from K-State in some time. If quarterback play continues to improve game-to-game, the skill positions are flush with talent, the defense is good to great, and special teams are again some of the best in the nation. It’s enough to legitimately put K-State up against anyone in the Big 12.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — The Mountaineers were off this past weekend, giving them some extra time to prepare for a BYU squad that has a stingy defense but isn’t nearly at the level it was overall two years ago when it smoked Texas.

*North Dakota State (3-0) – The Bison stampeded No. 13 Iowa to the tune of 239 rushing yards while only giving up 34 yards on the ground and 231 offensive yards overall. Yes, the game came down to a field goal in the final seconds, but that’s still some heavy domination that half of the Big 12 would love to be able to dish out but flat can’t.

7. Oklahoma State (2-1) — The Cowboys used a six-shooter’s worth of big plays, plus some, to out-gun Pitt. James Washington put up freak numbers with nine catches totaling 296 yards and 2 TD. He had a 91-yard grab, Jhajuan Seales had an 86-yarder, and the Pokes pulled out the win in the end.

8. Texas Tech (2-1) — If you poked your head into the defensive coaching staff’s office, would it be empty? Or, would it be filled with additional offensive coaches? Tech continues to be allergic to defense, and I continue to be amazed by it.

9. Iowa State (0-3, 0-1) — Wins will be few this year for the Cyclones, so it’s important to celebrate little steps of progress — like, for example, ISU won the fourth quarter, 10-3, against TCU’s backups. Little things, guys. Little things.

10. Kansas (1-2) — It was one play, but it was beautiful. A 3rd-and-1, 66-yd breakaway by freshman running back Khalil Herbert provided the lone bright spot in a six-turnover day. The game left head coach David Beaty trying to accept the blame, saying he had to do a better job in getting his guys ready to play. I watched the turnovers. NO coach can make up for quarterbacks handing the ball to the other team.

KU football: When even a win didn’t matter

The Memorial Stadium game clock reported just under 11 minutes left in the first quarter as I began hopping two cement stairs at a time.

I was on my way to the west side of the stadium, headed to pick up a will call ticket and take my seat, where I would spend the next three hours witnessing the Kansas Jayhawks earn their first football win since Nov. 8, 2014.

FullSizeRender

A timestamp marking the first KU Football win since Nov. 8, 2014.

Favored by nearly four touchdowns over Rhode Island, KU didn’t disappoint as it racked up a 55-6 victory against a downtrodden Rams program allergic to size, speed, scheme, and inspiration. Such dominance later brought tears to KU’s second-year head coach David Beaty.

And, that’s not even the weirdest part.

Just after the game ended, before Beaty’s press conference, tens of hyped students, who had not yet left in search of ongoing neighborhood house parties,  stormed a small section of the field. Once there, they barely had time to congratulate everyone in the group by name before the public address announcer had firmly tucked in his shirt, hiked his pants, and scolded, “This is a new era in Kansas football, an era in which you should EXPECT to win.”

We heard the message while walking out of the stadium – still able to see the field, but just far enough away that you could hear the disbelief and collective eye-roll from fans who didn’t see a problem with kids who were capable of little more than bending a few blades of turf.

This all served as the cap to an evening I spent witnessing other fans around me drowsily check the field before diving back into their smartphone browsing. That’s not to mention the general lack of interest in the concert-level music of today blasting throughout the stadium during timeouts — as if to say “See? Look! We’re fun! It’s FUN to be here! Are you not ENTERTAINED!?”

The answer to that was apparently not, as fans filtered away from a game that served less purpose than a KU intra-squad scrimmage would have. Even for a team that went 0-12 in 2015, it was too easy, this win, and fans felt it.

Still, while KU is on point at any given moment when it comes to basketball, Saturday’s events combined left me with a sense of nobody really knew how to handle a win, or even handle football for that matter. The music was a hedge bet toward needing to create some artificial fan experience outside of enjoying the football in front of them. Those who wanted to celebrate the first home win in nearly two years were told to stop. A coach said the right things regarding expecting to win but in the same breaths showed stress cracks caused by the immense weight of changing such a culture.

It was something to behold, and will be something to watch if and when a win happens again … whether in this season’s life or the next.