Q/A with SBNation's Rock Chalk Jayhawk

Last season, we previewed the Jayhawks with Owen of Rock Chalk Talk. We've done it again. Check out his very in depth answers to our questions in build up to Saturday's game:
Bird: First things first. Let's talk about the 2010 game. Tech fans were obviously disappointed in the outcome. What do you think Turner Gill will take from the 2010 game to inspire this 2011 group coming to Atlanta?
Owen: Well, I just wish I knew how he inspired that group to the win last year because we didn't see a game played on that level all season.

In terms of how he uses it this year, I guess I'm not sure he does. He prides himself on being stoic, not reacting to the highs and lows of the game and keeping an even temperament. Apparently that was one of the things he admired about his coach, Tom Osborne, at Nebraska. With that in mind I think he tries to avoid bringing last year into play too much. If anything I think he'd probably stress that last year means Kansas is going to take an even better shot from Georgia Tech since they'll likely be looking for a little revenge.
Bird: Tech has featured the passing game in its first two wins, which is diametrically opposed to Paul Johnson's first three seasons at Tech. Are there any Aqib Talibs in this Jayhawk defense that can shutdown Tech's ridiculously efficient passing game?
Owen: Absolutely not, Aqib Talib is not walking through that door and the potential Tech passing game is the biggest concern. Kansas seemed to gameplan fairly well against the run last year and Tech just couldn't execute in the passing game so it played right into what Kansas does well.

Kansas has struggled early this year in pass coverage and their isn't much to indicate that a change is on the way. Honestly we're all hoping that the Tech passing game was somehow a result of the level of competition in the first two games, but that's just wishful thinking. If Kansas can find a way to slow the passing game down they will be in trouble.
Bird: Jordan Webb torched Tech in 2010. Statistically, Webb is playing dynamite in 2011. Most Tech fans haven't seen Kansas this season including myself. Has Webb honed his abilities in 2011 or do the stats appear to be a function of the competition?
Owen: It's not a function of the competition as much as it is a function of an overall improvement to the Kansas offense. Yes Webb does look more comfortable in the pocket and the improvement is there, but Kansas has also run the ball very well and they run it often. All that is a result of a healthy, more cohesive and experienced offensive line.

What that means for Webb is that he isn't set up in a shotgun with defenses teeing off on him all game long like they did last year. He's being asked to do less and when he's called upon he's doing more. It's really a win/win. All that said, I do think that McNeese and Northern Illinois are much more vulnerable from a defensive standpoint than Tech so I'm interested to see if the Kansas offense can continue to rise to the occasion.
Bird: Tell us about the group of running backs for Kansas. No one appears to be getting a vast majority of the carries. Anything Tech fans should look for from the KU running attack?
Owen: The Kansas season will rest on the running attack. If you can stop that, you can stop Kansas. The Jayhawks have four, maybe even five backs that will see carries and they all bring a little something different to the table.

James Sims (Sophomore) is the starter and he's hit 100 yards in both games. He made his debut last year against Tech and he's a very smart, patient runner that understands the game extremely well. He'll set up the blocks, hit the holes and grind out the yards.
Darrian Miller(Freshman) is probably the next in line and he's a smaller shiftier back that can be very slippery in traffic. He's deceptively fast, keeps his feet chopping and he's only going to get better.

Tony Pierson (Freshman) is all about speed. I have yet to see him not hit the edge on a run. He isn't necessarily a traditional back but he is the gamebreaker of the group and while Kansas uses him sparingly but he almost always delivers. Once he learns to read his blocking better he's going to be a player that teams will have to gameplan for. Honestly it might already be to that point.

Brandon Bourbon (RSFreshman) is a 6'2" 210 pound player with 4.4 speed. He was recruited by Harbaugh at Stanford and he sits fourth on the Kansas depth chart. He's a powerful runner, he's has the speed factor, he just need some time to continue to adjust to the college game and he'll be a weapon. He'll see a handful of carries in a game and he usually pounds out a solid gain, but the competition is stiff.

Rell Lewis(Senior) is fifth on the chart and he's the best pass blocker. He'll play very little if at all but I just find it interesting when you look at Kansas and see two first year players and two second year players pretty carrying the load for the Jayhawks offensively.
Bird: Let's talk about the future. Where do Jayhawk fans want to be conference-affiliate-wise in 2012? What conference is a realistic landing point?
Owen: Well I think our fallback is the Big East but no one is all that excited about the potential with that. Right now the best thing that could happen is the rumors surrounding OU to the Pac12 and Texas to the ACC. Not sure if you're hearing this out there but that's the word coming out of Texas. If that happens Kansas might actually have options. Go to the Pac12 as a package with Mizzou/K-State and follow the Oklahoma schools or go the the ACC and latch on to Texas.

Kansas isn't in the worst position, they have some value, but they are also a program that is going to have to wait for the chips to start falling and find the best situation. I'd be fairly indifferent between the ACC and Pac12 because I think both would be stable, but I think right now the majority of the fanbase probably feels the Pac12 is where they'd prefer to land and the option that seems most realistic.
Bird: No Tech fans are sleeping on Kansas and we feel like the Jackets are much more focused than 2010. What is your prediction for this weekend's contest?
Owen: Tough call. Feels like a shootout in the making and I want to believe in Kansas but the fact that Tech has been throwing the ball well is a HUGE concern at this point. Based on the early season defensive woes it feels like a game where Kansas will need to score on every trip in order to keep up. That said, I find it so hard to pick against my own team. I'll give two scenario's:

IF the Kansas offense can continue to stay on track and the Jayhawk defense can turn Tech one dimensional this thing still goes to a shootout but I'll say Kansas 45 Tech 38.

IF Tech's passing game is what it appears to be then Kansas is in trouble, Tech 49 Kansas 28.
Thanks to Owen and Rock Chalk. I wouldn't mind Kansas in the ACC. More hoops never bothered me.
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