Thursday, November 19, 2009

Does the Big XII North Champion Have Any Chance?

The Pac10 is shaping up for a great finale with a potential six-way tiebreaker.  The SEC is set for Florida-Alabama.  The Big East is bearing down on Cincinnati-Pittsburgh for the conference title.  Then, there's the Big XII where Texas will play the best of limited options from the Big XII North.  As of today, the only teams still in the running are Nebraska (7-3, 4-2) and Kansas State (6-5, 4-3).  Clearly, anything is possible in a one-game series, as Darren Sproles, Tavita Prichard, Ian Johnson, and Armanti Edwards can attest.  Under what circumstances is it possible for either of these teams to beat Texas?

Nebraska (7-3)

Pros:  Nebraska has one of the most dominant defenses in college football.  In fact, when adjusted to an average opponent, Nebraska commands the #1 scoring defense in the country at 7.1 PPH, giving them the best possible opportunity to slow down Texas's #3 ranked offense.  They are extremely good at taking the ball away, averaging 1.9 takeaways/100 plays.  They should be able to disrupt Texas's offense and force them into playing an ugly game, reducing the gap that Nebraska's mediocre 14.8 PPH offense needs to overcome.

Cons:  Unfortunately, Nebraska is tied with Texas for the #1 defense in the country.  Their offense has struggled so mightily against quality opponents, that we actually expect them to get shutout before considering Texas turnovers and penalties.  Nebraska's offense turns the ball over 1.8 times per 100 plays, consistently killing their offensive momentum.

RBA Prediction:  Texas 24 - Nebraska 3.

Best Case Scenario:  If Nebraska can play flawlessly on offense by eliminating their turnovers and penalties, they can make up about a field goal in this game, leaving them at an 18-point disadvantage.  They need to have a career day from RB Roy Helu, Jr. to reduce Texas's offensive play count while the Nebraska defense gets after QB Colt McCoy.

Kansas State (6-5)

Pros:  The Wildcats have improved quite a bit under Bill Snyder and have shown to have a consistent offense, demonstrating 12.8-14.7 PPH across all ranges of competition.  They haven't played anybody with Texas's strength, but there's no current indication that they will have trouble scoring some points against Texas.  They are also very opportunistic on defense, averaging 2.3 takeaways per 100 plays.

Cons:  Aside from their ability to generate turnovers, Kansas State's defense is terrible.  In fact, the slope on their defensive statistics is the highest of all teams in FBS, implying that they have the worst defensive slip against quality competition.  RBA suggests that Texas will be able to put up a touchdown every 10 plays, and Texas plays fast.  Texas should score at will and empty the benches early in the third quarter.

RBA Prediction:  Texas 77 - Kansas State 20

Best Case Scenario:  I think RBA is a little overzealous by picking Texas to hang 77 on Kansas State because Mack Brown would call off the dogs long before that to avoid injuries for the BCS Championship.  Kansas State needs Texas to melt down offensively, gift wrap a few turnovers, and forget how to play rush defense.  I know that anything is possible, but this particular upset would rank up there with Stanford-Southern Cal in 2007.  Honestly, the best thing that can happen to Kansas State is losing to Nebraska this Saturday.