That leaves Texas and Kansas still without publicly-announced starting quarterbacks as their Kickoff Week games approach. Coaches at both schools said they plan to keep their decisions under wraps until this weekend.
So for our Take Two this week, we discuss the benefit of withholding a starting QB announcement until the season opener. Does it help?
Take 1: Max Olson -- No
I was already pretty sure Texas and Kansas gain very little advantage by concealing their Week 1 plan at quarterback. And then Charlie Strong said something Monday that made this even more obvious.
You see, Strong does not want Notre Dame to know who his starting QB will be or how many snaps either QB will take. He didn’t even release a depth chart Monday. He says he simply cannot let the Irish get that info.
Let us be honest: The coaches at Notre Dame have had a lot of time to prepare for this game and are paid a lot of money to prepare for this game. They’ve already faced Tyrone Swoopes. They can watch Shane Buechele's spring game tape or any of his high school film. They can watch Tulsa’s 2015 offense to prepare for Sterlin Gilbert and Texas’ 2015 offense to prepare for most of the personnel. Strong doesn’t need to tell them who’s starting. They’ll prepare for all possibilities.
The same can be said for Kansas. Montell Cozart has played a lot of football. Ryan Willis played a lot last year. There’s enough tape out there to figure these guys’ strengths and weaknesses and come up with a plan. The truth is, Rhode Island is going to have a hard time no matter what David Beaty is planning.
Back to Texas. So Strong can’t let Notre Dame know what he’s cooking. There’s a problem: Notre Dame hasn’t declared whether Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer will be its starting QB. Both will play Sunday. Not knowing who will start must be a big problem that messes up Texas’ preparation, right?
“Well, it really doesn’t,” Strong said, “because we played against Zaire last year, so we had a chance to see him firsthand, and then with Kizer, it's been enough tape on him where you can watch him and see his athletic ability and see how he runs the offense. We're preparing for both quarterbacks.”
So the Texas coach who won’t name his QB says Notre Dame’s coach isn’t gaining an advantage by not naming its QB. Doesn’t that say it all? I think we’re done here.
Take 2: Mitch Sherman -- Yes, to a certain degree
The law of diminishing returns, traditionally an economic concept, offers application in other walks of life. It states that a point exists at which the benefits gained from a decision or action are exceeded by the losses or initial investment.
That point sits somewhere between Texas and Kansas. (And no, I’m not talking about Oklahoma.)
The Longhorns, in readying for No. 10 Notre Dame -- a team that crushed Texas a year ago -- stand a real chance to benefit from the mystery that surrounds the QB position in Austin. The senior Swoopes and freshman Buechele are different enough in style and complete opposites in experience.
The Fighting Irish legitimately had to to burn practice time this month preparing for one quarterback who likely won’t play Sunday with the game on the line. That matters.
As long as the UT players, in particular the QBs involved, understand Strong’s purpose in declining to make an announcement, as long as they know their expected roles, then this tactic -- while quirky -- can work in a season opener.
To try it in subsequent games, well, that crosses that aforementioned point of diminishing returns.
Which brings us to Kansas. The Jayhawks are playing Rhode Island, one of the worst teams in the FCS. Yes, Kansas has lost 15 straight games, but it hasn’t played a team nearly as bad as the Rams.
Beaty, on keeping his QB decision under wraps, said Monday that he’s “not going to give that advantage away.”
OK, really? Even Kansas doesn’t need that advantage against Rhode Island. This move by the Jayhawks may actually embolden their opponent, not that it matters. It may actually create some questions internally at Kansas, not that it matters in this game.
So, you see, the gamesmanship at work here can serve a purpose -- so long as the decision-makers don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.