Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #17

#17.) Kansas

What You Need to Know: 2007 was quite a year for the Kansas Jayhawks. Finishing the season 12-1, a #2 ranking in the final poll, and Coach of the Year honors for Mark Mangino all added up to a special year. When coupled with their 73 points against Nebraska, as well as a season-ending Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, it makes 2007 a tough act to follow.

It's a rebuilding year of sorts in Lawrence, as they Jayhawks must find a way to replace two skill players in WR Marcus Henry and RB Brandon McAnderson, both second-team All Big 12 selections in 07. Perhaps most devastating to an offense which returns 6 starters is the loss of both starting tackles, one of whom was an All-American in Anthony Collins. QB Todd Reesing does return.

Defensively, the key loss for a unit returning 9 is DT James McClinton, a second-team All-American pick who helped the Jayhawks finish 8th in the country against the run last season. CB Aquib Talib is also gone, an All-American and first round NFL draft pick. The Jayhawks have the potential to be great again, but it is contingent on winning games that are winnable but that they will be underdogs in, and the younger inexperienced players filling roles immediately.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Todd Reesing: 3486 yds, 33 TD
LB Mike Rivera: 96 tkls, 10.5 TFL, 2 FR, 2 FF, INT, 3 sacks
WR Dexton Fields: 63 rec., 834 yds, 6 TD

Game To Watch: The schedule for the Jayhawks is manageable but not easy. Their only real test out of conference will be at South Florida on September 12. They play Oklahoma and Texas Tech back-to-back to close October, but the game that many will look to as a barometer of sorts of how far Kansas has come is November 15th against Texas. A win makes the 11/29 showdown with Chase Daniel and Mizzou that much bigger.

They'll Do Well If...: For the Jayhawks to have any hope at a conference title, a young, offensive line (at tackle) will have to be consistent and efficient. The defense must keep them in games and provide critical stops and turnovers in critical must-win games (@Oklahoma, Texas).

Season Outlook: Folks expecting a repeat of 2007 are fooling themselves. The Big 12 is simply too strong above Kansas, with Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma all expecting to compete for a National Championship. Teams on their level like Texas Tech and Nebraska are just as talented as Kansas and competing for the same Bowls, meaning the Jayhawks don't have a lot of guaranteed wins on the schedule in conference play. Having said that, though, Kansas should not be overlooked as an outside contender for the Big 12. Overall, expect an 8-win to 10-win season and a semi-major Bowl.

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