Kansas' gridiron celebrations were limited in 2011.
Preseason college football rankings are popping up on every sports site in the world wide web. Regardless of which site one checks, new head coach Charlie Weis has a tough road ahead in his first year at the University of Kansas.
Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State constitute the list of six teams on the Jayhawks’ schedule which will likely be nationally ranked at the onset of the 2012 season. Here’s a quick breakdown of what Kansas fans can expect from the Jayhawks’ contests with their preseason-ranked foes.
Kansas vs. TCU: Saturday, Sept. 15
Both Charlie Weis and TCU will be welcomed into the Big 12 on a Saturday in Memorial Stadium, where fans will hope for a rude conference awakening.
There could be a rude awakening but probably not in Kansas’ favor. The Jayhawks should carry enough non-conference momentum into the game to hang tough through the first half, but expect TCU, ranked No. 14 by Mark Schlabach’s Way Too Early Top 25 on ESPN.com, to show its talent and depth in the latter two quarters.
Kansas @ Kansas State: Saturday, Oct. 6
It’s hard to bet in favor of Kansas in Bill Snyder Family Stadium after the embarrassments the Jayhawks endured in each of the last two seasons.
The Way Too Early poll’s No. 18 ranked Wildcats may not finish the year with as good a record as in 2011, but they’re more talented across the board in 2012. Weis’ emphasis on winning the state will create a good contest, but anything more would be a surprise in this year’s Sunflower Showdown.
Kansas vs. Oklahoma State: Saturday, Oct. 13
This contest is one of Kansas’ best chances at an upset. The Pokes have Texas in Stillwater the previous week. If they win that game, the Jayhawks have a chance to catch Oklahoma State off guard.
It could very easily go the other way, too. Freshman signal-caller Wes Lunt may be on rhythm by that point, and an improved defense could cause Weis’ still-developing offense big problems. The setup could bode well for Kansas, but they can’t match the talent of No. 22 on Schlabach’s list.
Kansas @ Oklahoma: Saturday, Oct. 20
This one doesn’t bode well. Three-straight weeks of high-caliber conference opponents may well have worn out the thin Kansas squad.
The Sooners make the second-straight opponent to face Kansas the week after facing Texas. Experience, though, is what will keep the list’s No. 6 ranked Oklahoma squad focused on the task at hand. Just staying competitive in Norman at this point in the season would say a lot about the Jayhawks.
Kansas vs. Texas: Saturday, Oct. 27
This is another one the Jayhawks may not have much of a chance in. Even if Mack Brown’s team is struggling, top-to-bottom athleticism is too much for a thin, transitioning Kansas team to handle.
The Longhorns, No. 19 on the Way Too Early list, always seem fired up for the Jayhawks. The increased pressure on Brown to win big this season doesn’t help Kansas’ cause, either.
Kansas vs. West Virginia: Saturday, Dec. 1
A long trip to Morgantown at the end of the season doesn’t sound like much fun, but if Kansas can compete for three-straight weeks against Baylor, Texas Tech and Iowa State and win at least one of those games, they may head to West Virginia with a little fire.
If the Jayhawks see themselves improving each of the previous three weeks, particularly on defense, expect to see them give the No. 8 team on Schlabach's list its money’s worth.
Picture this: If Kansas manages to win all three non-conference games and upset any two of Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech (with the exception of 2011 at Baylor, Kansas regularly plays well against both Baylor and Iowa State), Weis’ team will have a lot to play for in their final week. It’s highly unlikely, but it’s a neat scenario to consider.
Kansas may not pose a true threat to any of its foes from the college football preseason rankings lists, but how competitive the Jayhawks stay in these contests can say a lot about the direction of Coach Weis’ program.