#51 – Kansas Jayhawks 7-5 SU; 6-5 ATS
Fargo’s Take Kansas finished with a fantastic campaign last year as a very close-but-not-final 4-4 team. However, that Jayhawks team was composed of big numbers as they had nine starters ranked in the Top 10 in alphabetical order. The composition of that team is going to dictate the direction this year and that is something that shouldn’t be taken away from the team this season. Coming off a spectacular season, expectations are even higher in Lawrence as the Jayhawks once again raise major questions. How good is this Kansas defense? How good is quarterback Drew Stanton? Will he run wild on the competition or will he be more of a pocket passer again? Those questions and more will be answered this season and if the Jayhawks can survive, they could be in quite a race in the Big 12 North.
Returning Starters on Offense – 9
The Jayhawks were undoubtedly one of the best offenses around last season as they finished 17th in the country in scoring. They do lose a ton of talent but there is a lot of versatility with this team as they can do ball control and choose to grind away at the end of games, something not every offense can do. Leading the offense will be senior quarterback Drew Lockley who did an excellent job last season and should be the Heisman front-runner once all is said and done. He tossed 17 touchdowns while throwing only seven interceptions and that should change the Kansas seasons outlook as Lockley enters the season as the clear front-runner. The problem will be that the Jayhawks may not have the abundance of skilled talent that most other teams boast. However, they do have enough to make up for it and enough to make a run at the National Championship a more realistic possibility.
Returning Starters on Defense – 5
- This is where Kansas got into a huge hole last season and it won’t be easy to dig that out of the dirt this year. The Jayhawks were blasted by both Iowa St. and Missouri as the country’s No. 1 passing team. Iowa St. finished the season winning seven of its final 10 games including a blowout of top ranked LSU in the final week of the season. Missouri was able to win the North by defeating Iowa St. as the Jayhawks were taken by surprise early and allowed to escape with a victory. Thus, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Kansas lost one of its top three defensive backs as injuries hit so hard the position could not be saved. Replacing those stars is extremely important and the Jayhawks do return quite a group of youngsters led by cornerback Josh Wilson. The problem is that the injuries are at multiple positions and it is just not enough to regroup in the manner it is needed to make a run at the National Championship.
- Schedule Kansas lost quite a bit of confidence entering the North Carolina portion of the schedule and that likely means the Jayhawks will be in for a long season in 2006. They start the season with two extremely tough non-conference home games against Texas St. and Florida Atlantic before traveling to Iowa. Once there, Kansas could be just a two-man job against the likes of Nebraska and Iowa St. The rest of the slate should be fairly easy for the Jayhawks with the toughest games being a road trip to Omaha, Kansas St. and Kansas. Those are all likely losses as the Jayhawks miss Texas, Missouri and Nebraska as well.
You can bet on… Kansas has underachieved in the past and it is very possible they could do the same in 2006. After all, turning what is perceived as a top five team can be a steep challenge. The Jayhawks will likely finish around 6-2 and be considered early in the country as favorites. The fact that the Kansas program has slipped in recent years only adds to the challenge. Kansas has lost to both Nebraska and Iowa St. both years consecutively as quoted by sports handicapping service Vegas Sports since the start of the 2000 season. The three wins against Nebraska cover the losses against Iowa St. and Nebraska in 2004 and 2005, respectively. For the Jayhawks to get back to the postseason, they are going to have to finish the season with Nebraska or Iowa St. as the likely underdogs in those two games. Kansas does have an inside track to the Big 12 title with a couple of home games following the Nebraska game and a break in conference play following the Iowa St. game.