This Year's Kansas?

Four teams who could be the 2008 version of the Jayhawks


Kansas coach Mark Mangino helped guide the Jayhawks to an unexpected Orange Bowl victory last season.

May 30, 2008

By Adam Caparell

CSTV.com

 

ADAM CAPARELL
Caparell is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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Anyone remember where Kansas was ranked in the preseason Top 25 last season?

 

If you can't it's because the Jayhawks were considered anything but Top 25 material last summer.

 

In fact, Kansas was projected to be a 7-5 team at best by nearly everyone. Almost winning the Big 12 North? That was nothing more than a pipe dream heading into their Sept. 1 opener.

 

But an easy September schedule that featured four home games against the likes of Central Michigan, SE Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International before their first conference road game against Kansas State gave a young and better-than-advertised squad some much needed confidence they carried all the way to the Orange Bowl.

 

So who is this year's Kansas? Who is sitting outside of the preseason Top 25, waiting to crash the national scene seemingly out of nowhere? There more than a few candidates out there. Just like Kansas last season, these teams have a pretty easy September slate and a talent base that's better than some people might realize. The  

 

Pittsburgh

September Schedule: Bowling Green, Buffalo, Iowa, at Syracuse

 

In many people's minds - including mine - Pittsburgh is a Top 25 team, but after another disappointing 5-7 season under Dave Wannstedt the Panthers might be coming under the national radar. That shouldn't be the case with what should be a very balanced team expected to compete for a Big East championship. The Panthers should have two easy games to begin the season before they get the Hawkeyes - a Hawkeyes team they should beat - before their first road test against the conference's basement dweller. 

 

Nebraska

September Schedule: Western Michigan, San Jose State, New Mexico State, Virginia Tech

 

The Bill Callahan era is thankfully over for the Cornhusker faithful and new coach Bo Pelini has already won over the state of Nebraska without playing a game. Chances are the bandwagon will be overflowing if the Cornhuskers can take out a Hokies team that they're more than capable of picking off. And they'll have three cupcakes to fatten up on before Tech comes calling to Lincoln. After that Virginia Tech game the sure-to-be highly ranked Missouri Tigers come to town. And if Nebraska ever beat Missouri, look out.

 

Connecticut

September Schedule: Hofstra, at Temple, Virginia, Baylor, at Louisville

 

The Huskies will get a lot more respect this year after tying West Virginia for the Big East title last season. And with five very winnable games in the season's first month, UConn should get its wheels churning before the schedule picks up with two straight road games following the meeting with the Cardinals. The Huskies don't do it with smoke and mirrors. They're a meat and potatoes kind of team. Run the ball, throw in a little play-action and play defense.  And with 17 starters back they'll figure to have the routine down relatively early.

 

Kentucky

September Schedule: at Louisville, Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky

 

The Wildcats lost an awful lot from last year's squad. And no loss looms larger than Andre' Woodson's graduation. But don't count out Kentucky just yet. There's potential here. We'll see if it comes to fruition, but with an overall talent level the likes the school hasn't been used to in quite some time don't be surprised if the Wildcats pull off a big upset for two once SEC play rolls around. The conference schedule is once again brutal, but the build up toward it is more than manageable and you could easily say the Wildcats should be 4-0 heading into their game in Tuscaloosa Oct. 4.

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