Of course, Mark Mangino’s Jayhawks know it’s imperative to get off to a good start on Saturday. Central Michigan will certainly be no pushover. CMU is the defending Mid-American Conference champions (10-4) and coming off a victory in the Motor City Bowl. Despite losing three NFL draft picks, including first-round selection Joe Stalely (offensive lineman), first-year coach Butch Jones returns seven players who earned All-MAC honors last season.
Highlighting this group are sophomore quarterback Dan LeFevour, sophomore wide receiver Bryan Anderson and senior linebacker Red Keith. LeFevour passed for over 3,000 yards last season and was the MAC Freshman of the Year; Anderson caught a school-record 73 receptions for a team-high 867 yards; and Keith posted a career-high 127 tackles, his second straight year with over 100 tackles. Keith is No. 9 all-time at Central Michigan in career tackles (326), and has more tackles than any other active player in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
On offense, look for Central Michigan to showcase its aerial attack. Led by LeFevour, CMU won’t be shy about throwing the football. LeFevour is one of the top sophomore quarterbacks in the nation. In just one season, LeFevour already ranks in the top 10 in school history in passing attempts (388), passes completed (247), and touchdown passes (26). This will be a great test for KU’s pass defense, which finished last season at the bottom among Division I schools.
Mangino knows KU will have to earn the victory come Saturday.
“We have great respect for (Central Michigan),” Mangino said. ”They are a very good football team. They have three guys playing in the NFL from last year’s team and they’ve replaced them with some pretty good players. We have respect for Central Michigan, and the people in our office, the players and the team do, too. If anybody’s underestimating Central Michigan, they are not in this building. I can assure you of that.”
If history is any indication, KU should fare well. KU has won its last three season openers, while Central Michigan hasn’t won a season-opening road game since 1996. Jayhawk fans flocking to Memorial Stadium will get their first look at some exciting freshmen like running back Carmon-Boyd Anderson, receiver Dezmon Briscoe, and starting cornerback Chris Harris.
“This recruiting class is leaps and bounds better than any recruiting class we’ve brought in here,” Mangino said. “That’s why there is a possibility that five or six true freshmen will play. They are passing up veteran players. They are really talented. They have to prove themselves, but as far as raw talent, some of these kids are putting the heat on veteran players, and we like that.”
So now it’s game day at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. And the crimson and blue faithful should have plenty to cheer about this Labor Day weekend. Expect a big day for Reesing under center and look for Sharp to break loose for some big runs.
“This will be my first time to start (at KU),” Reesing said. “I’m very excited. I’m more ready than anything. I can sense that most of the guys are ready to go out there and hit somebody else. It’s also exciting to play in front of our fans and show them what we have accomplished over the past nine months. We are looking forward to starting the season off right.”
The pick here is KU 34, Central Michigan 27.
Let the season begin.