BRR Countdown: No. 11

Counting down or up to the top of the Big XII, we're continuing on our typical and rather untypical ranking of the conference's best teams. And yes, the worst as well because you can't get to the top without starting out at rock bottom. We've done that which means Baylor has been talked about, so now we give you the oh-so-fortunate number 11.

It's year three for Mark Mangino and his group of Jayhawks. A year that saw Kansas go to it's first bowl game since 1995 where Kansas trounced the Bruins of UCLA.

That probably seems like a lifetime ago for the fans of KU and QB, Mark Williams is no doubt still sorely missed. Well, there's another QB more recent that is just as missed as 2003's Jayhawk Hero, Bill Whittemore graduated leaving KU without the key to it's biggest strength last season.

One of KU's biggest weaknesses however still remains on the team, that being the woeful defense KU was sporting around, especially against the run. The Jayhawks finished the season against the rush 97th overall in the country, allowing almost 200 yards per game. The one good thing they have to look forward to this year is that Texas Tech is on the schedule and they run like Air Force throws.

It's as you can figure a concern for Mangino and his crew. "It is a high priority." Mangino stated during Big XII media days of shoring up the rush defense. "We have not been as good as we would like to be, but we are going to be better."

"We are going to be better in a lot of areas, I am confident of that, but we do have to stop the run."

Ok, let's say that KU can figure out the run and how to stop it or at least, slow it down. That puts the onus on the offense to put points on the board. No problem, right? Even if Kansas didn't win all their games last year, it wasn't for the lack of scoring, KU scoring at least 20 points in every game but two, those against Kansas State and Nebraska. Heck, Kansas managed over 30 points in 6 of the contests on the season.

Therein lies the other problem, the source of most of those points (Whittemore) having departed the fine campus in Lawrence, leaving QB Adam Barmann to take over and fill Whittemore's formidable shoes. Barmann proved capable last year in limited duty, subbing for the injured starter and truth to tell, he's got plenty of wideouts to throw to, even with Kansas' best player Charles Gordon probably playing the defensive side most of the time.

Here's the deal though and this is why this ranking might not be your normal one as if I were just to take this team and base my ranking on that along with a couple of the other usual criteria, Kansas might be one, two or even three spots higher than this ranking right here.

Confidence in Lawrence isn't terribly high mostly due to the schedule that has the Jayhawks' possibly "easiest" game coming in Lawrence against Colorado. Other than that, it's Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa State on the road while hosting Texas Tech, Kansas State and Texas.

For a team trying to comeback, looking to inch it's way back into the limelight if just a little bit at a time, this schedule is absolutely brutal. "This is the Big XII." Mangino stated. "I know we play some good teams and some very good teams on the road. But, I look back and I feel that anybody can win on a given day"

"Those are the eleven games that we have and I'm not going to give any of them up right now. We are going to show up, play hard and we are going to win some that some folks thought that we maybe couldn't win."

If that's the case and by my count, that would mean KU has 7 chances to prove me wrong.

As it is, Mangino does look to have his team headed in the right direction and even with some of the better comebacks, there's hiccups along the way. The players do believe in the 3rd year head coach and that's a great start.

Now, if Mangino is only allowed to stay long enough to finish.

We'll see.

Steve Ryan can be reached at SteveRyan@bigredreport.com or 402-730-5619


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