Big 12 Media Day: Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - One of my radio colleagues, former OSU lineman Sam Mayes, said he thought Kansas head coach Mark Mangino was down a few pounds. Looking at Mangino on a high chair in the TV room I couldn't tell. Mangino, like myself, could lose a few pounds and help himself health-wise, but the changing of the Jayhawks schedule might actually melt some worry weight off the hefty KU coach.

Kansas is coming off an incredible season in which it finished 12-1 and captured an Orange Bowl win over ACC power Virginia Tech. Coupled with the NCAA basketball championship won by the KU hoops team and Bill Self it was a bonanza year for Kansas athletics, one of the best any school has ever enjoyed.

Now Mangino admits there are higher expectations in Lawrence and among the Jayhawk brethren. He said he and his team, minus two starting offensive tackles, running back Brandon McAnderson, tight end Derek Fine, wide receiver Marcus Henry, defensive tackle James McClinton, and three-fourths of the starting secondary including All American cornerback Aquib Talib, look forward to meeting those expectations.

Before you start thinking the cupboard is bare and KU will have to start over, they won't. There is talent, but maybe not quite as much, and not as much experienced talent.

Quarterback Todd Reesing is back and so is Jake Sharp at running back. The rest of the offensive line sans tackles is back. There are talented defenders back including linebacker James Holt and defensive end Russell Brorsen.

n my opinion even bigger than the number of lost players is the change in KU's schedule. The non-conference slate is still friendly and almost exclusively at home, but sandwiched in there is a Friday night trip to Tampa to play nationally ranked South Florida. Mangino coached with Bulls coach Jim Leavitt at Kansas State and the Jayhawks defeated the Bulls at home two years ago, but this time the matchup looks bad for KU.

In the Big 12, Kansas trades Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M in the South for games with OU, Texas and Texas Tech. That is a lousy trade if I have ever seen one. Mangino says his team needs to beat those top three in the South to be truly considered the Big 12's best.

I like the rotund Mangino and root for Kansas almost every time they play, unless it is Oklahoma State. But I honestly see KU losing all four of those games and a couple of others as a result. I picked Kansas to come down to earth and finish 6-6 and fourth in the Big 12 North. I still like my pick, and I still like Mark Mangino. I still think he is a heckuva coach, but he would be even better if he could get the schedule maker to leave him with that 2007 slate over and over again.

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