It's still a basketball school, even though third-year coach Mark Mangino (another Bob Stoops assistant that has landed a D-I coaching gig) has sparked enough interest in the program that football is not the afterthought it once was in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are averaging 38,000+ in a 50,000 seat stadium that is almost as nice as the one they have at Odessa Permian.
"That's surprising to me because they had such a bad crowd there four years ago," head coach Mack Brown said. "But they're coming."
Even so, members of the Austin print media sat and talked with Brown at our weekly press conference Monday for nearly one hour this week before someone asked, "Who do y'all play this week, Mack?" Until then, we had talked about the Oklahoma State game, Derrick Johnson, the weather in Lawrence, Cedric Benson, the BCS, Kansas City barbecue... in short, everything but the Jawhawks.
For Texas, it's another game that it has to win to maintain its lofty No. 6 BCS ranking. For Kansas fans, hoops season can't get here soon enough. The football program showed signs of life last season as the Jayhawks went bowling (Tangerine Bowl) for the fist time in eight years. But now things are back to normal in Lawrence as the KU football team limps into the Texas game with a 3-6 record and with the most depleted quarterback situation outside of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Starting QB Adam Barmann is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, backup QB Jason Swanson suffered a shoulder injury against Colorado Saturday. Senior walk-on John Nielsen came off the bench in the 30-21 loss at Boulder and is expected to start against Texas. (If Nielsen is married, I hope KU coaches keep him off the field. Butkus Award finalist Derrick Johnson is playing like a guided missile these days.)
Following last Saturday's bipolar performance against Oklahoma State, the Horns will be determined to put a complete game together. Texas has actually posted 101 unanswered points against Kansas during the last two mismatches. On Senior Day, KU will be geeked-up for a couple of quarters, vying for the season-salvaging upset over a storied program. They'll have to settle for their 31-28 win over instate rival Kansas State last month. Texas 49, Kansas 9.
Pearle -- Texas' game with Big 12 North bottom-feeder Kansas represents a true motivational nightmare for the guys in Burnt Orange.
Let's face it -- Kansas is a basketball school. I get the feeling Kansas folks would be really happy to do good in football, but, whatever, bring on roundball season! I suppose you can't really blame them; the guy who invented the game, Dr. James Naismith, coached the first Kansas hoops teams and was on the KU faculty from 1898 until he died in Lawrence in 1939. So the Horns worst enemy Saturday could be themselves -- if they avoid a mistake-plagued game resulting from lack of focus, they will win in an easy blowout. If they are looking ahead to A&M and to all the delicious BCS possibilities that lie beyond and make a bunch of dumb mistakes, the 'Hawks could spring a trap on them. But I don't see it happening, thanks in part to our bumbling friends over in College Station.
Visions of A&M strolling into Waco two weeks ago expecting to snooze through a laugher against Baylor, which evidently they must have been, have to be dancing in the heads of everybody associated with the Longhorn program. There's no way that this year's Bears hang with this year's Aggies, but, holy smokes, not only did they hang, they embarrassed the Farmers with surely the biggest upset in the conference this season.
Which is good for the Horns, at least in terms of keeping them focused on the Jayhawks this weekend. A&M's shiner should get the attention of the Texas players better than any pep talk from Mack Brown about how Gale Sayers went to Kansas or how the Jayhawks knocked off Kansas State this year -- I mean, who hasn't?
Plus, this Texas team, with leadership from guys like Cedric Benson, Derrick Johnson and Phillip Geiggar, has matured into a good, tough football team, a team that should be able to face the challenge at hand, execute its gameplan, have fun and take care of business. With a third-string quarterback taking the reins for Kansas, it's difficult to see how the Jayhawks will muster much offense against the ravenous Texas defense. I like Texas in a pretty good-sized blowout. Texas 45, Kansas 10.
Ross -- Last time these two teams squared off in Kansas, the game featured a Texas QB proficient at moving the team down the field for scores but susceptible to throwing INTs, some that go back the distance giving the opponent cheap points. Sound familiar? The QB in '00 was Chris Simms. In that '00 game, Simms threw a pick for a TD that put Texas down 14-zip, and then his second pick, this one on a two-point try after the Horns' first TD, also went back the distance as Texas trailed 16-9. Of course, UT unloaded on KU after that, scoring 42 unanswered points as both teams played true to form, Texas as a top 10 team and Kansas as a Big 12 North also-ran.
Now, the UT QB is the exciting, explosive but at times error-prone Vince Young. Like that '00 team and its quarterback, though, this '04 Texas team and its quarterback have proven capable of overcoming early mistakes, and against far better opponents than the one they'll face this Saturday in Lawrence.
Kansas didn't have much of an offense to begin with, but it must now start a third-string, walk-on QB against the Horns after its No. 1 and No. 2 signalcallers have been lost to injury over the last few weeks. With Greg Robinson's defense designed to confuse the opposing offense, that could spell multiple turnovers for the home team. (It's about time Michael Huff took another pick to the house, don't you think?)
The Jayhawks defense is improved, and is the best in Lawrence since Mark Mangino took over, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to stop Vince Young and Cedric Benson running behind UT's best offensive line since '98. Or stop Texas' TE duo of David Thomas and Bo Scaife. One thing they might do is intercept Young. The Kansas secondary is patrolled by ballhawks Charles Gordon and Rodney Harris. But let's say they do snag an INT or two; Texas still has the ability to blow out this bunch. And that the Horns will do, like it's '00. Texas 51, Kansas 16.What's your pick?