The best way to appreciate just how brutal a schedule Kansas University faces in the fall is to consider that nine of its 12 opponents played in bowl games last season, and Texas is one of the three that didn’t.
The Jayhawks looked more organized and faster in Saturday’s annual spring football game in Memorial Stadium, but the competition they faced can’t measure up to what awaits. An argument could be made KU has the nation’s toughest schedule. The reduction of the Big 12 to 10 teams means that Kansas plays nine conference games and now faces the four Texas and two Oklahoma teams every year. Sure, every Big 12 team plays the same schedule. Sort of. But KU’s slate is more challenging than Oklahoma’s because Kansas has to play Oklahoma and the Sooners don’t, and Oklahoma gets to play Kansas and the Jayhawks don’t.
A look at the 12 foes in the order KU plays them:
McNeese State: No chance Kansas loses this one with the memory of North Dakota State so fresh.
Northern Illinois: Dave Doren, once an assistant to Mark Mangino before he left for Wisconsin and gained a reputation as an excellent defensive coordinator and recruiter, landed his first head-coaching job. The ambitious Doren inherits a team that went 11-3 with an explosive offense. NIU averaged 65 points in a three-game November stretch against Mid-American foes Toledo, Ball State and Eastern Michigan, and quarterback Chandler Harnish returns.
At Georgia Tech: Home-field advantage and the revenge factor make this a huge mountain to climb.
Texas Tech: As is Gill, Tommy Tuberville is in his second season after a controversial firing of his predecessor. Tuberville has more talent, but Gill has the home-field advantage.
At Oklahoma State: Quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon are back for a Cowboys offense that amassed 597 yards in Lawrence last season.
Oklahoma: All but two starters return from the nation’s 10th-ranked offense, and the Sooners should have an offensive line that manhandles all but the best defensive lines. OU will be a popular national-title pick.
Kansas State: Daniel Thomas is gone, but Bryce Brown, the transfer from Tennessee out of Wichita who was ranked the No. 1 running back in the nation in high school, has a chance to be just as good.
At Texas: Freshman Malcolm Brown, fast and 220 pounds, has a legitimate shot to be the Longhorns’ best running back since Jamaal Charles.
At Iowa State: If the Jayhawks aren’t too beaten up from the previous week’s game at Texas, the Jayhawks could win this one, but it’s an unfortunate scheduling quirk that they have to play it on the road for a second consecutive season.
Baylor: Robert Griffin III is back directing the offense that torched KU for 680 yards a year ago.
At Texas A&M: Good guy Mike Sherman was an unconventional choice when hired, but it sure has worked out. The Aggies won six in a row before losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl.
Vs. Missouri at Arrowhead: The underdog is always a threat to win this one.