As we move closer to spring practice in the Big 12 -- it starts next week -- why not peer ahead to fall? There are many ways to examine 2017 schedules around the league, but we're starting with a look this week at two games that immediately stand out: the must-win and trap games.
Up next: the Kansas Jayhawks.
Must-win game: Sept. 9 vs. Central Michigan
The presence of Central Michigan on the KU schedule is likely not as ominous as it appears in Big 12 country. Who can forget the Chippewas’ victory last September at Oklahoma State? Yes, this really happened, though, for various reasons, it never should have. Here’s what else happened to Central Michigan in 2016: It finished fifth in the MAC West and lost by 45 points to Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl. The Chippewas lost prolific quarterback Cooper Rush, who’s likely off to the NFL, leaving CMU to find a new QB from a group that includes Michigan grad transfer Shane Morris. With Carter Stanley or a transfer of its own, Peyton Bender, Kansas needs to win this game after a tuneup against FCS Southeast Missouri State. The Jayhawks lost at home last year to another MAC team, Ohio, and KU visits the Bobcats in Week 3. So in order to enter league play with a winning record -- a small step that would represent more progress for coach David Beaty -- the Jayhawks likely need to take care of business in Week 2.
Trap game: Nov. 4 vs. Baylor
This is a trap for Baylor, not Kansas -- a Bear trap, if you will. Despite its roster attrition over the past year and transition under new coach Matt Rhule, Baylor still doesn’t face the same issues with quality of depth that continue to hamper the Jayhawks in this third season under Beaty. Baylor has presented a terrible matchup for KU over the past five years, winning by an average of 43.8 points. Hence the trap. The Bears visit Lawrence after a difficult, three-week stretch against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas. Kansas is improving and played close at home last year against TCU and Iowa State before beating Texas in November. Is there another November upset on the horizon for Kansas? If so, Baylor is the most likely candidate to get caught in the trap.