Three predictions for 2009 Kansas season

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Excitement is booming at Kansas, where the Jayhawks are picked to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 title game.

Before they get to that game, Coach Mark Mangino still has some serious work to shore up his defense after losing starting linebackers Mike Rivera, Joe Mortensen and James Holt. He'll also have to replace three new starters along offensive line before the Jayhawks start making any plans to be heading to Arlington for the title game.

Here are three predictions for the Jayhawks after meeting with their players and coaches last week at the Big 12 media days.

1. Sorry, but the Jayhawks are taking the collar again against the Big 12 South teams. They allowed an average of 47.6 points per game in losses to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech last season. The Texas Tech game would appear the most favorable, but remember that Kansas dropped a humbling 63-21 home loss to the Red Raiders last season. Texas and Oklahoma both are better than the Jayhawks again. If the Jayhawks are going to win North title, they need to sneak a win from the South or go 5-0 against the North. Both are rather sizable goals.

2. Mangino will play a 4-2-5 defense as his base set. Part will be because of all the high-powered passing offenses the Jayhawks will be facing in the conference this season. But part will be because the Jayhawks don't have enough Big 12-caliber talent to stock three linebacker positions on a consistent basis.

3. Transfer defensive end Quintin Woods is absolutely the most important player on the defense. Much is expected out of Woods, a junior-college transfer who signed with Michigan coming out of high school but failed to qualify academically. With the Jayhawks' new five-man secondary, a consistent pass rush is a necessity here. But behind him and returning starter Jake Laptad, there's not much there. Woods and Laptad must be big producers for the Jayhawks' title success. They won't win the North unless they get a noticeable improvement here.