We are a month away from the beginning of fall camps, and two months from the start of the season. With the 2014 season arriving in the not-too-distant future, it’s time for us to break down every Big 12 team’s complete schedule.
Starting in reverse alphabetical order, we continue this series off with the Kansas Jayhawks:
Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)
Sept. 6: Southeast Missouri State (3-9 in FCS)
Sept. 13: Duke (10-4)
Sept. 20: Central Michigan (6-6)
Big 12 home games
Sept. 27: Texas
Oct. 11: Oklahoma State
Nov. 8: Iowa State
Nov. 15: TCU
Big 12 road games
Oct. 4: at West Virginia
Oct. 18: at Texas Tech
Nov. 1: at Baylor
Nov. 22: at Oklahoma
Nov. 29: at Kansas State
Gut-check time: It’s important for the Jayhawks to get off to a good start. An upset win at Duke in their second game of the season would exceed all expectations. It’s an early season road test against a bowl opponent who won 10 games in 2013, so even a strong showing could create enough momentum to get KU heading in the right direction before conference play begins.
Trap game: Central Michigan comes to Lawrence, Kansas, in the week following KU’s trip to Duke and right before Texas visits KU to open Big 12 play. If Charlie Weis' team has any hope to exceed last year’s win total (3-9) or even battle for a bowl appearance, the Jayhawks will need to win this game.
Snoozer: People may not even notice the Jayhawks' season opener. The Sept. 6 game against SE Missouri St. comes one week after most teams kick off their season on Aug. 30 and features two teams that combined to win six games a year ago. It is Montell Cozart’s first opportunity to show Weis he made the right decision by naming Cozart the starter. The decision to go with Cozart gives the game some intrigue. But it’s safe to say few people will have this game on their priority list on Sept. 6.
Telltale stretch: It’s likely we will know everything we need to know about Kansas after its three-game stretch against Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. KU hosts UT and OSU and lost by a combined 10 points to the Longhorns and Cowboys the last time those two schools visited Lawrence in 2012. With unknowns at UT and OSU heading into the season, it’s not impossible for the Jayhawks to win at least one of those games, and the journey to West Virginia will begin with the confidence that KU beat WVU in 2013. If the Jayhawks win two of these three games, Weis’ squad could be in line for its best season under the veteran coach.
Final analysis: While KU faces a challenging schedule, it's a schedule full of opportunity as well. The road slate is extremely difficult with visits to Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia, but the home schedule doesn’t feature any games that aren’t winnable, particularly with significant questions about Texas, OSU and TCU heading into the season. A six-win season is attainable if the Jayhawks' offense takes a major step forward and the defense approaches or exceeds its 2013 performance.