I realize the utter importance of this bowl game as much as anyone. As we all know, a winning season is assured and we all realize the enormous difference in having a 7-5 or 6-6 regular season. And actually, I believe that the difference between 8-5 and 7-6 is even more significant from both a local and national view – especially in the never-ending game of recruiting. But as is my right as someone who has outgrown their athletic prowess, I can start looking toward next year with nary a repercussion. So that's exactly what I'm going to do as we walk through the 2009 schedule.
9/5 v. Northern Colorado – Quite obviously this is a must-win game. And fortunately, winning it shouldn't be a problem. Out of the Big Sky, the Bears went a pitiful 1-10 this season in the FCS, playing one FBS team, Purdue, and losing that game 42-10. Their one win came over Idaho State who started the season 0-11 before winning their final bout in OT to finish a paltry 1-11. W: 1-0
9/12 @ UTEP – This is also a must-win, but won't come nearly as easily as the first. A C-USA loss is clearly inexcusable, but that doesn't mean the win will come easily. The Miners finished the season 5-7, beating no one of real significance though being in several games against some of their better competition. In fact, they were only down 28-13 into the fourth quarter when Texas came out to El Paso in September. W: 2-0
9/19 v. Duke – As you may or may not know, Duke experienced noticeable improvement this year, despite being the only ACC team that didn't finish within 2 games of winning its division. Which says a lot about where they were. But more than that was the fact that they were actually in most games (only 3 losses by more than 2 scores) and even won some of actual significance (Vandy, Virginia & Navy). By bringing in David Cutliffe – one of the best quarterback coaches in the country – they showed actual signs of life on offense and are bound to improve even more next year. This should and will be a win, but Duke isn't as awful as you might imagine. Now we need to get them to come to Lawrence for basketball – quit being a pussy, Coach K. W: 3-0
9/26 v. Southern Mississippi – The Golden Eagles will represent our lone bowl team on the 2009 non-conference slate. Wow, that's sad. At 6-6 this season they will take on Troy in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl so get your DVR's ready for Dec. 21 @ 8:15 on ESPN. Thank goodness we're preserving the integrity of the regular season. W: 4-0 (Predicted SOS of roughly 115 putting us well ahead of Texas Tech, but in shameless position all the same.)
10/10 v. Iowa State – For the second year in a row, we have to waste our bye week on Iowa State. At least this year we got one before Missouri too, but we aren't so fortunate in 2009. As you saw this year, ISU darted out to a 2-0 start before ultimately losing their final 10 games which obviously gave them a winless conference season keeping them at 3 league wins combined over the past three seasons. They actually do have some playmakers that look very out of place there, but I don't think I'm reaching to call this one a win. W: 5-0 (1-0, 1-0)
10/17 @ Colorado – By far the biggest test of the season to date, one never knows what they're going to get out of the Buffs, especially in Boulder where it's never a gimme. With Cody Hawkins actually looking competent lately, Smith & McKnight on the outside and Stewart and Scott returning in the backfield, Colorado has some potential to be a little salty. But they had that same potential this year and did just a shade under nothing anyway. It will be semi-useless predicting what we'll get out of them the day before the game, let alone 10 months prior, but I'll remain optimistic and notch us a sixth win. W: 6-0 (2-0, 2-0)
10/24 v. Oklahoma – Even if we've followed Vegas' suggestion and gone 6-0, we likely won't have garnered any real respect, which is entirely understandable. But win this week and that will all change. Unfortunately, we have no idea what kind of Sooner team we'll see. We're all sure they'll be good, but depending on draft defections that level of good could vacillate anywhere from 9 to 14 wins on the year. I remain utterly convinced this will be a winnable game, but the odds aren't likely to bear that out and until we know more I'll remain on the safe side and notch us our first loss on the season in valiant fashion. L: 6-1 (2-1, 2-0)
10/31 @ Texas Tech – As you all well know, I personally believe the tech game this year to be one of, if not THE, single worst loss in Kansas history given the expectations around it and how it actually played out. Whether or not that's hyperbole is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether we can make up for that loss by stealing a very important win in moribund Lubbock. And knowing they'll still be breaking in Taylor Potts, that Crabtree will (likely) be gone and the o-line graduates, it's entirely possible. But with Leach apparently now staying along with Batch, Lewis, & Swindall, you have to assume they'll have the offense humming by Halloween. Since most of their D returns as well (excluding the safeties), I'll keep playing it safe, but this is another very winnable game in my estimation. L: 6-2 (2-2, 2-0)
11/7 @ K-State – You know the purple pussies will be wanting a win here. In fact, I'm just arrogant enough to believe that they'd accept 1-11 if the one ended their losing streak to the Jayhawks. The old coot is assembling what appears to be a solid staff and we all know the primary reason he's coming back is to get as far away from his family as possible, so they'll put in the time and have their kids ready. Fortunately, their kids mostly consist of unwanted JUCO transfers and no-talent ass clowns. Despite falling into the first category I'm excluding Brandon Banks. W: 7-2 (3-2, 3-0)
11/14 v. Nebraska – This, as much as any game on the schedule, is a must win. If we're to assume three south losses, anything less than 5-0 in the north likely won't be good enough and as we all saw this year, you better win the ones you have to if you want to come out on top in a tiebreaker. And given that Nebraska gets their tough south opponents (OU, Tech) at home they have an enormous scheduling advantage. Generally, I like what Pelini has done this year. More than anything, he recognized his primary weakness and did everything in his power to hide that weakness. Sounds simple, but it's rarely done. However, he'll likely lose his best defender (Suh) if he declares early and he'll be losing his QB, top two receivers, and best lineman (Slauson) to graduation. So we don't know a ton about the 2009 Huskers just yet, though I imagine they'll want to hand off to Helu a minimum of 20 times a game. W: 8-2 (4-2, 4-0)
11/21 @ Texas – With it being Todd's senior year in his hometown this would be a great win to get. And I'm sure he'll play his ass off to get that win. But given what we know today, we shouldn't expect much of a dip out of Texas next year. That could certainly change as they do lose some vital pieces, but even so we all know Texas will have the advantage physically. As of this day, this is probably the least-winnable game on the 2009 schedule. L: 8-3 (4-3, 4-0)
11/28 v. Missouri @ Arrowhead – There's a chance this will be for the north, though I think Nebraska will be right there as well with their schedule advantage. With that said, MU gets Texas & Baylor at home while only having to travel to Stillwater so if either of the Blaine's are any good, they could be in good shape as well. As is the case when you're doing this before the end of the prior season, let alone the draft, it's pretty tough predicting how they'll be without Booger pulling the trigger that ultimately shoots them in the foot. But given that we should get better, and they should get worse, and we just beat them on this same field, I'll favor the Jayhawks. W: 9-3 (5-3, 5-0)
12/5 Big XII Championship @ Jerry's World: Kansas v. Texas
Do you agree - Are we the 2009 representative from the Big XII north? Can we win any of our games against the south?