I fell in love with Tempe a little bit last week. Funny how that happens. In just one year, I found myself adding three cities to my list of favorites: Miami, San Antonio & Tempe. They aren't quite to the top and likely never will be, but all received significant bumps. So instead of another this year, I'd rather return. Specifically, I want to head back to the desert to play in the Fiesta Bowl. And surprisingly, it's not that far fetched of an idea.
Recall if you will my 2009 predictions made several weeks back. I went with a semi-conservative 9-3 with all three losses coming to the south powers. However, what I failed to realize at the time is that I likely just went with the odds in all twelve games.
Consider: All four of our non-conference games should be easy wins. Duke and Southern Miss aren't quite as bad as they sound, but we'll have no trouble with them in Lawrence. Ditto for Northern Colorado, who is as bad as they sound. And the one road game, @ UTEP, while not an easy place to play should still be a comfortable win. That's 4-0.
Next we look to conference play. Of our north games, we have to travel to Colorado & Manhattan. Boulder is never an easy place to win and the Buffs have plenty of talent to improve. Still, this is a game in which the Hawks will be favored. K-State is a different kind of game entirely. From what I can tell, the talent is lower than it's been in 20 years. And while the coaching staff looks to be solid, it's all brand new so the transition won't be easy. Given what this win would mean to the fan base, it's by no means a sure thing, but again, we'll be plenty favored. Win those and we're 6-0 (2-0).
Our north homes games will be against Iowa State, Nebraska and Missouri @ Arrowhead. I doubt I'll get any arguments assuming a win in the first. Nebraska will be much tougher, but given the Lawrence location and that they'll be replacing their quarterback, along with the top two receivers – a win seems plenty within reach. And really, the trip to Arrowhead is much the same. We don't get to play it in Lawrence, unfortunately, but like Nebraska the Tigers will be replacing their quarterback and top two receivers. Winning all three of these won't be easy, but it should be done. 9-0 (5-0).
Then you have the three big ones from the south. All were losses this year and interestingly, the closest was the 14 point loss in Norman. And frankly, next year's south schedule is technically a little tougher. Whereas both UT and Tech came to Lawrence this year, we'll have to travel south in '09 and we'll only get the Sooners to head this way. So admittedly, winning even one won't be easy. But it also won't be impossible. Assuming McCoy stays, we shouldn't count on anything in Austin. But Texas Tech will lose Harrell, Reed, Woods & Morris and they're almost certain to lose Crabtree too - recall how they looked against Ole Miss without him at full strength. Similarly, Oklahoma may very well lose Bradford (let's assume they do). And they will lose Cooper, Robinson, Loadholt, Iglesias, Johnson, etc. Obviously both have plenty of talent behind those voids (that latter much more so), but that's still a lot of new talent to break in. I'm not saying we'll beat both, but winning one of those games isn't beyond the realm of possibility. Let's be optimistic and say we do. Now we're 10-2 (6-2) and getting ready to play the Big XII Championship against Texas.
Despite Texas forgetting there was a first half last night, they're a damn good team. Unfortunately, for them, they're losing a whole lot of talent (i.e. Miller, Orakpo, Cosby, Melton, Dockery, etc.) from this year's team. But on their brighter side, they return the centerpiece in Colt McCoy - in addition to Shipley getting a sixth year. So if indeed the conference takes a step back, Texas is in great position to run through it on their way to the MNC. If that happens, the Fiesta Bowl opens up and will be there for the taking.
Could Kansas fill that spot? It would certainly depend on how the rest of the country performs as well. But at 10-3, two of their losses would have come to either the #1 or #2 team in the nation and the third would have either come in Lubbock against a good Tech team or at home to an always tough Oklahoma squad. Now, by no means has Kansas arrived on the national scene – so their name and/or reputation will get them nowhere. But in their last three bowls, they've been closer geographically once – yet they've taken many more fans each time. Specifically, they took 25,000+ to Tempe this year for a third tier bowl. What would they take for a BCS game there? Remember, the Fiesta also puts on the Insight – so Kansas just developed a relationship with them and brought them a whole lot of money they weren't necessarily expecting. Like it or not, money talks, especially when it comes to the BCS.
There it is – that's my case for Kansas returning not only to Arizona, but to the BCS as well. Any takers?