Crystal Ball Gazing: The Kansas Jayhawks

Not pictured last year: A Kansas touchdown. - John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

The Spring Football look ahead travels to Lawrence for a look at the only Big 12 team to face a full strength TCU team last year- the Kansas Jayhawks.

It would be easy to just write "This will be TCU's first home conference win in the Big 12" and move on, as Kansas was absolutely woeful last year, but they are a Big 12 team which means they can't be totally overlooked.

Kansas struggled mightily in their first year under coach Charlie Weis, winning their opener against FCS South Dakota State and losing the next eleven games in a row including a last minute loss to our old friends the Rice Owls. However, Kansas played better than their record would indicate, almost pulling off three wins that would have been worth the season of suffering- Kansas had Texas beaten with just minutes left to play before Case McCoy stepped in and saved Mack Brown's job for at least another year, Texas Tech pulled out a double overtime effort over the Jayhawks in Lubbock and Kansas came just seven points shy of Oklahoma State as well. Mixed in with those almost triumphs though were a few absolutely awful losses, including a 40 point drubbing at hated Kansas State, a 45 point loss in Norman, a 27 point loss in Waco and a 49 point shellacking at West Virginia. The running game was surprisingly solid for the Jayhawks all year, but Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist was beyond awful and often threw away Kansas' opportunities. Kansas was tough at home and generally awful on the road, with close losses at MAC champion Northern Illinois and Texas Tech being the two shining road performance exceptions, so it's fortuitous that this game is at home- Kansas may actually win a Big 12 game this year.

KU on Offense

Returning Starters: 5

The Jayhawks lose Dayne Crist, but only coach Charlie Weis is likely to miss his presence, as BYU transfer Jake heaps steps in in Lawrence (Poor Jake Heaps, TCU and BYU both leave the Mountain West, yet he still ends up having to play us three times). To bolster their new quarterback Kansas returns both starting running backs but just one receiver and two linemen, meaning that Heaps will have to hope that the line matures quickly or he may end up having to hurl those same enticing ducks up that Crist so often did- and without a unit of talented pass catchers to bail him out. Expect a run heavy offense from Kansas, especially early in the season with heavy doses of play action and bootlegs to try and mitigate the issues Kansas is likely to have protecting Heaps. In Charlie Weis Kansas may not have the best coach around, but whatever one may say about the big man in Lawrence he is as good an offensive playcaller as there is in the business. Can he develop talent? Evidence from Notre Dame and Florida is mixed at best, but when on the field he does a pretty good job of putting what talent he has into positions where it can succeed- maybe he'll end up as OC in Fort Worth in a few years if things go pear shaped on him in Lawrence?

KU on Defense

Returning Starters: 6

The good news for Kansas is also somewhat bad news for Kansas, as 6 starters return in their front seven... but that front seven was the Big 12's worst run defense and generally ineffectual at bringing pressure without blitzing. Growth and development will be key for the Kansas defensive line as behind them are four new starters in the secondary. A balanced attack like TCU's is the worst case scenario for the Jayhawks, as TCU's deep stable of running backs are likely to be a load to stop- but if they cheat on the run even a smidge the Frogs have the playmakers to make any mistake from that all too young secondary turn into huge gains. I'm sure you'll remember the last time Casey Pachall went up against a very young secondary and had time to throw...

Don't expect too much from Kansas as a young team playing on the road, but do keep an eye on them later in the year- their game at home against Kansas State, you know, the defending Big 12 champs who return one starter on defense? Kansas will pull an upset on someone this year, but you can rest assured that it will almost certainly not be us.

Here's film of last year's fumble-fest of a game that also featured Waymon James' grisly injury. I recommend you skip that part.

2012: TCU at Kansas, First Half (via FrogsOWar)

2012: TCU at Kansas, Second Half (via FrogsOWar)

How do you think the Jayhawks will do when they visit Fort Worth?

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