A Way-Too-Early Look at 2014 Kansas Football

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still eight months (give or take a few weeks) until football season, and KU football fans desperately need some Kool-Aid this time of year. It’s also still five weeks or so until national signing day, when we’ll get our hopes up over a bunch of three star freshman and a few JUCO players (yay Kool-Aid). Speaking of Kool-Aid, let’s see if we can whip some up for ya. I’ll try not to use the word "hopefully" too much.

Kansas loses eight seniors off the offensive two-deep (including four offensive linemen, three of them starters), and five off the defensive two-deep. That means 31 of 44 players on the two-deep return for 2014. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Arguments can be made both ways. Ron Doherty is the only specialist who will be gone.

A few things we know for certain: KU will be adding what I’ll call "highly rated" players in the likes of Kevin Short (CB), Nick Harwell (WR), Marcus Jenkins-Moore (LB), T.J. Millweard (QB), Andrew Bolton (DL), and Justin McCay (WR).

Just kidding about that last one.

Kind of.

Not really.

ANYWAY, simply judging by what I’ve already covered, it looks like the defense will continue to improve, and judging by the number of players returning on defense, hopefully it will take a big step forward. The coordinating situation under Dave Campo and Clint Bowen seems to be working out very well. Kansas should be very strong in the secondary with Isaiah Johnson, JaCorey Shepherd, and Cassius Sendish all returning and adding Kevin Short to that mix only makes them stronger. Linebackers will be solid again with Ben Heeney, Schyler Miles, and Jake Love all returning. Defensive line will be the concern, as three of the five departing seniors were DE’s. Hopefully Bolton and maybe a recruit or two can help us out there.

Offense is where there is the most opportunity for improvement. I don’t see that as a good thing, but, when you’re 120th or whatever in FBS in most offensive statistics… well, it is what it is. At this point, there’s pretty much only one way to go: Up! Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was fired by head coach Charlie Weis a couple of weeks ago, and John Reagan was brought in from Rice to run the offense. This in and of itself should drastically improve the offense.

There will be a QB competition this spring and fall between Jake Heaps, Montell Cozart, and T.J. Millweard. My guess is that Reagan will be looking to utilize whoever comes out as the best "dual-threat" in camp, as the Rice QB this year passed for 2,261 yards and rushed for 466. Numbers for the Rice QB were similar in 2012 as well: 2,209 passing yards and 667 rushing yards.

Nick Harwell should bring some athleticism (and some production!) to the WR position, and when Tony Pierson is flanked out wide, KU should have a nice four receiver package after adding in McCay and Jimmay Mundine (should he decide to learn how to hang onto the ball). Despite the drops, Mundine was the team’s leading TD receiver in 2013 by far, and someone whom defenses will have to account for.

Offensive line will be a concern again in 2014 as previously mentioned. Six offensive linemen will be returning from the two-deep, and at the time of this writing, four offensive linemen (one JUCO) have committed to play for Kansas in the fall.

So far Kansas only has 14 commits and one transfer from Florida (that was announced last week). Weis expects to add at least ten more to this class. The class so far is highlighted by consensus four-star RB Traevohn Wrench of Gardner, KS, and (depending on what site you use) three or four-star LB Kyron Watson of East St. Louis, IL. Grad will be disappointed to learn that only one of these 14 recruits is currently rated as a 5.7 by Rivals.

Now let’s take a look at what I know you all came here for: the schedule. Kansas should be an improved team next year both offensively and defensively. But will that translate into wins? Let’s find out.

You'll see for each game "mikeville's % chance of a KU win." I tried to think of the percentage change of winning as, "If these two teams played this game 100 times, who wins the most?" i.e., if KU and SEMO play 100 times, in my mind, KU wins 99 of those.

Game 1 – vs Southeast Missouruh State, Lawrence, KS

SEMO went 3-9 in 2013 in the FCS. If we don’t beat them by at least three touchdowns, I’m done with KU football. End of analysis.

A KU win would be: Expected.

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 99%

Way-too-early prediction: KU 41, SEMO 14

Game 2 – @ Duke, Durham, NC

Duke went 10-3 this year and won the ACC Coastal division, knocking off Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) along the way. They are only losing eight seniors off their two-deep, three on offense and five on defense.

A KU win would be: Unexpected.

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 25%

Way-too-early prediction: Duke 24, KU 17

Game 3 – vs Central Michigan, Lawrence, KS

CMU finished 6-6 this year and went 5-3 in the MAC. Only one of those five wins was against a team that finished above .500. Despite "qualifying" for a bowl, the Chippewas were not selected. CMU loses nine total players off the two-deep, six on offense and only three on defense. However, I really don’t think Kansas is still at the point where they would struggle with this kind of MAC team. CMU is no Rice!

A KU win would be: Expected

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 90%

Way-too-early prediction: KU 45, CMU 17

Game 4 – vs Texas, Lawrence, KS

UT, as we all know, canned Mack Brown for being "above average." If only Kansas could be so lucky. Whoever the new coach is, UT will be a big favorite over the Jayhawks. KU has had a couple good games against Texas in Lawrence recently – and yes, I’m counting "Dollar Signs" as "recently." (I was there and I’m still upset about it.) UT finished 8-4 this season and will be playing Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Texas is losing twelve off its two-deep, eight offense and four defense. Hopefully Kansas catches UT early enough in the season that they’re still working out some kinks.

A KU win would be: A major upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 15%

Way-too-early prediction: UT 35, KU 24

Game 5 – @ West Virginia, Morgantown, WV

Ah, the team KU beat for their first conference win in what, three years? A long time, whatever it was. WVU was quite the enigma this year, knocking off TCU and Oklahoma State, hanging with but losing close games to Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma, but getting crushed by KU and K-State and losing to Iowa State. They finished the season 4-8. They are losing ten total off their two-deep, five each on offense and defense. This is a game that Kansas definitely has a shot at, but we must remember two things – 1) Kansas has not played well away from Lawrence recently, and 2) WVU will surely remember what happened to them on Nov 16, 2013.

A KU win would be: Surprising, and a minor upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 33%

Way-too-early prediction: WVU 45, KU 42

Game 6 – vs Oklahoma State, Lawrence, KS

OSU finished 10-2 this year and is playing the southern sympathizers from Missouruh in the Cotton Bowl. (My, my, how history seems to always repeat itself.) A head-scratching loss to WVU and a closer-than-the-score-indicates heartbreaking defeat to the Sooners were the two blemishes on their record. OSU will be losing 18 seniors off the two-deep, eight on offense and 10 on defense. We’ll find out real quick how good of a recruiter "I’m a Man" Mike Gundy is.

A KU win would be: Surprising, and an upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 25%

Way-too-early prediction: OSU 31, KU 20

Game 7 – @ Texas Tech, Lubbock, TX

TT started off this season 7-0. They finished 7-5. Only one of those five losses was close, an eight point game at Oklahoma. They’re taking on Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl as a reward for their efforts this season. They are losing 11 off the two-deep, three on offense and eight on defense. Walk-on freshman phenom Baker Mayfield has also announced his intention to transfer. Losing a lot on defense may hurt them initially, but by the time this game rolls around in mid-October, I’m guessing they’ll have most of those questions answered. Kansas has only ever defeated Tech once, surprisingly enough in Lubbock, back in 2001, and is 1-14 all-time vs the Red Raiders.

A KU win would be: Surprising, and an upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 20%

Way-too-early prediction: TTU 48, KU 21

Game 8 – @ Baylor, Waco, TX

Baylor rolled through the Big 12 this year, finishing with an 11-1 record with the only blemish a shocking shellacking at Oklahoma State. Their reward after an outright Big 12 title is Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. They’ll be losing 18 seniors off the two-deep, seven on offense and eleven on defense. However, Petty, Seastrunk, and Goodley will all be returning (barring early entry into the NFL draft). Of note: Baylor will be opening a brand-new on-campus stadium in 2014. Kansas will be the first Homecoming opponent in the new stadium and has never won in Waco (0-6).

A KU win would be: A shock and a major upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 10%

Way-too-early prediction: BU 63, KU 14

Game 9 – vs Iowa State, Lawrence, KS

Iowa State was an interesting team this season as well. (Have I said that about all Big 12 teams?) Single possession losses to: Northern Iowa, Iowa, Texas, Texas Tech, and TCU. Blowout losses to the usual suspects: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma. After all of that, they ended the season with two wins in a row: a thumping of Kansas and a comeback win in Morgantown vs West Virginia. They’ll be losing ten seniors off the two-deep, four on offense and six on defense. I honestly think this game is about as 50/50 as we’re going to get in conference play, despite the fact that we haven’t defeated the Cyclones since Todd Reesing era (2009).

A KU win would be: Perhaps not expected at this point, but maybe not unexpected, either

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 60%

Way-too-early prediction: KU 34, ISU 20

Game 10 – vs TCU, Lawrence, KS

TCU was expected to be much better than how their season actually turned out. The Frogs finished 2013 at 4-8, defeating only Kansas and Iowa State in conference play. Their defense kept them in every game except the Texas game, however. They will be losing ten players off the two-deep, six on offense and four on defense. These losses include key players Casey Pachall, Waymon James, and Jason Verrett. Another game the Jayhawks should have a chance in, especially with it being in Lawrence.

A KU win would be: Unexpected, and a slight upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 40%

Way-too-early prediction: KU 24, TCU 23

Game 11 – @ Oklahoma, Norman, OK

Oklahoma got smoked by both Texas and Baylor, but won every other game on their schedule this year to finish 10-2. They were rewarded with a date with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. OU is losing 12 seniors from the two-deep, eight on offense and four on defense. Offensive losses include their top two RBs and three of their top six WRs. I’m sure ESPN will be all over the "QB controversy" in Norman this offseason between Blake Bell, Trevor Knight, and Kendal Thompson. Kansas hasn’t won in Norman since 1996.

A KU win would be: A shock and a major upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 10%

Way-too-early prediction: OU 48, KU 20

Game 12 – @ Kansas State, Manhattan, KS

Kansas State, as I’m sure we all know, is super-awesome (Grad’s words, not mine). After going 2-4 in their first six games, they proceeded to go 5-1 to finish 7-5 and earn a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game vs Michigan. Yes, that’s seriously the bowl game’s name. I didn’t watch the game, but just by looking at the score, KSU apparently dominated the Wolverines. KSU literally beat all the teams below them in the Big 12 standings this year and lost to all the Big 12 teams above them. They’ll be losing 17 off the two-deep, ten on offense and seven on defense. This of course doesn’t matter because Bill Snyder sold his soul to a certain red-clad individual (not Santa Claus) circa 1989 or 1990. Kansas hasn’t won in Manhattan since that magical 2007 season, and hasn’t defeated Snyder in Manhattan since his first year in 1989.

A KU win would be: Surprising and an upset

mikeville’s % chance of a KU win: 20%

Way-too-early prediction: KSU 21, KU 20

Final Tally: 4-8 with only a couple blowouts and an upset win or two somewhere along the way. Defense continues to improve, and the offense improves from horribly embarrassing to hopefully just below average or maybe even average. In order to make a bowl game, we’ll have to pull off several upsets, including one or two on the road. Duke and West Virginia seem most susceptible.

"Hopefully" tally = 4, not counting the one in the opening paragraph. I have a feeling we’ll need some more "hopefully’s" and a lot more Kool-Aid to get through the spring and summer.

Please discuss – agree with me? Disagree?

Can Kansas do better than 3-3 at home, maybe by knocking off Texas or Oklahoma State? Can we pick up a road win anywhere?

Also curious as to who you think will be starting under center for KU. Don’t vote for who you WANT but who you THINK will win the QB job.