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Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2001

Sunday Woodling column

August 5, 2001

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No, I didn't eat an hallucigenic mushroom at the Douglas Country Free Fair or hit my head on the baked clay that passes for soil in my back yard.

Obviously, the listing wasn't one of those AP or USA Today/ESPN preseason rankings. The Jayhawks didn't even make the others-receiving-votes category in those polls.

Kansas, virtually dismissed by all the swamis and and other turban heads in the preseason polls, is No. 5 in the NCAA strength-of-schedule rankings. The No. 5 ranking and the Jayhawks' absence in the polls are not, of course, mutually exclusive.

Teams with brutal schedules coming off losing seasons are automatically rejected by the soothsayers -- particularly teams with a question mark at quarterback.

Preseason pundits aren't impressed when two quarterbacks fight for the job in the spring and neither emerges as the clear-cut winner. In most cases, that's a sign the QB candidates are weak in one or more areas.

Meanwhile, back to the toughest schedules.

Florida is ranked No. 1, followed by Florida State and Miami of Florida, meaning the peninsula staters have a lock on the top three spots. Interestingly, all three of the Florida schools are also ranked in the top five in preseason polls, meaning if one of those schools win the national title, it will have done it the hard way.

No. 4 on the list of teams with the toughest schedules is Colorado, a Kansas cousin in the Big 12 North. That means the Buffaloes play the same divisional foes as KU. However, CU's three South foes are Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State while KU has Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

To tell the truth, Kansas seems to have a rougher South row to hoe than Colorado, but the Jayhawks are nevertheless No. 5 on the NCAA chart for schedule toughness.

Both Colorado and Kansas have a preseason ranked team among nonconference foes. CU has Colorado State; Kansas has UCLA. Colorado also has San Jose State, Washington State and a 12th game against Fresno State, Al Bohl's old school, billed as the Jim Thorpe Classic.

In addition to UCLA, Kansas is also playing Southwest Missouri State, an NCAA Div. I-AA school, and Wyoming. Southwest Missouri State isn't counted by the NCAA, but Wyoming is and the Cowboys are, without doubt, the reason the Jayhawks are ranked below Colorado. Wyoming was 1-10 last season.

Still, to have a 1-10 team on your dance card and still be ranked No. 5 nationally in strength of schedule means a murderers row lurks somewhere down the line.

For Kansas -- perhaps mercifully -- the gantlet doesn't arrive until the last four weeks when the Jayhawks will face Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas and Iowa State on successive Saturdays. All four of those teams won at least nine games last season.

Speaking of Kansas State, you may be wondering if the Wildcats, with coach Bill Snyder notorious for scheduling Quiche Tech and Parfait Poly, have the easiest schedule in the Big 12.

Nope. The 'Cats are in the middle, mainly because Snyder broke the mold and K-State will really and truly play at Southern Cal in its opener.

The Big 12 school with the easiest schedule is Texas. The Longhorns are ranked 97th out of the 110 Div. I-A schools, mainly because the three North teams on their schedule are Kansas, Colorado and Missouri. That's right. The 'Horns do not have to play Nebraska, Kansas State or Iowa State.

Texas' nonconference games are against New Mexico State, one of Div. I-A's all-time favorite whipping boys; North Carolina, a basketball school in a football down cycle; and Houston, a school many people thought dropped football when the Oilers moved to Tennessee.

If I were Terry Allen and someone offered me the opportunity to switch schedules with Texas, I wouldn't hesitate for a second.

-- Sports editor Chuck Woodling can be reached at 832-7147.

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