O-tackle commits to KU
Ben Lueken, a 6-foot-5, 318-pound offensive tackle from Chaminade High in St. Louis, has orally committed to KU's football team, Rivals.com reported Monday night. He is Rivals.com's No. 20-rated player in the state of Missouri.
More and more every day, you get the sense that the "Bill Snyder approach" to nonconference scheduling at Kansas University is here to stay.
KU's football team, if all goes as expected, will win again by a wide margin Saturday when Florida International (0-3) comes to Memorial Stadium.
FIU has lost its last 15 contests, the longest drought in the Bowl Subdivision.
The Bill Snyder approach is familiar to football fans in the state. Snyder, Kansas State's former coach, often scheduled games that weren't expected to be tough, keeping them in Manhattan and making sure K-State's record was rosy as conference play approached.
For example, when the Wildcats were in the national-championship picture in 1998, their nonconference slate consisted of 50-plus point victories over Indiana State, Northern Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe.
KU coach Mark Mangino, of course, was an assistant under Snyder for eight seasons. Among other things, scheduling strategy seems to have rubbed off.
"I was with a team one time that used to win a lot of games in September and then went to bowl games in January and December," Mangino said after KU drubbed Toledo, 45-13, on Saturday. "It worked out great there, and we're hoping it works out great here, too."
Such strategy at KU dates back to 2003, when Kansas bought its way out of a road game at San Diego State and instead played Division I-AA Jacksonville State at home.
Since 2005, only one team from the six major-college football conferences has played KU during nonconference play: South Florida, currently a Top 25 team that traveled to Lawrence last year and will play host to the Jayhawks next season in Tampa, Fla.
KU has another big-conference team on its future schedule, but it's hardly a heavyweight. Duke, which just snapped a 22-game losing streak, is scheduled to play host to Kansas in 2009 and play in Lawrence in 2010.
Mangino makes no apologies for this year's slate - or for future schedules that include Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State and Rice. As for this year's criticism, he's quick to point out that Toledo beat Kansas last year, and that Central Michigan, a 52-7 victim in Week One, was the Mid-America Conference champion in '06.
Still, Mangino's scheduling creed isn't far away when the subject is brought up.
"There aren't many people questioning in November who you played in September," he has said more than once.
But at this point in the season, some observers are wondering just how legitimate Kansas really is.
Kansas is 3-0 and has outscored opponents 159-20, causing some pundits to hop on the bandwagon. CBS Sportsline, for example, projects KU to play in the Alamo Bowl, the fifth-best bowl tied to the Big 12 Conference, this winter.
But the combined record of KU's four nonconference opponents right now is 2-10 - and one of those victories came as a result of Central Michigan and Toledo playing each other.
So just how good are the Jayhawks? At this point, there's no telling. There are nine more games - with much more challenge - left to determine it in full.
Mangino, though, said Saturday he thinks it could be a pretty good season in Lawrence - even when the opponents get significantly tougher in a hurry, starting Oct. 6 at Kansas State.
"We feel like we need to continue to get better," Mangino said. "We still know where our weaknesses are and what we need to improve on, there's no question about that.
"We feel like we're making progress, but right now we're about where we ought to be."