Welcome to my summer. It has gone pretty much like this with a different conversation partner every day:
Him: “How many wins will KU get in football this year?”
Him: “No way. I’ve looked at that schedule. I don’t see four wins. I see two. How are they going to get to four? Show me four wins on that schedule.”
The annual look at KU’s best shots at victories, ranked from most likely to least:
1. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 6, Memorial Stadium: The Redhawks went 2-6 in the Ohio Valley Conference last season.
2. Central Michigan, Sept. 20, Memorial Stadium: Almost everyone is back from a 6-6 team that battled injuries all year. The Chippewas will have a chance to show what they’re made of before coming to Lawrence. They travel to Purdue and then play Syracuse at home in their second and third games of the season. This game is no more a given than was Louisiana Tech a year ago, against which KU eked out a 13-10 victory one week before the Bulldogs lost to Army, 35-16.
3. Iowa State, Nov. 8, Memorial Stadium: Raise your hand if you have heard this opinion uttered about this game: “Mark Mangino’s going to be so fired up for revenge, no way KU beats Iowa State.” Now, if you even said that yourself, take that raised hand and cover your mouth with it.
True, football is an emotional sport, but to expect the players to be personally offended for their first-year offensive coordinator might be a stretch. Even if they do want to win one for the OC, it takes talented skill-position players to pull that off on the road, and the Cyclones are a little shy in that department.
4. TCU, Nov. 15, Memorial Stadium: The Horned Frogs turned it over five times in a 27-17 victory against Kansas last season, one of only four victories. JaCorey Shepherd scored one of KU’s touchdowns with a 32-yard interception return. TCU has more talent than Kansas, but not by a significant margin.
5. At Duke, Sept. 13: The Blue Devils have the majority of the roster back from a team that played in a BCS bowl game. The underdog mentality helped Duke a year ago, but the basketball-first school won’t take anybody by surprise this time. The emotional edge belongs to KU, which will be seeking to break a 27-game losing streak in games played outside Lawrence. Unlike in most games, Kansas won’t necessarily be at a big disadvantage in the trenches.
6. At West Virginia, Oct. 4: Kansas hasn’t defeated the same school two years in a row since a pair of close victories vs. Iowa State (2008, 2009), and the Mountaineers will have the home field and revenge as motivating factors. Still, Kansas won’t go forever without winning away from home.
7. Texas, Sept. 27, Memorial Stadium: New coach Charlie Strong will demand more toughness out of the Longhorns, but most programs struggle in the transition year after a coaching change, particularly early in the season. Do you believe in miracles? Al Michaels does, but my guess is he’s picking the Longhorns to win this one.
8. At Texas Tech, Oct. 18: Tony Pierson rushed for 202 yards in Lubbock two years ago on a day Kansas pushed the Red Raiders into double overtime. The Jayhawks won’t be intimidated going back to the flattest town on earth.
9. Oklahoma State, Oct. 11, Memorial Stadium: Speed is the first word that comes to mind with the Cowboys, but it’s at the line of scrimmage that the domination starts.
10. At Baylor, Nov. 1: The last time Art Briles lost to Kansas, he was coaching Houston in the Fort Worth Bowl, when Charlton Keith played a game that hasn’t been duplicated by a Kansas defensive end since.
11. At Oklahoma, Nov. 22: Trevor Knight could develop into the latest Sooners quarterback to become a Heisman Trophy finalist.
12. At Kansas State, Nov. 29: Bill Snyder hasn’t said when he will retire again, but whenever that is, it’s safe to say he won’t lose another game to Kansas.
Can Kansas win four games?