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Prediction time 2010: Stuckey's thoughts and my game-by-game breakdown
I’ve seen my fair share of Kansas football so far this preseason and talked a lot to several different members of this year’s team. Because of that, I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with this year’s team.
But instead of taking my word for it, why not listen to what someone who played with most of these guys has to say about this year’s team.
This summer, after catching up with former safety Darrell Stuckey, now a member of the San Diego Chargers, I asked Stuckey what he thought about the 2010 Jayhawks.
Here are some of the highlights of Stuckey’s thoughts followed by my game-by-game predictions:
“KU, from this point on, is still going to be climbing that mountain,” he said. “We started up it and we never made it to the top. People might argue that we went to the Orange Bowl and that we reached the top. I don’t want to believe that. We went to the Orange Bowl, yes, but that wasn’t the peak of what we can do here. That wasn’t the peak of the mountain. You’re telling me the Insight Bowl was the downslope on the other side? No, it wasn’t at all.”
“I think these guys have a chance to do something that’s great, to still finish what guys started when coach (Mark) Mangino first got here.”
“There’s still a lot of work to be done but as soon as that’s understood and leadership steps in and takes over then they can be great. And I’m not talking about the (leadership of the) coaches, I’m talking about the players.”
“They definitely have the talent and they’re very balanced. They just have to find an identity and believe in themselves. The biggest barrier is going to be confidence, them knowing that they can do it with what they’ve got.”
“A lot of times last year we lost ourselves putting too much faith in a few of our players. Whether it was me, Kerry (Meier), Todd (Reesing), (Dezmon) Briscoe, Jake (Sharp), we got caught up in those moments sometimes. But they’re balanced enough now to where they can spread that pressure out and there’s no one in particular who’s going to be looked at to have to make a play. Now it’s going to be wherever the ball goes, that person has to make a play.”
There’s no way I could’ve said it any better, and there’s no question that I certainly don’t know it as well as Stuckey.
Having said that, here’s my game-by-game prediction for the 2010 season, a season that is now one day away from beginning.
Sept. 4 vs. North Dakota State — Win (1-0) — Gill era gets off to a great start at home, with KU’s superior size, strength and athleticism overpowering a pesky NDSU team in front of a rockin’ crowd at Memorial Stadium.
Sept. 11 vs. Georgia Tech — Loss (1-1) — Jayhawks fall to Top 20 team in Week 2 despite being able to move the ball a little bit. G-Tech’s funky offense proves to be too much for KU to handle, particularly on the ground, where quarterback Josh Nesbitt operates like a magician in leading the Yellow Jackets to victory.
Sept. 17 at Southern Miss — Win (2-1) — Southern Miss is a quality team and they’ll be playing at home. But effort will be the deciding factor in this one and few teams will give effort like Gill’s Jayhawks in 2010. KU defense contains NFL prospect DeAndre Brown (6-6, 239-pound WR) in the passing game and shows the benefit of emphasizing of a strong running game.
Sept. 25 vs. New Mexico State — Win (3-1) — Jayhawks return home with an opportunity to move to 3-1 in the non-conference and pound NMSU. Offense clicks like never before and Jayhawks light up the scoreboard en route to the easy victory.
Oct. 2 at Baylor — Loss (3-2) — Non-con bubble bursts with tough loss to Baylor. BU quarterback Robert Griffin creates a long day for the KU defense, keeping the Jayhawks off balance with his ability to run and throw. Offense looks good but can’t keep up with the Bears all day.
Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State — Win (4-2) — Thursday night, under the lights, against your in-state rival at home. Managers throughout the city should be prepared for employees to call in sick on Friday as the inspired KU defense contains K-State back Daniel Thomas and punishes KSU quarterback Carson Coffman. Many think the winner of this one will go to a bowl this season while the other sits home for the holidays. Good news for KU.
Oct. 23 vs. Texas A&M — Loss (4-3) — Feeling good about their 4-2 start, KU realizes quickly that they’re not quite ready to compete with the real contenders in the Big 12. Led by All-American candidate Jerrod Johnson, A&M steps on the gas and never lets up. Offense struggles, defense stays on the field all day and wears down by the second half.
Oct. 30 at Iowa State — Loss (4-4) — Iowa State’s schedule resembles KU’s from 2009 and because of that, the Cyclones are ecstatic to see KU stroll into town during Halloween weekend. It will go down as a game KU should have won, but ISU makes more plays at crucial moments to even KU’s record at 4-4.
Nov. 6 vs. Colorado — Win (5-4) — Jayhawks respond to tough road loss with most complete game of the season. Defense frustrates Colorado offense all day, offense scores in every way imaginable and Jayhawks get revenge for last year’s loss in Boulder that sent the ’09 season on its slide south. Late loss all but guarantees that CU coach Dan Hawkins is done at Colorado.
Nov. 13 at Nebraska — Loss (5-5) — The Nebraska D — perhaps the best in the nation — is way too tough on this day and the Huskers bottle up a KU offense riding high from its performance against Colorado. KU defense again helps keep the Jayhawks in the game, but the offense never gets going. Gill's first -- and maybe last? -- trip north to coach against his alma mater doesn't go so well.
Nov. 20 vs. Oklahoma State — Win (6-5) — Needing a win in one of their final two games to become bowl eligible, the Jayhawks don’t waste any time. KU defense flies all over the field and punishes and confuses OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden all night. KU ground game again seals the deal, as three different running backs score touchdowns in the victory.
Nov. 27 vs. Missouri — Loss (6-6) — Another wild game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., comes down to the fourth quarter yet again. For the second year in a row, Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert leads the Tigers on a game-winning drive, this one capped by a touchdown run from Gabbert in the waning moments.