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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Previewing Week 1: Kansas

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

You're counting down the days, I'm sure. We're so close, and yet so far from the season's opening weekend. I can't wait for it, and I'm sure every player in the Big 12 can't either. So, despite being a bit far off, we'll take a look at each team's opener, inspired by our friends over at the Big Ten Blog.

We started this series at the top of the alphabet, and it's time for the Jayhawks.

Kansas Jayhawks

Week 1 Opponent: McNeese State

Coach: Matt Viator, sixth year (39-15, 27-7 Southland)

2010 record: 6-5 (5-2, Southland)

Returning starters: 15

About the Cowboys: The last time the Big 12 got a glimpse of McNeese State, it trailed 50-0 in the third quarter against Missouri.

So the Cowboys, proud members of the FCS Southland Conference, may not worry fans, but it's hard not to be reminded of what happened in last season's Jayhawks season opener. Kansas really gave the entire conference a black eye when it got popped by FCS North Dakota State 6-3 in Lawrence on the opening weekend, becoming the only team in the conference that didn't begin its season with a win.

Kansas should be better this season, though, and certainly has a much more clear identity. Its starting quarterback, Kale Pick, now plays receiver and its eventual leading rusher on the season, James Sims, rode the bench while DeShaun Sands ran for a rousing 17 yards on 10 carries.

So it's quite a bit different this time around. Will the result follow?

McNeese State boasts Andre Anderson at running back, who won Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year honors with a 855-yard 2010 season. Jacob Bower (5-4) and Cody Stroud (1-1) split starts last year as redshirt freshmen, but those are the names you'll hear if you're a Kansas fan in early September. Linebacker Deron Minor finished his career with 343 tackles.

Can Sims and the Jayhawks running game take advantage? If not, it's going to be another long season in Lawrence.

Random factoid: There's no official title, I suppose, but McNeese State might have the most garish uniforms in college football. Good grief.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Kansas wins: 86 percent. Kansas blows them out? Things are certainly looking up in Lawrence.

More Week 1 previews: