This week, we'll be recording the preseason predictions of the editorial staff here at BOTC. In the effort of being completely transparent (as is the theme of the university right now), we wanted to get these out as soon as fall camp starts before, presumably, players on our team and other teams are lost for the season for one reason or another. That way, we can always go back and say, "Uh yeah, I had no idea the third string gunner was going to get injured. Otherwise, my prediction would have been WAY different."
To make this a fair exercise, we'll be presenting these in alphabetical order. So, today, we'll start with BracketCat.
09/05 - Massachusetts (W)
09/12 - @Louisiana (W)
09/19 - @UCLA (L)
09/26 - Tennessee Tech (W)
10/03 - vs. Iowa State (W)
10/10 - @Texas Tech (L)
10/17 - Texas A&M (W)
10/24 - Colorado (W)
10/31 - @Oklahoma (L)
11/07 - Kansas (T)
11/14 - Missouri (T)
11/21 - @Nebraska (L)
I'll just break this down game by game.
Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech are wins. To suggest otherwise is a non-starter argument.
The worst defense I have ever watched in person still found ways to persevere against Louisiana and Iowa State in 2008. Louisiana lost Desormeaux and the RB, Iowa State is in disarray and ... most importantly ... we canned Ron Prince. Those are wins.
Stunning stat of the day: Since the 2003 Big 12 Championship, K-State is 5-20 on the road or at neutral sites. Even worse, the Wildcats have not won more than one road or neutral game in a season since 2003. Thus, I think winning both a road game (Louisiana) and a neutral game (ISU) would represent a significant step forward, and we should be damned content with that.
That means we're losing the rest of the roadies, though. Since Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Nebraska all shit-canned us last season, I doubt anyone will argue with me on those. (Plus Snyder only has a handful of wins in those three stadiums, versus a whole slew of ugly losses.)
The tricky one is UCLA. I know the GoPowercat Kool-Aid Brigade is gung-ho about predicting a win on the West Coast, but I just don't see it. It's too early in the season, UCLA has some pretty decent talent, they will most likely make a Year 1-to-Year 2 jump, and even when we win the Left Coast, we usually look like crap doing so (USC 2001, anyone?). I'll gladly trade a UCLA loss for a win over KU, however, as long as we acquit ourselves better than we did at Fresno State.
Texas A&M will be improved, and given the jinx Snyder has had against them lately (no wins since 1997), I can see a scenario that has them winning in Manhattan. But I can't get over the fact that Prince beat Sherman, badly, in College Station, to snap that streak. I feel pretty comfortable chalking this one up as a win.
Same goes for Colorado, a game we ABSOLUTELY should have won last season. When looking for games to project improvement from the past season, my rule is to look for close losses on the road to teams you will now face at home. BTW, this season could be Hawkins' swan song if he can't pull off some upsets here and there.
That brings us to Kansas and Missouri. The media will have us losing both, but both Bill Snyder and I don't give a snot what the media think. Those are the two most important games of the year to him, I suspect. You don't win 11 straight over one and 12 straight over the other if they aren't.
I'll tentatively call it a split: Let's say we find a way to knock off the Jayhawks in the midst of a brutal close to their schedule, and then drop a close one to Mizzou as Pinkel nets his first win over the Legend ever. But I reserve the right to amend that prediction as the season wears on. I could see us dropping both, but that would make for an 0-4 finish to the season, and that's not a Snyder statistic - it's a Prince one.
One fundamental fact keeps coming back to me, though. Snyder teams are ALWAYS better in November than in September. Sometimes unrecognizably so. I think it's far more likely that we find a way to WIN both games than to lose them both. And if we do, we're 8-4 (5-3), and either tied with Nebraska for 1st or in sole possession (if they finish 4-4). That would be Coach of the Year-worthy.
Even if we do drop one of the two, we'll be 7-5 (4-4) and bowling for the first time in three years. I'll take it. But mark my words - we'll probably have to win one of those two to get there, because 6-6 won't get us to the postseason this year.
As you can tell, I'm cautiously high on Daniel Thomas now that he has a locker, and I think he could be the key X-factor that puts us in a Phil Steele-esque hunt for the North. Although I think Jeffrey Fitzgerald will have an impact, two years of not playing have to take a toll. I think his main role will be freeing up Brandon Harold to do even more damage than he did last year.
And let's throw some love to the special teams, guys. Going from dependable Tim Reyer to the Fulhage & Pierson Clown Show was one of the most painful things about 2008. Here's hoping Doerr erases some of those memories...
Honorable mentions to Brandon Banks, the fastest Mighty-Mite receiver to ever don the purple, and Joshua Moore, who I honestly think could be a threat to depart for the NFL after a season under Vic Koenning's tutelage.