July 29, 2009

Kansas eager to prove its the best in the North

Despite having the only returning starting quarterback in senior Todd Ressing and two of the better receivers in the conference in Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, Kansas is coming into the season with a chip of disrespect on their collective shoulders.

Last week, the Big 12 announced its preseason football poll voted on by the conference's media, and Nebraska edged out the Jayhawks with 17 first-place votes and 172 total points compared to KU's 12 first-place votes and 164 total points.

To be fair, only 32 of the conference's 500 or so media members actually voted in the poll, but in any regard, the Jayhawks were slighted as the preseason pick to win represent the North in the Big 12 Championship.

The ranking might have bothered some more than others, but it still was an issue that head coach Mark Mangino said was something Kansas could only use as motivation to get better as a team.

"We're big boys at Kansas," Mangino said. "You know, we understand. We can do all this talking about our football program and the improvement we're making, but we want to be a team that can compete with anybody and win this league some day. In order to do that, you've got to play the best teams and you've got to beat them.

"Then all that other stuff works itself out."

Prior to the Big 12's preseason poll, Kansas had been the early favorite by the majority of college football preview magazines, as Athlon, The Sporting News and USA Today all picked the Jayhawks to win the North.

However, not everyone was quite as impressed with what KU had to offer this season. College football guru Phil Steele had the Jayhawks finishing a surprising fourth in the division behind Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State, respectively.

It was that vast discrepancy over just how good Kansas would actually be that likely had them fall short in the conference's preseason poll. The fact that some media and fans have such a low opinion of the Jayhawks might be all the motivation the Jayhawks need.

"It's one of those things where I would rather be underestimated and be the unkowns than have the expectation of the frontrunner and stuff like that," safety Darrell Stuckey said.

With five of their first seven games at home - including a visit by Oklahoma on Oct. 24 - Kansas appears to at least have a schedule working in its favor.

Though they also have to play an underrated Southern Miss at home and two road trips to Colorado and Texas Tech before Nebraska comes to town, there's a good chance the Jayhawks could have a chance to take control of the division with a win over the Huskers.

They also have a chance to let it slip away completely with a loss.

That's why, despite a feeling of preseason disrespect, Kansas is more concerned with making its case on the field.

"Until we're competing for Big 12 Championships every year, then we're not going to get that respect and attention, and rightly so," Reesing said. "You've got to earn what you get."

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