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February 2, 2008

Kansas hopes to repeat 2007 success

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com.
Previous mailbags
Jan. 25: Dreaming big
Jan. 18: Playoff push
Dec 21: Wish list

Struggling college football programs hold out hope for a season that becomes the foundation for years - even decades - of success.

Take Florida State, for instance. Before 1977, the Seminoles had a historically mediocre program and had managed just eight victories in the four previous years combined.

But in that breakout year of '77, the Seminoles went 10-2 and haven't had a losing season since.

Then there are those one-year wonders teams that rise up and have an exceptional year only to slide back into mediocrity.

That's what happened to Kansas after the Jayhawks went 10-2 in 1995. That 10-win year was followed by nine consecutive losing seasons.

So after last year's 11-1 campaign, which featured an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, have the Jayhawks set a foundation for continued success? Or will they stumble again?

OLIN'S MAILBAG
Considering Kansas

Just wondering if Kansas' list of 3-star recruits will emerge as recruiting steals. Also wondering if you think Kansas has what it takes to be a BCS bowl team again next season? Thanks.

Rob in Prairie Village, KS
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Recruiting really isn't my field of expertise, but let's look at Kansas' situation this way: The Jayhawks' recruiting classes from 2004 to 2007 included a total of four four-star recruits. So, coach Mark Mangino obviously knows what he wants in a prospect and how to get them to produce.

That said, I have to admit I'm a little pessimistic about the Jayhawks' chances of reaching a BCS bowl game next season.

Todd Reesing is obviously an exceptional quarterback, and receiver Dezmon Briscoe could be special. However, the Jayhawks have some significant losses. Running back Brandon McAnderson, receiver Marcus Henry and defensive tackle James McClinton completed their eligibility. On top of that, tackle Anthony Collins and cornerback Aqib Talib entered the NFL Draft early.

The schedule will also be much more difficult. Last year the Jayhawks did not play Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech from the South Division, and in 2008 they will face all three.

As of now, my personal view would be that Kansas is more likely to post eight or nine regular season victories and go to a bowl but not an elite one.

But Mangino has done a wonderful job in Lawrence, and maybe last season was a sign of things to come. We'll see. I'll admit that I didn't expect Kansas to have a big year in 2007 and was certainly proved wrong on that.

Two for the Tigers?

Do you think that LSU has a shot at defending their SEC title?

Troy in New Iberia, La.
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First off, I'll admit that Georgia is my preseason pick to win the SEC. That said, LSU certainly cannot be counted out.

Four starters return in the offensive line, Tyson Jackson and Ricky Jean-Francois head a list of returning defensive linemen, Ryan Perrilloux got valuable starting experience last season and the Tigers are loaded at running back.

The biggest area of concern would figure to be the secondary, which loses three starters - including cornerbacks Jonathan Zenon and Chevis Jackson. Replacing them won't be easy, but if any program has the talent to fill in there it's LSU.

I'd expect LSU and Auburn to be the top contenders in the SEC West in 2008, although I anticipate Alabama being much better, too.

If LSU wins the West it would certainly have a chance in the SEC championship game.

Replacing receivers

What do you think about Michigan's wide receivers for the 2008 season?

Jr. Hemingway in Conway, S.C.
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Frankly, I'm unsure what to expect. Greg Mathews is a big target who obviously proved himself with 39 catches and three touchdowns last year, but he figures to draw better coverage next season without Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington out there.

Some guys step up and become stars in that situation. Others struggle.

Sophomore Junior Hemingway, who had four catches last year, is a probable starter. Toney Clemons could be, too. Don't be surprised to see a freshman get a lot of action, too. Darryl Stonum, who has already enrolled, could be a prime candidate for immediate playing time.

Of course, it will be interesting to see how the receivers will be used in coach Rich Rodriguez's offense. Last season only one West Virginia wide receiver had more than 25 catches and the Mountaineers ranked 114th in passing offense.

Clemson's chances

With all the talent returning, do you think the Clemson Tigers will be in the hunt for a national title?

Lonnie in South Carolina
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The Tigers appear to be loaded; eight offensive starters and nine defensive starters return from a 9-4 team. That includes quarterback Cullen Harper, running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller and receiver Aaron Kelly.

However, Clemson has a tendency to lose a game or two they're expected to win. They were loaded in 2006 and were my pick to win the ACC in 2006, and let me down.

Clemson is usually good, but it has to a lot to prove before it can be considered a real national championship contender.

Believing in Bevo

I'll bet you $100 Texas wins 10 games next year, and I will tell you why.

The offensive line was decimated with injuries this year and that forced the staff to play several underclassmen that gained valuable experience. I actually believe the line will be better this year.

There are several lost starters on defense, but I think the kids coming in behind them are going to be a more athletic group. (Quarterback) Colt McCoy will be better. (Running back) Vondrell McGee isn't Jamaal Charles, but is much better than what most folks think. And if we land (No. 1 ranked running back prospect) Darrell Scott, he'll play and give them a real home run threat by the time the OU game comes around. The addition of coaches Major (Applewhite) and (Will Muschamp) are a definite improvement over last year.

Maybe I'm looking at it through orange-tinted glasses, but I expect this team to be an improvement over last year's squad.

Mark in Lufkin, Texas
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Last week's "Top 25 questions for 2008" article, in which I predicted Texas' string of seven consecutive championships is the streak most likely to end, has drawn a ton of response all of it disagreeing with me.

However, you're the only one that offered to make a bet.

My assertion remains the same. While I do expect Texas to field another good team, the significant losses of the '07 team and a much more difficult '08 schedule makes me doubt the Longhorns can hit double-digit victories again.

I cannot accept your wager because, of course, we do this purely for entertainment purposes. However, my boss, Bobby Burton (a Texas alum by the way) is willing to put up a one-year subscription to Rivals.com if Texas does win 10.

However, if Texas wins nine games or less you won't owe us anything - that way it's not really a bet.

Good luck to you and to the Longhorns, Mark. And by the way, the offer is extended only to you because you were the first to issue a challenge.

A break for the 'bag?

Does your mailbag ever take significant time off, particularly during the offseason? In other words, is your mailbag more-or-less a year round mailbag? If not, when do you take a break from your mailbag segment? It would be fun for me to make fun of myself if this question does make it on your mailbag.

Al in North Carolina
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Get started on your personal Mardi Gras, Al, I'm answering your letter.

The mailbag is basically a year-round feature, although we could miss a week or two when I'm on vacation or if I'm covering an event that is especially time-demanding. In that case, we might skip a week.

But for the most part you can count on it at the end of each week either Friday or Saturday. So, as long as readers like yourself pose a question, I'll do my best to give an answer.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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