COLLEGE FOOTBALL | TOP 25 COUNTDOWN
No. 16 KANSAS
12-1, 7-1 Big 12 (beat Virginia Tech, 24-21, in Orange Bowl)
6 offense, 9 defense
at Oklahoma, Oct. 18
Player to Watch
Jocques Crawford, junior running back
The transfer from Cisco (Tex.) Junior College will be expected to fill the role vacated by Brandon McAnderson. Last season, Crawford rushed for 1,935 yards and 19 touchdowns, tops nationally among junior college running backs.
Why They're Worth Watching
Kansas's linebackers could prove to be the among the Big 12's best. James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen will provide leadership to a defensive unit that allowed 16.4 points per game last season. Many expect Mortensen, who started every game at middle linebacker last year after playing outside linebacker in 2006, to compete for Big 12 defensive player of the year honors. Quarterback Todd Reesing, a curiosity at the start of fall camp a year ago when Kerry Meier was expected to become the starter, will look to improve upon his 3,486-yard, 33-touchdown performance. Reesing will rely upon redshirt freshman Jeff Spikes and senior tackle Matt Darton to anchor an improved offensive line. Crawford, who was named national junior college offensive player of the year last season, should continue a recent lineage of quality tailback production, following Jon Cornish (2006) and McAnderson.
Why They're Vulnerable
Criticized for a weak schedule last season, Kansas has a much more difficult conference slate this year. On Oct. 11, the Jayhawks host improving Colorado before traveling to Oklahoma on Oct. 18 and hosting Texas Tech on Oct. 25. The season's final month doesn't get any easier: Kansas hosts Kansas State on Nov. 1 and Texas on Nov. 15 with a road trip to Nebraska, where the Jayhawks haven't won since 1968, sandwiched in between. To survive the schedule, Kansas's punting game must improve. Last season, the Jayhawks averaged 31.82 net yards per punt, 109th in the country. Their punt return game wasn't any better, finishing with 5.97 yards per attempt, 103rd overall. A trip to South Florida on Sept. 12 could be a possible trap; the game marks the completion of a home-and-home series between the two schools, with Kansas winning the 2006 meeting, 13-7, in Lawrence.
-- Andrew Astleford
No. 15 Brigham Young.
No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 California, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 18 Oregon, No. 17 Illinois.