Kansas University will unveil their 2013 football team this Saturday against South Dakota at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
The focus will be on quarterback Jake Heaps, who is being counted on to lead a much-improved KU team.
South Dakota is a perfect opening game foe for KU. The Coyotes play in the Missouri Valley and they finished 0-8 last season in league play and 1-10 overall. Kansas will crush South Dakota in a mismatch.
Look for Heaps, running back James Sims, and flanker Tony Pierson to have productive games against South Dakota. And it will be revealing to see how the new pass receivers perform. KU's offense will be able to move the football.
Saturday's game will give coach Charlie Weis a chance to use a lot of players and knock off some early season rust.
Nothing builds enthusiasm and confidence like winning, and KU will be off to a good start.
However, the celebration may be short-lived because the Jayhawks have to play Rice on the road in their second game. That will be a much sterner test for Kansas.
Everything to this point has been pure conjecture for KU's 2013 team because there are so many new players.
After they blow away South Dakota, KU's fans will quickly assume that the Jayhawks are set for a solid season. That may be true, but it would be wise to wait and see how KU does on the road against a rugged Rice team.
The biggest unknown about the Jayhawks is their offensive line, which will have at least three new starters.
That's where it all begins. The feeling here is that the 2013 Kansas football team will bear little resemblance to the sorry 2012 ball club.
Weis and his staff know what they're doing and they have done an excellent job of recruiting and coaching.
Kansas will be a competitive football team this fall – just how much the Jayhawks have improved is yet to be determined.
Kansas State hurts postseason chances
Out of the wreckage of last Saturday's stunning upset to North Dakota State, nothing is damaged except for Kansas State's chances to go to a bowl game this season.
With just two non-conference games left – UL Lafayette (Sept. 7) and UMass (Sept. 14) – the Wildcats are in a precarious position so far as their postseason hopes are concerned.
K-State's football team wasn't upset on the field, they were drubbed.
NDSU rushed for 215 yards on 43 carries, an average of five yards per carry.
The Wildcats ran for 41 yards on 23 carries, an average of 1.8 yards per carry. Kansas State was outplayed by NDSU at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense.
Page 2 of 2 - After the game, coach Bill Snyder said, “They play very, very hard. They're a tough football team ... they played harder than we did, they were tougher than we were, and they were better coached than we were.”
Before the season, it was expected that K-State would have issues on the defensive side of the ball and that held true against the Bison. But with their offensive line returning intact, the Wildcats appeared all set to have a potent offense.
The biggest disappointment from the opening day loss was the play of the offensive line. They didn't block well on running plays and their pass protection left much to be desired.
Kansas State will win their next two non-conference games, but they will have to win four Big 12 games to qualify for a bowl game.
If the opening game was any indication, that will be a tall task. But it's way too early in the season to count the Wildcats out.
Coach Snyder has faced adversity many times during his illustrious career and he'll put an improved team on the field this Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium.
NFL starts up
In addition to college football, the NFL begins their season this week. The revamped Kansas City Chiefs begin the season with a game at Jacksonville on Sunday.
Jacksonville had a terrible 2012 season (2-14), same as Kansas City. One of the Jaguars' many problems has been at quarterback where Blaine Gabbert has never lived up to expectations.
KC will be greatly improved at the quarterback position with the experienced and talented Alex Smith. After the boring preseason games, KC fans are eagerly awaiting the debut of Smith.
It's vital to get off to a fast start and the Chiefs have a good opportunity to do that at Jacksonville.
However, unlike college football, there are no easy games in the NFL. The prediction here is that Kansas City will perform at a high level and come away with an opening-game victory.
-Mac Stevenson is a longtime columnist on collegiate and professional sports in Eastern Kansas.