Kansas State and Kansas both have an intimidating game on their nonconference schedules.  Kansas State has the most daunting challenge when the Wildcats face Auburn on Sept. 18.

Before the Auburn game, K-State plays at home against Stephen F. Austin on Aug. 30 and on the road at Iowa State in the Big 12 opener on Sept. 6.

Kansas State should win both of those games before Auburn comes to Manhattan, but Coach Bill Snyder’s teams have been known to stumble in early games and the trip to Ames will not be an easy victory.

K-State will have a week and a half off before the Auburn game and Snyder will need the extra time to prepare the Wildcats for the Tigers. K-State fans that are rubbing their hands in anticipation of an upset had better fasten their seat belts. 

Auburn is loaded.

In 2013, Auburn had an overall record of 12-2 and 7-1 in the SEC. Coach Gus Malzahn led the Tigers to the national championship game against Florida State, which they lost 34-31. Auburn defeated defending national champion Alabama during SEC play.

National football prognosticator Phil Steele recently said, “Auburn is a better team this year than they were last year … they did benefit from a couple of plays but overall this year's team, I think, would be favored over last year's team easily.”

Steele predicts Auburn will compete for the national championship and be ranked in the top five in the nation at the start of the season.

Malzahn returns 17 starters, nine on offense and eight on defense. One of the heralded returnees is quarterback Nick Marshall (6-1, 210) who played great for Auburn during the high-pressure games in 2013.

Auburn is one of the consistent and formidable football programs that make up the SEC, the best league in the nation. Football fever is at its normal high pitch; 70,645 fans attended the Auburn spring game. And, Marshall was voted offensive MVP as the first teamers won easily.

Auburn opens with home games against Arkansas on Aug. 30 and San Jose State on Sept. 6.  If both K-State and Auburn win the first two, the nation’s fans will be focused on the Thursday night game that will be on national TV.

K-State-Auburn will be one of the pivotal games of the 2014 season.

Snyder is renowned for having his teams ready for big games in Manhattan — the Auburn game won’t be an exception. Regardless, Auburn could well be the best team K-State will face all season.

KU opens at home with Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 6, and the Jayhawks should win easily. KU’s second game — at Duke on Sept. 13 — is a different matter entirely. When the schedule was made, Duke looked like a game the Jayhawks would win. That’s not the case in 2014.

Duke’s coach, David Cutcliffe, was named National Coach of the Year in 2013. Duke’s overall record last season was 10-4 and the Blue Devils were 6-2 in the ACC.

Duke lost to Florida State, 45--7, in the ACC championship game and to Texas A&M, 52-48, in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Cutcliffe returns 44 lettermen from last year’s talented team, and he has 17 starters back — eight on offense, six on defense, and three special teams players.

Duke lost its starting QB, Sean Renfree, who started 35 games for the Blue Devils. Redshirt senior Anthony Boone (6-0, 230) is listed as the 2014 starting QB.

Boone hasn’t played extensively for Duke, so both teams will be going with inexperienced QBs.

This will be an important game for Duke and KU.

Duke’s status has risen considerably in the ACC while KU is still mired at the bottom of the Big 12. If Coach Charlie Weis’s third Kansas team is going to make a move, it will have to win on the road at Duke and that will be far from easy.

Kansas fans are becoming disenchanted with Weis and athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who hired him. If KU loses to Duke it will be the harbinger of another dismal football season for the Jayhawks.

Turning to baseball …

In Major League Baseball, four major categories — in the order of their importance — determine whether a team is successful or not: 1. Starting pitching 2. Hitting 3. Relief pitching and 4. Defense. The Kansas City Royals are proficient in three of the four; the team's big weakness so far has been hitting.

The Royals don’t have any hot-hitting youngsters on their minor league teams that are ready to play in the majors.

KC is going to succeed or fail with the players on the current roster. Kansas City will either surge forward or fall back into mediocrity in the next three and a half months.