The Fog of '09 - North Defenses

Yesterday, it was North Offenses.  Today, North Defenses.

Defensive Lines

  1. Nebraska (DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Pierre Allen)
  2. Kansas (DE Jake Laptad, DT Richard Johnson, DT Caleb Blakesley)
  3. Missouri (DT Jaron Baston, DE Brian Coulter, DE Jacquies Smith)
  4. Kansas State (DE Brandon Harold, DT Daniel Calvin)
  5. Iowa State (DE Rashawn Parker, DT Nate Frere)
  6. Colorado (DE Jason Brace, ?)

That's right, Ndamukong Suh still has eligibility left--feels like he's been having an up-and-down season for Nebraska since about 2003--and he and Pierre Allen should make a pretty solid DL for the Huskers.  KU returns a decent amount, and while their unit will be far from spectacular, it will be steady and reliable.  Missouri has a lot of potential at DE with Coulter and Smith, but they still have to replace a lot of career starts.

Linebackers

  1. Missouri (Sean Weatherspoon--for now, Luke Lambert)
  2. Nebraska (Phil Dillard, Blake Lawrence)
  3. Colorado (Jeff Smart, Shaun Mohler)
  4. Iowa State (Jesse Smith, Fred Garrin, Cameron Bell)
  5. Kansas State (Olu Hall, Ulla Pomele)
  6. Kansas (?)

I think Sean Weatherspoon will return, but I could be wrong.  If he doesn't...well, MU probably doesn't fall very far because NOBODY will have tremendous LBs in 2009.  Jeff Smart is solid, but that's really all CU has.  Smith and Garrin have had their moments at ISU, but...yeah, they're still only average.  NU returns Phil Dillard and some youngsters with potential, and if 'Spoon is in the NFL in 2009, that should give NU the best unit.

Defensive Backs

  1. Kansas State (CB Joshua Moore, CB Blair Irvin, S Courtney Herndon)
  2. Iowa State (CB Leonard Johnson, S James Smith)
  3. Nebraska (S Rickey Thenarse, S Larry Asante)
  4. Kansas (CB/S Chris Harris, S Darrell Stuckey, CB Daymond Patterson)
  5. Missouri (CB Carl Gettis, S Kenji Jackson)
  6. Colorado (CB Cha'pelle Brown, ?)

Oy.  If there's one reason why North offenses should still be pretty successful in 2009, it's because nobody in the North returns a quality secondary.  I'm probably underrating the Missouri secondary here--Iowa State game aside, Castine Bridges hasn't been anything special in '08, and there won't be a huge dropoff to Kevin Rutland or one of the RSFrs.  Meanwhile, Missouri fans are loving them some Kenji Jackson.  But only Carl Gettis will be proven.

Also, I might be overrating Iowa State, but I love me some Leonard Johnson.

North Defenses, 2009

  1. Nebraska (15)
  2. Missouri (12)
  3. Kansas State (11)
  4. Iowa State (10)
  5. Kansas (9)
  6. Colorado (6)

As with the offenses, each North defense will have its strengths and weaknesses...but not a lot of strengths.  Nebraska scores the best, and they're returning only about six starters.  Missouri loses William Moore and most of its D-line, and they still might have the best North defense.  Iowa State's D was brutal in '08, and they actually score pretty well here.  Big-time tossup.  A lot will come down to matchups and schedules...so after we look at special teams, we'll look at that.

Special Teams

  1. Iowa State (K Grant Mahoney, P Mike Brandtner, KR/PR's Leonard Johnson, Devin McDowell)
  2. Nebraska (K Alex Henery, KR/PR Niles Paul)
  3. Colorado (KR/PR Josh Smith, P Matt DiLallo, K Aric Goodman)
  4. Kansas State (KR/PR Deon Murphy, P George Pierson)
  5. Missouri (P Jake Harry, K Tanner Mills)
  6. Kansas (PR Daymond Patterson, K Jacob Branstetter, P Alonso Rojas)

Honestly, only ISU has a relatively complete special teams unit.  I'm optimistic that Missouri's return game will still be decent with Gahn McGaffie or whoever ends up back there, but that's me projecting greatness on newcomers...so for now they're stuck low on the list.  Colorado has a solid return man in Smith, but no kickers.  KSU has a solid return man in Murphy, but no kickers.  Kansas...yeah, same.

Coaches

  1. Missouri
  2. Kansas
  3. Nebraska
  4. Kansas State
  5. Colorado
  6. Iowa State

Mizzou could lose either or both coordinators, but I think this is where continuity pays off--the guys under the coordinators (Yost, Hill, Steckel, etc.) basically share the same brain as Eberflus and Christensen, so I'm not tremendously worried about losing the OC and DC.  Then again, I'm a homer.  KU took a lengthy step backwards after losing last year's DC, so who knows?  All I know is this: in the last two years, Gary Pinkel has blown up the "Pinkel Effect".  It no longer exists

So if we're going to add together all my admittedly arbitrary unit rankings (offense, defense, special teams, coaching), we end up with these standings.

2009 North Rankings

  1. Missouri (40 points)
  2. Nebraska (39)
  3. Kansas (33)
  4. Kansas State (30)
  5. Iowa State (25)
  6. Colorado (22)

Very loosely, there's a top tier (MU, NU, KU) and a bottom tier (KSU, ISU, CU).  And obviously, there are question marks here.  Is QB worth more than the other units?  Then KU gets a bump up.  Is there a "continuity of personnel" factor that will hurt Missouri (and possibly Nebraska)?  Am I understating Colorado's potential with their solid recruiting classes?  But we'll go with this for now.

--

-- Schedules --

Colorado

10/10 - at Texas
10/17 - Kansas
10/24 - at Kansas State
10/31 - Missouri
11/7 - Texas A&M
11/14 - at Iowa State
11/21 - at Oklahoma State
11/28 - Nebraska

South schedule: @ UT, @ OSU, ATM.  That screams "1-2."

North home slate: KU, MU, NU.  That's a good slate to have next year.  I obviously don't expect much out of Colorado in '09, but they'll most likely go at least 1-2 in those games.  I guess I'll say they beat KU, since KU's the lowest-ranked of the three.

North road slate: @ KSU, @ ISU.  Not a good slate to have next year.  Getting KSU and ISU at home would probably mean two wins, but on the road is a different story.

Waaaaaaay too early prediction: 2-6

Iowa State

10/3 - vs Kansas State (at Arrowhead)
10/10 - at Kansas
10/17 - Baylor
10/24 - at Nebraska
10/31 - at Texas A&M
11/7 - Oklahoma State
11/14 - Colorado
11/21 - at Missouri

South schedule: BU, @ ATM, OSU.  If ISU's defense takes a step forward, then they'll probably beat Baylor and at least have a chance against ATM.  Even though Baylor will be pretty decent next year, I'll say ISU wins that game and goes 1-2.

North home slate: CU.  They lose the KSU game to Arrowhead.  The ISU-KSU could very well be a "winner goes 6-6 and slips into a bowl" situation, and as you see, they could be pretty evenly-matched.  For no reason whatsoever, I say ISU goes 2-2 in these games.

North road slate: @ KU, @ NU, @ MU.  Ouch.  0-3.

Waaaaaaay too early prediction: 3-5

Kansas

10/10 - Iowa State
10/17 - at Colorado
10/24 - Oklahoma
10/31 - at Texas Tech
11/7 - at Kansas State
11/14 - Nebraska
11/21 - at Texas
11/28 - vs Missouri (still at Arrowhead, right?)

South schedule: OU, @ Tech, @ UT.  I really hope KU fans enjoyed 2007.  0-3.

North home slate: ISU, NU, vs Mizzou.  Assuming KU-MU is once again at Arrowhead, this once again hurts KU.  Instead of getting both NU and MU at home, they get one on a neutral field.  I say they beat ISU and NU, and naturally (ahem) lose to MU.  2-1.

North road slate: @ CU, @ KSU.  They're not losing both of these, and since I already have them losing to CU, I guess that means they beat KSU.  1-1.

Waaaaaaay too early prediction: 3-5.  It's amazing what scheduling can do.

Kansas State

10/3 - at Iowa State
10/10 - at Texas Tech
10/17 - Texas A&M
10/24 - Colorado
10/31 - at Oklahoma
11/7 - Kansas
11/14 - Missouri
11/21 - at Nebraska

South schedule: @ Tech, ATM, @ OU.  ATM is a big game, but I say KSU wins it.  1-2.

North home slate: CU, KU, MU.  It would not at all surprise me to see a young Mizzou team slip up on the road, so we'll arbitrarily say it happens in Manhattan.  That makes KSU 2-1 here.

North road slate: vs ISU, @ NU.  0-2.

Waaaaaaay too early prediction: 3-5.

Missouri

10/3 - Nebraska
10/17 - at Oklahoma State
10/24 - Texas
10/31 - at Colorado
11/7 - Baylor
11/14 - at Kansas State
11/21 - Iowa State
11/28 - vs Kansas

South schedule: @ OSU, UT, BU.  Gotta figure that's 1-2, though obviously Baylor will not be a pushover.

North home slate: NU, ISU. The NU game will be ha-yoooge.  But tie goes to the home team, right?  2-0.

North road slate: vs KU, @ CU, @ KSU.  Beat KU and CU, randomly lose to KSU.  2-1.

Waaaaaaay too early prediction: 5-3.

Nebraska

10/3 - at Missouri
10/17 - Texas Tech
10/24 - Iowa State
10/31 - at Baylor
11/7 - Oklahoma
11/14 - at Kansas
11/21 - Kansas State
11/28 - at Colorado

South schedule: TT, @ BU, OU.  Hmm.  No to BU and OU, but I think they'll take out Tech.  1-2.

North home slate: ISU, KSU.  2-0.

North road slate: @ MU, @ KU, @ CU.  We'll say 1-2.

Waaaaaaay too early prediction: 4-4.

Standings

  1. Missouri 5-3
  2. Nebraska 4-4
  3. Kansas 3-5 (brutal schedule)
  4. Kansas State 3-5
  5. Iowa State 3-5
  6. Colorado 2-6

Summary

It won't surprise me if the preseason mags pick KU (because of Reesing) or NU (because they're Nebraska) to win the North, and with the loss of Daniel, Maclin, Coffman, etc., it would very much surprise me to see anybody actually picking Mizzou.  But although I may be overrating Mizzou in the rankings, there's no question that getting NU at home and KU in KC gives them the scheduling advantage here.  In a three-team North race, it could come down to home-field advantage, and there's now no question in my mind that a third straight division title, if not a gimme by any means, is within reach, even in a rebuilding year.

But don't hold me to any of that.

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