To properly assess Kansas’s place in the hierarchy of Power Five programs, let’s consult Twitter.
Gotta say, kudos to Kansas. Clawing back vs. an FCS team isn't your ideal situation, but it's where the Jayhawks are.— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) September 5, 2015
Kansas is driving to pull it within ten. Not knowing who the underdog is anymore is messing with my emotions.— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) September 5, 2015
That chatter took place during the Jayhawks’ opener against FCS South Dakota State on Saturday, a game in which Kansas trailed 31–7 at one point and eventually lost 41–38. But in reality, folks around college football have been saying those things about the Jayhawks for a while; they are a certifiable tire fire right now, and Saturday’s result was just the latest in the history of recent failure in Lawrence.
It seems to have been ages ago that Kansas won the 2008 Orange Bowl under former coach Mark Mangino. The program won 12 games that year and looked to be establishing itself as a new contender in the Big 12. Now the Jayhawks look nowhere near a competent football program, and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon.
Since winning that Orange Bowl, Kansas is 24–52 overall, with only 12 wins in the last five seasons. Mangino resigned after the 2009 season amid pressure that included unsavory off-field allegations, and after the failed tenure of Turner Gill, Charlie Weis took over in ’12. But the once-respected offensive mind did nothing to resurrect the Jayhawks program, going 6–22 in two-plus seasons with only one conference win. Kansas fired Weis four games into the 2014 campaign, and he’s still pocketing paychecks from the school.
And the worst part for Kansas is it's still paying Charlie Weis for this dumpster fire.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 5, 2015
This fall the man tasked with rebuilding in Lawrence is David Beaty, a former Texas A&M assistant. On paper Beaty seems like a good hire for the Jayhawks: He spent three seasons as an assistant with the program and has deep ties with Texas recruiting after many years as a high school head coach in the state. Beaty is also a likeable guy, which contrasts starkly with the last few coaches to hold his job.
But if Saturday is any indication, Kansas is light years away from contention. It gave up 577 yards of offense (6.5 per play) and turned the ball over twice against the Jackrabbits. Though the Jayhawks eventually climbed back to within three points, they lost in the most Kansas way possible: A fumbled snap on what was supposed to be a spike play to set up a game-tying field goal attempt.
Despite the fumble, Montell Cozart might be the brightest silver lining for Kansas. He passed for 291 yards and added 95 on the ground with one touchdown Saturday. Cozart might fit the Air Raid-style scheme Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens envision for this offense if the staff can surround Cozart with enough talent.
The reality is Beaty has his work cut out for him across the roster. This program returns just six total starters from a year ago. Plus, Beaty takes over at a time when the Big 12 features contenders other than the usual Oklahoma and Texas, as Baylor and TCU continue to assert their newfound dominance. Even with Beaty’s recruiting background, he’ll be going up against a number of programs with much more on-field success to tout.
The best advice for Kansas fans at this juncture? Circle the month of November on your calendars, but not in hopes of a Big 12 title run. That’s just the month when basketball begins.