If you're like me, one of your favorite and most memorable college football seasons took place in 2007. Before seeing the LSU Tigers take down the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game, we saw one of the wildest seasons in college football history.
The season kicked off with Appalachian State upsetting the Michigan Wolverines, as the Mountaineers blocked a Michigan field goal as time expired. We were also introduced to the "Curse of the No. 2" after the AP Poll ranked number two was defeated seven times in the final nine weeks of the regular season. The number two seed wasn't the only dramatic rank, as both the number one seed and the number two seed lost in the same week three times in 2007, something that hadn't occurred even once in just over a decade.
Your usual suspects competed for a national title, of course, but you also had the likes of Boston College, Missouri, California, and South Florida make appearances inside the top ten and even the top five spots of the AP Poll. Another team in the midst of all the drama was the Kansas Jayhawks. In 2007, the Jayhawks went 12-1 (7-1), losing their only game of the season in the regular season finale to Missouri. Had they won that game, Kansas would have gone on to compete for a Big 12 Conference title and potentially a national title.
So Why Are We Talking About 2007 15 Years Later?
The 2022 college football season has not been as exciting in terms of upsets, but we are only five weeks in and anything can happen between now and the end of November. One thing that 2022 shares in common with 2007 is that the Kansas Jayhawks are off to their best start since 2007 with a 5-0 record. Aside from their 2008 season that saw the Jayhawks win eight games, we have not seen any type of good football from Kansas recently. Since 2008, they have zero bowl wins, zero winning seasons, and two completely winless seasons.
So, is this kind of performance sustainable? Time will tell, but given their style of play, their current coaching staff, and their improvement in recruiting, the current answer is: most likely. As painful as it is, all Big 12 conference members should be rooting for the Jayhawks to stay relevant. With Oklahoma and Texas departing for the SEC, there's a gaping hole left in the conference. With USC and UCLA set to join the Big Ten, there are talks of a potential merger of the Big 12 and Pac-12 Conferences, but that seems unlikely for now.
The Big 12 says goodbye to the Longhorns and Sooners but welcomes in three promising teams in 2023: Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston. All three schools have been some of the better Group of Five teams, with UCF remaining undefeated in 2017 and the Bearcats making the College Football Playoff in 2021.
So, is Kansas more than a basketball school? And why does it matter?
The Big 12 Is Getting a Bigger Share of the Stage
The Baylor Bears and Oklahoma State Cowboys will become the top dogs of the conference once Texas and Oklahoma leave, and teams like Texas Tech, Kansas State, West Virginia, and TCU will battle for the middle ground. The Kansas Jayhawks are rising at the right time; their consistent status as an eight or more wins team makes the conference more competitive, which makes college football playoff resumes look even better both on paper and in reality.
The College Football Playoff is expanding to twelve teams, meaning spots five through twelve are now just as important as spots one through four. Teams with two losses are now capable of making it into the playoffs. If the bottom of your conference improves, and if the bottom of your conference is better than middle of the rest of the conferences, then you are going to have more quality conference wins added to your playoff resume. This is why the SEC and Big Ten get so much love in both the AP Poll and the College Football Playoff Rankings. Aside from the anomalies of Vanderbilt and Rutgers, most of these teams have heavy hitters from top to bottom, with two, three, and even four teams finishing with 10 or more wins. And then you have another handful of teams that are within that seven-to-nine-win mark, and winning their bowl games.
Rock, Chalk, Jayhawks Football is Back
If you're not paying attention to what's going on in Kansas then you should start. This is not a fluke year and this is not a team taking advantage of an off year for the rest of the conference. The fact of the matter is that the Kansas Jayhawks are legit and need to be taken more seriously from AP Poll voters to college football fan across the country.
Going forward, the Jayhawks' continued success is not only good for Kansas University but also good for the future of the Big 12 Conference, and for the future of the entire college football landscape.
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