Six-and-oh and six to go. The table is set for a special season for Kansas University's football team.
The Jayhawks - or "Fighting Manginos" as some call them - are scrapping for a legacy most teams of the program's past can only dream of. After crushing Baylor, 58-10, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Kansas became bowl-eligible in mid-October - much sooner than usual.
But it's almost an afterthought with so many bigger goals in its reach. The Jayhawks are 6-0 overall, 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play. They're ranked 15th in the latest Top 25 polls. Kansas is one of six undefeated teams left in the 120-team Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).
After going 6-6 last season, Kansas already has thrown its mediocre past aside. But how did the Jayhawks do it?
"We are just a better football team in all areas," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "We are better physically. We are better assignment-wise. We are a little bit more mature and mentally tougher."
The gritty, likable quarterback Todd Reesing has lived up to his nickname "Sparky," passing for 1,652 yards, 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions so far in leading a rejuvenated offense to 50.3 points per game.
On defense, the talented and cocky Aqib Talib has guided an impressive turnaround. KU's defense against the pass doomed its chances in 2006, but it's a strength in '07. The Jayhawks have 12 interceptions in their past four games. Talib has three of them, including one returned 100 yards for a touchdown last month in what Mangino called "one of most impressive plays I've seen."
"We are more experienced and confident this year," safety Justin Thornton said. "That experience helps us out a lot."
KU's fast start has caught the eye of pundits nationwide, and all but assures that the Jayhawks will be playing in a bowl game after Christmas. Road trips to San Diego, Dallas, San Antonio, Jacksonville, Fla., Phoenix or El Paso, Texas are all early possibilities for the holiday season.
But there's still a lot to play out, and for Kansas, the toughest is yet to come in the regular season.
Kansas has road games at Colorado and Texas A&M; the next two weeks. Tradition-rich Nebraska comes to Lawrence on Nov. 3. Games at Oklahoma State and against Missouri next month won't be easy.
But for now, the Jayhawks are in a spot most teams in college football envy. They're perfect, and gaining national recognition for it at a fast pace.
"We are happy about it," Mangino said of the 6-0 mark. "A lot of people wish they were, and we are. But we know we are just at the halfway point."
KU players to watch
Kansas University's football team is off to a 6-0 start, ranking it among the top 15 teams in the country. A look at a few of the players making it happen:
Todd Reesing, quarterback
Reesing is known to many for being undersized at just 5-feet-10, 190 pounds. But the Austin, Texas, native has been impressive orchestrating KU's offensive attack. A sophomore, he has thrown for 1,632 yards and 16 touchdowns, throwing just four interceptions. But it's Reesing's leadership, intangibles and never-say-die attitude that's spread to the whole team. Coach Mark Mangino nicknamed him "Sparky" and the name stuck.
Aqib Talib, cornerback
Talib, a lightly recruited playmaker out of Richardson, Texas, brings a cocky confidence to the game that few can back up. He can, though. As a defender, Talib has recorded three interceptions and 25 tackles. He occasionally lines up on offense as a wide receiver, and it's usually productive - Talib has seven catches for 174 yards and four touchdowns in the limited role. He is a junior, but Talib is expected to consider leaving KU after this season to go to the NFL.
Joe Mortensen, linebacker
A hard-hitting tough guy out of Concord, Calif., Mortensen was moved to middle linebacker before this season and now can be seen involved in just about every play on defense. Mortensen, a junior, leads the team with 55 tackles, 11 of which resulted in a loss of yardage.
Jake Sharp, running back
A small, speedy player out of Salina, Sharp splits his duties as a running back with Lawrence High product Brandon McAnderson. But Sharp has proven to be the more explosive option. He has rushed for 498 yards on just 76 carries, with five going for touchdowns. He's just a sophomore, meaning he has a bright future ahead of him.