Last May, a survey taken of 12 Lawrence men who cut hair for a living resulted in four of them predicting a 10-2 regular-season record for Kansas University’s 2008 football team. Six guessed 9-3, one forecasted an 8-4 finish, and only Rockie Browning of “Images” on Ninth Street nailed it with a fearless forecast of 7-5.
Give two guys credit for picking with their heads. The other 10 let their hearts make the call.
If 7-5 sounds too much like the same old Kansas football season, take a closer look to realize that this season’s 7-5 is really more like 8-4 because of the difficult schedule.
A year ago, Kansas benefited from a schedule that didn’t include Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. This year, the Jayhawks were the only North team that had to face all three powers. The three-way tie among the South powers has created quite a controversy, given that computers had a role in choosing the Sooners to represent the South in the Big 12 title game.
Meanwhile, what nobody has bothered to notice yet is that three teams from the inferior Big 12 North were nearly as closely bunched as were the three South teams. One reason that has flown under the radar is because there was no three-way tie. Missouri and Nebraska tied for first, Kansas finished a game back, and Missouri advances based on its blowout victory against the Cornhuskers.
Yet, all three Big 12 North teams went 4-1 against teams from the North. The difference: Missouri and Nebraska picked up a win apiece against Baylor, which wasn’t on KU’s schedule.
Sometimes the schedule helps, sometimes it hurts. Eventually, it all evens out.
The 7-5 also feels more like 8-4 because the season included such a bad beating of rival Kansas State that the Wildcats fired their coach a few days later and had him walk the plank from the sidelines for the remainder of the season, and because it included a thrilling victory against KU’s No. 1 rival, nationally ranked Missouri.
Before last season’s 7-1 conference finish, KU never had done better than 3-5 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks finished 4-4 this season.
“We’d like to say, ‘Hey, maybe if we’d have done this better or this better, maybe we’d be better than 7-5,’” Kansas coach Mark Mangino said after the game. “The reality of it is we’re 7-5. And at least we finished on a strong note, and we’ll get ready to play a bowl game. We’re excited about that. Our players are looking forward to it, and let’s go get another win.”
Kansas can’t officially sign with a bowl until Selection Sunday, but the way the dominoes will fall, it’s a lock the Jayhawks will compete in the Insight Bowl in Tempe on New Year’s Eve. Minnesota is the most likely opponent, although Wisconsin remains a possibility.
If Glen Mason’s last two schools face off, KU will be favored heavily against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers take a 7-5 record and four-game losing streak into the bowl season. Not only that, they are coming off of a 55-0 loss to Iowa. After that humiliation, the offensive line coach resigned, and Gophers coach Tim Brewster raided Alabama’s coaching staff to replace him. In his second season after replacing the ousted Mason, Brewster has an 8-16 record.
If Minnesota’s the bowl foe, Kansas finally catches a scheduling break.