The search for that one stat or tiny reason that Kansas football could win on any given week in 2022
If you look at the numbers from ESPN’s Football Power Index, KU’s chances of winning a bunch of football games this fall aren’t great.
According to the index, KU has a better than 50% chance of winning just two games — 97.1% vs. Tennessee Tech and 57.5% vs. Duke — and a 14.3% chance or less of winning nine games.
That includes three games where KU’s win percentage probability is in single digits and two more at 10.8% and 11.1%.
If you’ve been paying attention, either to the KU program or the league it plays in, none of this surprises you.
And I’m certainly not going to be the guy who tells you they’re going to win more. Judging by its opponents’ records from the 2021 season, KU is facing the 21st toughest schedule among FBS teams in 2022.
But as I sat around contemplating exactly what I was going to predict for the Jayhawks’ win-loss record in 2022 — at this point, I’m still debating between two or three wins — I found myself intrigued by the challenge of providing one, single, solitary reason why Kansas could win each of its games during the 2022 season.
Again, I’m not saying it will happen. Heck, I’m not even saying it’ll be close. But it’s easy to say that. It’s harder to dig in, do a little research and find one stat or fact that might — MIGHT — inspire you to think a win is possible.
Here is the result of that work:
Week 1 – vs. Tennessee Tech. A layup out of the gate. The Golden Eagles were 3-8 last season and surrendered 42 points or more five times in 2021. KU’s talent level and coaching are good enough now for this to be a comfortable victory.
Week 2 – at West Virginia. It gets noticeably tougher in Week 2, but the Jayhawks could catch a break from the schedule makers. WVU opens with longtime, bitter rival Pitt and then plays at Virginia Tech in Week 3. The matchup with Pitt, dubbed The Backyard Brawl, will be the first since 2011. And with two tough and emotional tests like that lighting up WVU’s schedule, KU could reap the benefits of simply being overlooked by the Mountaineers.
Week 3 – at Houston. It’s been nearly a decade and things have changed a lot since then, but even a bad Kansas football team has defeated Houston coach Dana Holgorsen. That came back in 2013, when KU knocked off Holgorsen and West Virginia 31-19 in the second-to-last game of the season in Lawrence. The Mountaineers went 4-8 that season and Holgorsen started 4-8 and 3-5 during his first two seasons at Houston after leaving WVU. Houston was 12-2 last year and are a preseason Top 25 team this year. But their head coach has lost to the Jayhawks before.
Week 4 – vs. Duke. This is the other game that ESPN’s Football Power Index gives KU the nod in, with a 57.5% win probability at this point. It’s also one of the rare games in which Kansas could be — and likely should be — favored. Confidence could be a concern if the Jayhawks are coming off of back-to-back road losses. But that also could work in their favor. After tough games at WVU and Houston, this one could be easier to look forward to and get excited about.
Week 5 – vs. Iowa State. Back home for the second week in a row, the Jayhawks will look to take down an Iowa State team that is replacing its starting quarterback (Brock Purdy), running back (Breece Hall) and tight end (Charlie Kolar) from last season’s offense. All three were among the best players to ever play their positions at ISU, and it remains to be seen whether four weeks is enough time for the Cyclones’ new-look offense to find its groove. KU’s offense has weapons and depth, but this feels like a game that could be on the defense.
Week 6 – vs. TCU. Let’s talk fresh memories here. Last season, KU took the Horned Frogs down to the wire, losing 31-28 on the road in the second-to-last game of the 2021 season. Many of the players who played in that game are back with the Jayhawks this year and, depending on how the first five weeks go, they should have a fair amount of confidence going into this matchup at home. Add to that the fact that Gary Patterson is no longer leading the Horned Frogs and new TCU coach Sonny Dykes is in his first year leading the program and there’s an added wrinkle that could favor the more experienced team and settled program.
Week 7 – at Oklahoma. This one really isn’t that hard. It may have been 26 years since Kansas last won at Oklahoma, but the Sooners are in a bit of disarray entering the 2022 season. New head coach Brent Venables is a heck of a football coach, but he’s doing the head job for the first time and with the Sooners transitioning to a new style, system and philosophy, there could be growing pains. That might not be enough to keep Kansas in the game, but Kansas had OU on the ropes last year in Lawrence, so it’s not entirely crazy to think KU could be competitive again in 2022.
Week 8 – at Baylor. Fresh off of their Big 12 championship, the Bears figure to be riding high under third-year coach Dave Aranda, who led the team to a 12-2 record in 2021. There’s little doubt that the BU offensive and defensive lines will be stout this season, but it’s the contributions of those around them that could be a question. According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, the Bears return just 46% of their statistical production from last season, ranking them 126th out of 131 FBS teams in that department. KU, by comparison, returns 84% of its production.
Week 9 – Bye.
Week 10 – vs. Oklahoma State. This was the toughest one on the list. OSU thoroughly dominated KU, 55-3, in last year’s meeting and, with OU and Texas leaving the Big 12 soon, Mike Gundy’s program may just be the class of the conference. So let’s go with the old “trap game” answer here. The Cowboys will be coming off of what figures to be a massive game at K-State the week before and also will be playing host to Iowa State a week later, with their Bedlam battle with OU looming two weeks after traveling to KU. That’s not much, but we’re talking November here, and if this is one of those 11 a.m. kickoffs with next to no atmosphere in Lawrence, we’ve all seen what that can do to KU’s opponents from time to time.
Week 11 – at Texas Tech. If you’re looking for a game where KU’s air attack and wide receivers could make the difference, this might be it. The Red Raiders ranked dead last in the Big 12 in pass defense in 2021, giving up 271 yards per game through the air and a whopping 34 touchdowns. For context, KU’s pass D surrendered 237 yards per game and 27 TDs via the pass. Sure, it’s a new coaching staff in Lubbock, Texas, this year, but that could add to the equation here. Several KU wideouts will be facing off against their old KU position coach, Emmett Jones, who’s now coaching the receivers for TTU boss Joey McGuire, and it’s more than possible that they’ll be a little extra motivated to show him what he’s missing.
Week 12 – vs. Texas. It can’t happen again. Can it?
Week 13 – at Kansas State. The Wildcats have won 13 in a row in this series, by an average margin of victory of 27 points per win, no less. K-State is clearly the better program right now and there’s talk about the Wildcats being a sleeper pick to win the Big 12 this year. But you all know the saying about rivalries. You also know the concept of a team being due. It’ll take more than that for Kansas to win this one, but you have to wonder how much longer the longest winning streak by either program in the 120-year history of the Sunflower Showdown can last.