One of the more difficult challenge when discussing Kansas football this year has been the task of justifying, quantifying or verifying improvement. Part of that is where the expectations are set, part of that is the fact that we have different people looking for different things. Does Kansas pass the eyeball test? Can they do it with consistency? Is the perceived improvement something the Jayhawks are directly controlling or is it something that is more of a product of the competition?
These are all questions that keep us from buying in to any perceived improvement full bore. While we can't ever compare apples to apples year over year, we can try and since the defensive side of the ball seems to be where most of the positive improvements are coming from, let's give it a spin. Kansas is six games into the season this year. Last year we sat 2-4, this year we sit 1-5. Generally speaking the feeling this year seems to be more optimistic on the defensive side of the ball and with the return of James Sims. So how does this team measure up.
High level, Kansas is a better statistical team without question.
2011 Overall Defense: 120th Nationally
2011 Scoring Defense: 120th Nationally
At this point last year Kansas was giving up 545 yards per contest and 49 points per contest. The opponents to date were McNeese, Northern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Take away the Georgia Tech game and the overall numbers still don't look favorable as Kansas was giving up 524 yards per contest and 45 points per game.
2012 Overall Defense: 91st
2012 Scoring Defense: 77th
To date Kansas is giving up 433 yards per game and allowing opponents an average of 28 points per contest. The point total alone is enough to keep you in games. Had the Kansas offense done what we had hoped it could this year, the Jayhawks very well could be sitting at 3 to 5 wins with the Kansas State game being the only clear blowout of the season. This sample includes SDSU, NIU, TCU, Rice, K-State and Oklahoma State. It's probably fair to say that last years schedule to date was more difficult. Northern Illinois was better offensively, Georgia Tech was certainly better than Rice and Oklahoma State was a different team last year as well. Kansas State is probably better than the other Tech last year but overall last year's opponent list does present a more difficult offensive set.
What if those individual numbers are compared to the opponent average? In 2011 Kansas opponents were gaining on average 90 yards more per game against the Jayhawks than they would during the season. Take away a bit of an anomaly in Georgia Tech and Kansas is giving up 45 yards per game more than average per opponent.
In 2012 Kansas is holding opponents to an average of 38 fewer yards per game than their respective season long averages. Take away the Oklahoma State game where the Kansas defense did their best work and Kansas is holding teams right at their season averages.
The average margin of defeat for Kansas is 9 vs. 17 last year. Again, it's not apples to apples but it really is an improvement to date that could have resulted in some positive gains had we not had the sharp drop off offensively that we weren't really anticipating. Now Kansas has some of the more potent offensive attacks still on the schedule so it will be interesting to see if these numbers hold up and how they look at the end of the year. By the end of last season the numbers did look worse and at the end of this season there is a good chance that could be the case as well. WVU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor are all still on the schedule and those teams can move the football.
All that said, what is the feeling surrounding the job that Dave Campo and the Kansas defense has done? Is the visible improvement enough? Does the statistical improvement provide some hope? Are you till skeptical? Last year we asked Turner Gill for improvement and competitiveness. This year, outside of one game, Dave Campo and the defense have helped to provide that. How would you measure realistic success from this point forward?