If you've been lulled to sleep by the football season prior to last weekend, no one could blame you. Following the rise of Kansas football under Mark Mangino and the subsequent meteoric decent, there were a lot of fans that stood by the Jayhawks, remained optimistic and took each decision surrounding the program as the potential domino that might just swing the momentum.
This year was a little different. This year fatigue set in. That feeling of hopelessness, the feeling that Kansas football was back in the stone age never to return and any optimism was hard to find. Then West Virginia happened. By no means was the game some sort of significant turning point, at least not that we know of yet, but at least it presented some hope. Kansas had managed a win against Big 12 competition and they actually did so in a fairly comfortable manner.
Charlie Weis turned over the reigns a bit, continued tweaking personnel and played to the strength of his players on offense which finally provided the support needed to give the defense a lift and the Jayhawks a win. Now the question becomes, can Kansas build on this momentum?
Last year as the season wore on there were signs of improvement throughout Big 12 play and it felt like the team was approaching a point where it might get over the proverbial hump. Iowa State, the same team Kansas will play this weekend, presented what felt like that opportunity at home. Kansas fell flat and the Cyclones railroaded the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
Now we're in a similar situation only the opportunity looks even more promising. Last year Iowa State was a decent team, but Kansas looked like they were starting to compete with decent teams. This year, Iowa State might be as bad as Kansas...maybe. The Cyclone Offense has performed only slightly better than Kansas, while the defense has been perhaps a smidge worse. Iowa State is in the midst of trying to rebuild after losing some key pieces and the patented Paul Rhoades quietly successful season just hasn't happened. Ever since he stepped foot on campus in Ames, Rhoades has exceeded outside expectations on almost an annual basis, but that just isn't the case this year. For the first time in recent memory Iowa State is down as they were expected to be and that might just open a window of opportunity for Kansas.
Now it's important to realize that Iowa State is still favored in this one. It's a thin line, but they are still favored. Kansas hasn't won a road Big 12 contest since the Mangino era and that streak might prove even more difficult to break than the one broken last week at home. At the very least though, there is some hope. Kansas will go on the road with confidence. They have a young quarterback who is calm and being put in a position to succeed with limited responsibility. The running game is working and that's where Kansas should lean.
It's a tall order to look at this program and think that they could win back to back Big 12 games including one on the road, but that's exactly what this team has a very real opportunity to achieve this week. It won't be easy, nothing ever is right now with Kansas football, but Iowa State is 1-9, that's not good and what's worse for them is things have been sliding downhill and not working uphill. Both teams will be looking for a win this weekend. Kansas will hope to build on the West Virginia victory, while Iowa State will hope to turn their fortunes back in a positive direction. Fortunately for the first time in quite some time Kansas fans will get to watch this one with some small bit of hope.