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Kansas Jayhawks, #4 Football Team in the Country

Our rise to #4 in the BCS wasn't surprising to most BCS experts. We finally received some respect from the human voters, sliding past idle West Virginia and losing Arizona State and Boston College into #5 in both the USA Today poll and Harris poll from #7 last week. That, coupled with the affection the computers have towards the Jayhawks (we are 4th as a whole; as high as 2nd according to Sagarin) has moved us up to #4 in the BCS. That is pretty special in itself, but as of now, it holds much more weight. Why?

Because honestly, there are only 4 legitimate national championship contenders. Obviously, were a team like Missouri to beat both Kansas and Oklahoma they could slide up, but they have a substantial portion of percentage points to make up that Kansas already has. And in a normal year, a year with a substantially less amount of upsets, the big story is Oregon's emergence from 'really good' to 'national title contender'. Ohio State would largely be a given, just as they are now as long as they continue to win, and there would be a widespread debate over who their opponent should be, Oregon or LSU. Do you take an LSU team that has had quite a dramatic touch, having their last 4 games become instant classics, etched into the minds of college football fans nationwide. Or do you prefer to support the Ducks, a team with more quality wins (@ Michigan, vs. USC, vs. Arizona State) than the Bayou Bengals. Add in the fact that the Pac-10 is closer to the SEC in terms of talent than any conference has been in the last 10 years and you have quite a debate going, one that would garner much of the airspace and ink.

But then, here sits Kansas. Traditional doormat, national laughingstock Kansas. The team that has never won more than 3 games in the Big 12, a conference they have now been a part of for 12 years. The team who does not have a single 4 or 5 star recruit starting on either side of the ball, compared to the bounty of USC third-stringers who can boast a 5 star rating from either Scout or  Rivals. Here sits the team that some picked to finish last in the Big 12 North, most finished to finish 5th, and some of the more optimistic viewers (outside of Lawrence) had a 4th place finish pegged. Even in Lawrence, some of the most optimistic views (myself included) had us going 8-4, finishing 3rd in the Big 12 North and making our way to a halfway-decent bowl. The Texas Bowl maybe. Or maybe the Insight Bowl. In any case, nobody was talking about even a possible Big 12 North champion.

This preseason view, or misconception if you well, of Kansas' talent level and, therefore, their expected amount of success, has halted our rise to #4 in the BCS. I find it funny that we finally made our big step, finally completely broke the seal of 'realness' in the eyes of the national media in the game which might have been our worst performance to date. Our offense was remarkable, sure. But this is the Nebraska defense, after-all, the same Nebraska defense to give up 40 points at home against Ball State. The same defense to give up 41 points to Mizzou, 35 at home against Oklahoma State in the first half, 36 to A&M. They allowed Texas RB Jamaal Charles to run for 213 yards and 3 TD's in one quarter, for goodness sakes, so it isn't like we went up against the '85 Bears.

But 76 points is 76 points is 76 points. At least in the eyes of the national media, and despite our defense playing like relative crap in the first half (and only playing decent in the second; take away the turnovers and they probably score 50 on us) we are now, but not until now, finally regarded as a legitimate national championship contender.

That is, unless you are so infatuated with the past days of college football, so enamored with old titans clashing year-in and year-out for the same trophy. Then, using only the fact that "It's Kansas!!11!11one!!1!" as your argument, you proceed to generally write off Kansas as a BCS-caliber team at-best.

Crazy, you ask? I just watched 'The Official BCS Ratings Show' , DVRd from late last night on the FSN network of channels, where Petros Papadakis claimed that 'Kansas has no shot of finishing the year undefeated, and even if they did finish the year undefeated they didn't deserve a chance at the national title'.

Now, if you reply by claiming that everything coming out of Papadakis' mouth is crap, I say 'Touche!'. But the fact remains that thoughts are still lingering in people's heads, people who have yet to sit down and simply watch Kansas football.

Is Kansas the 4th best team in the country? I don't know, your guess is as good as mine. But the fact is we are in prime position to make a trip down to New Orleans for the National Championship Game, no matter who tries and blow it off as some 'decent' team who has played 'nobody'.

We will get more into our actual chances of getting there and what needs to happen, but for now, just soak it in. Soak in the fact that Kansas football, not basketball, has better chances of winning a National Championship in 2007-2008. It's true. If we win our last 4 games (including the Big 12 Championship Game), we should be in the National Championship Game.

Just wow.