Before we delve into the quarter-by-quarter analysis of the greatest football game ever played with myself in attendance, I just want to talk about the long-term ramifications and such. This was an incredibly important game for this program, and even were we to lose it still would have a positive impact in the long-term. But we didn't lose, did we?
And I thought that we weren't even supposed to be there?
Way back in July, a good month-and-a-half before the first kickoff of the season, I was thinking of different ways to preview this football season. One of the ideas, one that I thought was a good one, was to countdown the Top 20 reasons why the Kansas Jayhawks weren't going to win the National Championship. It was going to be a light-hearted jab at the long-term struggles of the Kansas football program, a chance to vent about the grievances piled on this program by previous coaches (read: Allen, Terry) while openly admitting that our talent wasn't up to par with those of more serious National Championship endeavors. I predicted a 7-0 start to the season, an 8-4 overall record. I thought we were going to be really good this year, the best team (most likely) since way back in 1995. And even then, I treated a potential National Championship as a joke, something that we would have to wait until March just to hope for.
And here we sit, 6 days after a BCS victory. We did start 7-0, just like I predicted, but we didn't stop there. As the football team continued to win, and others across the country continued to fall, Kansas became a story of this college football season. A major one. We soared up to #2 in the rankings, controlling our own destiny on whether we would reach a national championship game. The very game I jokingly claimed we had no shot to get to was very much within our grasp, a reasonable goal only two wins, on neutral fields, away.
We didn't get to the Mythical National Championship game in New Orleans this season. But we were in the conversation up until the end, we still are in the conversation. And for a program who didn't earn a postseason berth last season, a program who has wallowed in football mediocrity for the majority of the last 4 decades, a program who had become known as a punch-line to Nebraska's outright domination in the 1990s, a program who had been the "little brother" to the big, money-making favorite son in the basketball program, that was just fine. This season was a coming-out party, a message to the rest of the country that Kansas football is here. And here for good. In a season where no one could string together more than a handful of wins, we won 11 in a row. In a season where everyone lost to someone they weren't supposed to, we outscored our non-conference opponents 214-13. We proved our worth time-and-time again, establishing credibility that will make a future National Championship run an actual possibility.
The way the college football system is put together, it is nearly impossible to do anything with your season unless you have at least some name value. As much as I believe that this season was no fluke, that it was instead a changing of the guard and an undeniable move in the direction of parity, odds are there won't be Appy State-over-Michigans every year. Two teams, Kansas and Missouri, who didn't start in the Top 25 being ranked in the Top 2 doesn't happen. Ever. You have to start somewhere in the Top 25, at least catch the eye of the writers sometime in June, July or August. And because of this season, this magical season capped off with the thrilling victory over Virginia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl, Kansas football has stuck their foot in the door. We aren't an automatic victory, we aren't even a "most-likely" any more. We are a legitimate program, a program capable of beating anybody, anywhere, anytime.
And that will be the ultimate consequence of this season. As magical, as remarkable, as fantastical, this season represents a permanent change for Kansas football. It was step one of a multi-step process to become one of college football's elite, to become a big boy in the only sport where your name means almost as much as your actual, on-field performance.
I love it when I do these kind of pieces. They always end up disjointed and hard-to-read, with the true purpose hiding behind lesser, secondary points. Oh, well, hopefully somebody, somewhere understands what I'm trying to say. Because of some scheduling conflicts, the rest of the Orange Bowl coverage will have to wait until Friday at the earliest.