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Tempering Expectations

This year's Kansas team is good. One could argue, and I did prior to the season, that this year's team is actually more talented than last year's 12-1, Orange Bowl Champion team. Whether it is or isn't is of little consequence, the facts clearly show that this team is better than nearly all of the teams in Kansas football history, and is nothing to be ashamed of. If last season would have been more of a gradual step up to, say, 8-4 or so, we would all be quite enthused by this 3-1 start, despite the heartbreaking loss in Tampa. And, realistically, we are likely expecting what would be another 4-loss season as the very best possible finish to this season, with a 6-6 step back not being entirely out of the question.

Entering the year expectations were at an all-time high for Kansas football. While there was no National Championship talk, and even winning the Big 12 was largely considered out of the question, we all expected, based off of last season's tremendous ride, for the Jayhawks to make some noise in the national picture, have a chance to win the Big 12 North and, hell, maybe even sneak into a BCS Bowl if everything were to fall just right. My preseason predictions pegged us at roughly 9-3, with 8-4 being the relative worst to expect and 10-2 being the ceiling.This, while considered a down year, even a potential fireable one, at plenty of schools nationwide is a newfangled idea in Lawrence.

However, the four games that we have seen since those expectations were showered on this team have not, well, let's just say they haven't exactly been achieved. A loss in Tampa was a setback, sure, but the actual loss in itself isn't too big of a concern. In all seriousness, while expecting a win against the Bulls, it wasn't a terrible shock to lose in such a hostile environment against such a good, talented team. How it happened, however, and the problems it gave rise to weren't so expected and weren't part of the equation that spat out a 9-3 regular season record in July and August.

And now here we are, sitting out a crossroads, unsure just where we will end up when all is said and done. However, while we just could improve enough to keep our preseason expectations a realistic goal, 9-3 seems to be a near impossibility at this point. Of course, that has as much to do with our Big 12 slate as it does with the offensive line and defensive line problems.

Just for fun, take a look at the most recent AP Top 25. And then, in case you have yet to engrain it into your brain, take a gander at Kansas' schedule. We still have a trip to the current #1 team in the entire country in Oklahoma. Then, the very next week, we will take on the current #7 Red Raiders of Texas Tech. A month-or-so later the 5th ranked Texas Longhorns pay a visit to Lawrence and then, in late November, we will take on the 4th ranked Missouri Tigers in Arrowhead.

But you knew all of that. But when put in such a way where half of our remaining 8 games are going to take place against teams currently among the Top 7 in the country, you kind of freak out. Not in a terribly, well, frightening way, sure, but in a sorta way that makes you seriously question, given our obvious holes, whether we can win even one of that set of four games.

While this likely goes without saying, I think we should be willing to accept a 7-5 year this year. Well, maybe not accept it, but at least be prepared for such a season. Sure, we could still, conceivably, find a way to win 9 games this year. Just to make things clear, I am, by no means, giving up on the season. I am looking forward to one of the most exciting conference seasons in Kansas football history and for our program to continue to rise up and reach the top of the college football ladder. We are, without a doubt, a program on the rise and a near-surefire contender for a Big 12 North title each and every year.

And now, just to close out this unnecessarily long post (I got carried away; sorry if it became unbearable), here is my revised prediction for how all of the conference games will fare:

@ Iowa State - WIN

vs. Colorado - WIN

@ Oklahoma - LOSS

vs. Texas Tech - WIN

vs. Kansas State - WIN

@ Nebraska - WIN

vs. Texas - LOSS

vs. Missouri - LOSS

Sorry, that is just how I see things shaking down. Discussion and disagreement is certainly allowed, and considering that I will actually get to attend the Kansas vs. Texas game (YAY!), it is depressing to currently mark it down as a L. However, they have looked substantially better thus far. But I digress. More on the UT Longhorns a little later on.

For now, just remember one thing: even if we go 8-4 (or hell, even 7-5), it doesn't mean we are on the downturn. In fact, it may be a positive, given the relative youth of our impact players and the treacherous schedule.