Last week we took at look at the worst seasons in KU football history. Whew boy, there's been some bad football played on Mount Oread. While it's been a few years since the last winning season (thank you Perkins, Gill, and Weis), we've also had our moments in the sun (so to speak) as well.
In their history, the Jayhawks only have four 10+ win seasons (1899, 1905, 1995, 2007). You're only going to see one of those seasons on this list (primarily due to strength of schedule). Glen Mason's 1995 squad only ranks 8th all-time in the SRS despite winning 10 games, the Aloha Bowl, and finishing 9th in the final AP poll of that year after starting the season unranked.
So let's see who the best KU teams of all-time were. Let's just say, it was good to be a KU football fan in the 1960s.
5. 2007, 12-1 (7-1 Big 12), +14.45 SRS, #2 Sagarin, #15 F/+
Recency bias might make you think that this was the best KU team of all-time, and no doubt they were very, very good. They put up the most points ever allowed by a Nebraska defense (still a record), scored 40+ points eight times, and finished 7th in the AP after climbing to #2 in the poll while starting the season unranked. I know I'm never going to forget 2007 and how much fun it was watching Reesing, Sharp, Briscoe, and company roll through the year. These Jayhawks scored 556 points on the year, the most ever by a KU football team. (The next closest? The 2008 squad scored 434.)
Kansas ranked 2nd of 120 teams in points scored per game (42.8) and 4th in points allowed (16.4). The season culminated in an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, after which Aqib Talib made his famous "I felt like Deion" quote.
4.1961, 7-3-1 (5-2 Big 8), +15.22 SRS
Jack Mitchell was in his fourth season as the KU head coach, and the KU program was rolling. 1961 saw KU's highest-ever pre-season ranking in the AP poll (#8). Led by John Hadl and Curtis McClinton, the season did not start out well, with a home tie to Wyoming sandwiched by a pair of 1-point road losses to TCU and Colorado. But then KU went streaking, winning six in a row before a season-finale loss to Missouri. The Jayhawks would then go on to smoke Rice in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Kansas finished 13th out of 111 teams in points scored per game (24.5) and 11th out of 111 teams in points allowed per game (8.0). Only three teams scored in double figures on the Jayhawks (TCU 17, Colorado 20, Missouruh 10).
3.1973, 7-4-1 (4-2-1 Big 8), +15.73 SRS
In the third year of his first stint as the KU headman, legendary Missouri-hater Don Fambrough led the Jayhawks to one of their best seasons ever. While it may not have necessarily shown in the W/L record, this Kansas team was one of the strongest in the history of the school. Led by David Jaynes and Delvin Williams, these 'Hawks finished ranked 18th in the final AP poll of 1973. Two of KU's losses were by a single point (Tennessee, Nebraska). The Jayhawks blew out Washington St, Florida State (in Tallahassee), and Minnesota in the non-con.
After getting smashed by OU, KU recovered to defeat Missouruh and earn a Liberty Bowl berth, where they fell to N.C. State.
2.1968, 9-2 (6-1 Big 8), +18.01 SRS
In Pepper Rodgers' second year at the helm, the Jayhawks started unranked before moving to as high as #3 in the AP poll. KU would finish the season at #7. Led by Bobby Douglass and John Riggins, these Jayhawks had a potent offense, finishing 5th of 119 teams with 35.8 points per game. The defense was respectable, finishing 43rd of 119 teams allowing 17.3 points per game. KU smashed through Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State, only falling to a then-unranked Oklahoma team by four points in Lawrence. (That OU team would finish the season ranked #11.)
The season culminated in the 1969 Orange Bowl, which KU had in the bag after standing strong on a 2-pt conversion attempt by Penn State late in the game. However, a penalty was called on the play, and the Nittany Lions converted on their second opportunity, denying KU the Orange Bowl trophy.
1.1960 7-2-1 (6-0-1 Big 8), +19.49 SRS
This quite possibly may have been the best KU team of all time regardless of the questions surrounding Bert Coan's eligibility. The Big 8 (and Missouri) officially changed KU's record to 5-4-1, with KU forfeiting the last two games against Colorado and Missouri, but that hasn't changed the results on the field (Reggie Bush agrees) or in the NCAA recordbook.
Kansas finished 21st of 113 teams in points per game (21.9) and 24th in points allowed per game (8.9). KU suffered losses only to #2 Syracuse and then-#1 Iowa, both on the road. The only challenge the Jayhawks had in conference play was when unranked Oklahoma played KU to a tie in Lawrence. The final game of the season saw the Jayhawks stomp then top-ranked Missouri in Columbia. Due to the Bert Coan scandal, however, KU was forced to forfeit the last two games of the season, and Missouri went to the Orange Bowl instead of the Jayhawks.
The 1960 and 1968 teams are both rated significantly higher than any other KU squads by the SRS. The "Best teams in KU history" went 5-0 vs K-State but only 3-2 vs Missouri.
40 years passed between KU's only trips to the Orange Bowl, and their best chances in school history to compete for a national title. It may be another 40 years before KU reaches that point again. Here's hoping David Beaty is the man to make sure it doesn't take that long.