It’s game week! Let’s take a look at some burning questions you probably didn’t know you had. And don’t worry, I won’t waste space on dumb questions that nobody knows the answer to like “Will there be a season,” or obvious questions like “Who is the most important player on offense.” (Everybody knows it’s Pooka Williams.)
What’s the most important game on the schedule?
Well, it seems pretty obvious to me that it’s the first one. Coastal Carolina will be here on Sept 12, and there will be a football game played. Beyond that, we don’t know what will happen over the rest of the semester. So, it’s the only game guaranteed to be played - or as close to guaranteed as is possible in the current geopolitical climate.
But it’s important for other reasons as well, not the least of which is the fact that KU lost to these guys last year in an absolutely abysmal performance. Not only do the Jayhawks have amends to make, but they have a chance to make a huge statement to start off the season if they can pummel a team that the numbers say is a slight favorite.
What freshman is poised to make the greatest impact in 2020?
A lot of people you read might say DaJon Terry or Steven Parker, but that would be cheating - those guys are redshirt freshmen, as they were members of the 2019 recruiting class. I’m going to hedge and give you three guys to keep an eye on.
CB JaCobee Bryant was KU’s highest-rated recruit in the 2020 class, and with nearly every starter in the secondary gone from last season, he should have the opportunity to see the field early and often.
WR Lawrence Arnold was the highest-rated offensive player in the 2020 class. Arnold reported multiple P5 offers, and at 6’3” he has that “NFL size” that Les Miles likes in wide receivers.
TE Will Huggins has the opportunity to be a nearly unstoppable playmaker for Kansas. At 6’6” 235 lbs, he’s got the size, and from all indications he has the speed to be a real matchup problem. KU has upperclassmen at the TE position, but hasn’t gotten much production out of that spot for the last few years.
How should we define “progress” in 2020?
KU went 3-9 last season, capping a decade that saw the football program go a miserable 21-99 (.175). Once again, progress is unlikely to manifest in the win column in 2020. With KU dropping two nonconference games due to Covid, getting 3 or more wins out of the schedule becomes that much more difficult. Kansas has not defeated multiple conference opponents in the same season since 2008(!!!). Les Miles is truly starting at the bottom of the barrel here.
Therefore, progress will be measured much more abstractly, manifested in things like competitiveness, discipline (penalties), preparedness, and the like. Kansas had five games last season where they trailed by 21 or more points entering the fourth quarter. Improve that number while upsetting a Big 12 team or two, and you should be able to note real, actual progress.
Who will be the starting quarterback?
I wasn’t going to include this question, but I know it’s on everyone’s mind, so it’s worth addressing again.
The real answer is, nobody knows outside of Les Miles and Brent Dearmon. I’m on record (written and verbal) as saying that I’d like to see Thomas MacVittie given the reigns, but if I’m not going to be upset by any means if Miles Kendrick beats him out. And, by all indications, Jalon Daniels still appears to have an opportunity to come in and do something this fall as well.
Obviously we have to guard ourselves from coach speak, but Miles claims that once they choose their starter, they will stick with him week in and week out. If Daniels is the quarterback of the future, it makes sense to get him in the games and see what he can do, since the NCAA has confirmed fall athletes will retain a year of eligibility.
Conversely, it might also be nice to have a senior starting quarterback for two years in Thomas MacVittie. Kendrick is a junior this year, so he wins the job, he has three years of eligibility remaining. Either way, KU should have an upperclassman behind center for multiple years.
Can Kansas qualify for a bowl game?
The revised qualifications for bowl eligibility have yet to be determined. Typically, teams have to finish with a .500 record or better, although a few 5-7 teams have played in bowls when there weren’t enough eligible teams to fill slots.
I’ve read here and there about lowering the requirement to being within two games of .500, but here’s the thing: there are currently still 41 bowl games on the schedule. Only 76 of 130 teams are playing games this fall, so it’s possible that most if not all of them may be invited to a bowl game, even if not all 41 bowls (82 spots) are played.
There is all kinds of talk about making bowl season “an extension of the season” or a “celebration of college football,” so I’ll put this question to you, fellow Jayhawk fans - how about Kansas vs Arkansas in the Frisco Bowl in Dallas?