Is it fair to say that Kansas has had a modicum of success at home, even over the last 11 seasons? Probably not, but, the Jayhawks knocked off Texas Tech in 2019, TCU in 2018, and Texas in 2016. In that same time frame, they also had close calls against West Virginia, Texas again, K-State, TCU, and Iowa State.
Don’t get me wrong, all is not sunshine and rainbows when KU plays at home. Just one season ago, KU got pantsed every time out, losing by an average of 30 points over its four home games.
I guess I’m just saying - there’s generally a slightly better chance the Jayhawks will play well and give an opponent a game.
Let’s see what the home slate brings us this year. Once again, we’ll use Bill Connelly’s S&P+ for our team rankings and make some predictions a bit too early. In these updated rankings (previous version was from February), Kansas is 119 out of 130. That’s down from #106 back in February. (I took a look at the noncon schedule a few weeks ago, using the rankings from February, and the conference away schedule earlier this week.)
As usual, S&P+ ranking in parentheses.
The Bears come to Lawrence in mid-September - Week 3 - with an 84% chance at victory according to S&P+. Baylor was picked to finish 8th in the Big 12 preseason media poll, so this game should actually give us a pretty good idea of how far the Jayhawks have to go to be competitive with the rest of the conference. If it’s a good game, maybe we can say Leipold is already starting to turn things around. But if its another 61-6 affair, well, we’ll know there’s still miles to go. (Sorry, I had to.)
Baylor 38, Kansas 24
Texas Tech (#70)
One look at the rankings will tell you that this is KU’s most winnable conference game. Indeed, S&P+ concurs, giving the Jayhawks a 23% chance to knock off the Raiders. KU beat Tech in Lawrence in 2019, and somehow only lost by three points in Lubbock last year. The Jayhawks have two road games (@ Duke, @ ISU) between the Baylor game and this one, and depending on how well that Baylor game went, this could be another litmus test for the new coaching staff.
I really want to pick with my heart here, but my brain says that KU will still be a double-digit underdog, and that Texas Tech will not want to be the first team in forever to lose back-to-back games in Lawrence.
Texas Tech 33, Kansas 31
The Sooners have a tendency to beat the Jayhawks to a pulp most of the time that these two squads play, so I can’t really say that I’m sad to see them leave to the SEC (especially if that means KU to the Big 10). Anyway, I just can’t imagine that this is going to be anything anyone wants to see - Oklahoma fans included.
Oklahoma 48, Kansas 17
Kansas State (#61)
KU has lost 12 in a row to K-State. That upsets me. David Beaty actually played the Wildcats well when he was here, with three of his four matchups with them within two scores. That was a massive improvement over the Weis/Gill eras, however, Les Miles had no such success, losing his two matchups by 28 and 41 points. That also upset me.
S&P+ gives KU a 21% chance of knocking off the Fighting Willies. Given the last two seasons, that seems high. I’m hoping Leipold quickly figures out the value of winning this one game, but he’s two years behind Klieman in terms of program building. I’ll say there’s a chance this could be close, but refuse to let myself think there’s any chance of a victory despite how badly I want it.
K-State 38, Kansas 28
West Virginia (#43)
Thanksgiving weekend brings West Virginia to Lawrence, where S&P+ gives the Jayhawks just a 9% chance to beat WVU. Honestly, 1 out of 10 times (approximately) is probably about right. Could KU win this game? Sure. Should you expect it? Nah.
While the Mountaineers, like Kansas, have lost some key defensive players to the transfer portal over the summer, they’re still in much better shape than KU is offensively, defensively, and in regards to the coaching staff. Neal Brown begins his third year in Morgantown; year two saw them jump from #98 in S&P+ to #38. It’s a program on the rise, while KU is still trying to just get off the floor.
Will KU make a statement going into the 2022 season, or will it end with a whimper? Part of that may depend on West Virginia’s mindset coming in as well. If they’re fighting for a bowl game, that may be affect their effort more than if they’re coming in with just 4 (or fewer) wins.
West Virginia 38, Kansas 21