David Beaty will be entering his third year as the coach of the Jayhawks. I am not going to sugar coat it, Beaty inherited a mess from Charlie Weiss. Coach Weiss’ foray into the JUCO ranks left a depleted roster. On top of that, Weiss did not have a great eye for talent. The best players for Kansas under Weiss were actually those who were recruited and signed by Turner Gill.
Wisely, Kansas has taken the long view on Beaty. They understand the challenges he is facing, but Beaty’s teams have shown improvement in his first two years. While the results might not have shown it, the 2015 team fought through every game. That fight translated to a blowout win over Rhode Island and a surprise upset over Texas last season.
Kansas will finally be around the 85-scholarship limit in 2017, with a projection of 80. This is pretty huge considering that Beaty walked into the 2015 season with 64-scholarship players. Coach Beaty has also proven that he is not interested in just getting a warm body in a position but has uncovered some true gems like Dorance Armstrong, Jr., one of the best defensive ends in the Big 12. With players like him Kansas quietly had one of the best defensive lines in the conference in 2016. If Beaty can continue to uncover gems like him and they will soon find themselves competing for conference titles.
Kansas Football Schedule 2017
09/02 –SE Missouri St
09/09 – Central Michigan
09/16 – at Ohio
09/23 – West Virginia
10/07 – Texas Tech
10/14 – at Iowa St.
10/21 – at TCU
10/28 – Kansas State
11/04 – Baylor
11/11 – at Texas
11/18 – Oklahoma
11/25 – at Oklahoma St
Taking a glance at the schedule and the first thing that jumps out is that Kansas will be playing one of the weaker non-conference schedules with no Power 5 opponent on deck. However, it is not like Kansas has been tearing up the world lately. After all, most Power 5 teams would get dinged for having Kansas on their non-conference schedule.
The closest thing to a guaranteed win will be week one against SE Missouri State. Central Michigan and Ohio should be good barometers on where Kansas is with both games being winnable. Both Central Michigan and Ohio went bowling last year. CMU also knocked off Oklahoma State in 2016 and Ohio playing for the Mid-American Conference Championship. So neither team should be a pushover, either.
Conference play should open with a reality check against West Virginia. While Kansas will finally have the numbers the talent level is just not quite there. The next three weeks are all perfectly winnable games. Texas Tech had the best passer in the FBS last year and only won five games. Iowa State is closer to Kansas’ equal than superior. And, Kansas has played TCU close since Texas Christian joined the Big 12. All those games are very losable, too. Remember, Kansas only won two games last year. October ends against Kansas State, one of the favorites to win the conference. While the game is in Lawrence, expect a large KSU contingent to show up.
November starts off with winnable games with a home tile against Baylor and then at Texas. Getting Baylor late is an advantage for opponents until BU can build its depth back up. And, to the shock of everybody, Kansas did beat Texas last year. A fact that I think Tom Herman will be reminding his players of in preparation of the game. The end of November sees Kansas going up against league favorites Oklahoma and at Oklahoma State.
It would be expecting a lot for a team that has won a total of three games in three years to suddenly make bowl eligibility. While one is an improvement on zero, and two on one, expecting a team to improve its record by at least four games is unrealistic. For Kansas, it will come down to how they fare in the non-conference schedule. If the Jayhawks can find a way to start 3-0 then they have a real shot of making a bowl and all bets are off. But, 2-1 and especially 1-2 would kill almost any bowl hopes right off the bat. Realistically, Kansas probably does not make a bowl in 2017 but lays the groundwork for a bowl run in 2018.