In spite of relatively optimistic expectations for Kansas football, 2017 didn’t exactly go the way many thought it would under David Beaty. A victory in their home opener would end up being the only on-field success Kansas could find last season.
After Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger was fired a couple of weeks ago, it is widely believed that Beaty could be on his way out as well. Is there any way he can manage to show that Kansas football is headed in a good direction?
Looking at the Jayhawks’ schedule should give us a clue as to the kind of challenge that Beaty has ahead of him. Below, we take a look at Kansas’s 2018 lineup and offer some thoughts on how many wins and losses are likely for them next season.
Here wins and losses are broken down into “Highly Likely” Wins/Losses – games in which the projected winner should be favored by more than two possessions – and “Likely” Wins/Losses – games in which the projected winner will probably be favored by about two possessions. A “Toss Up” is any game that has a good chance of being decided by one possession.
2018 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
SEP 1 – Nicholls State
SEP 8 – at Central Michigan
SEP 15 – Rutgers
SEP 22 – at Baylor
SEP 29 – Oklahoma State
OCT 6 – at West Virginia
OCT 20 – at Texas Tech
OCT 27 – TCU
NOV 3 – Iowa State
NOV 10 – at Kansas State
NOV 17 – at Oklahoma
NOV 23 – Texas
Highly Likely Wins: Nicholls State
The only game that the Jayhawks are all but assured to win is their home opener against Nicholls State. Last year, Kansas opened as 29 point favorites against a Southeast Missouri State team that only won three games in the Ohio Valley Conference. Nicholls State fared better as an FCS team last season, but Kansas is still likely to get a comfortable win in this one.
Likely Wins: None
If you’re looking for games that Kansas will be expected to win within two possessions, it’s probably best to move on. The Jayhawks were double digit favorites only once last year and they will probably face similar odds this upcoming season.
Toss Ups: Central Michigan, Rutgers
If Kansas is going to improve on its win total from last season, its best chance is in the non-conference. Central Michigan won last year’s matchup by 18 points and that one’s an early road test for the Jayhawks. The good news for Kansas fans, though, is that the Chippewas lose a lot of production from last season, making that contest very winnable for Beaty’s team.
ESPN’s FPI projections give Kansas just a little over a 50% chance of beating Rutgers, a Big 10 bottom dweller. Given that the Jayhawks take on the Scarlett Knights in Lawrence, that feels about right. The line for this game will probably be fairly small, given how similar these two teams are.
Getting a victory in both of these games is certainly possible for Beaty’s squad and it would give Kansas a chance to go undefeated in the non-conference for the first time since 2009. At the same time, neither of these games are assured victories by any means.
Likely Losses: Baylor, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders are the only team that Vegas has consistently projected to beat the Jayhawks by a margin of around a couple of touchdowns. If Texas Tech is more of a defensive team this season than they’ve been in recent memory, the style of play by itself will make the game closer for the Jayhawks.
That one is a road trip though, so the upset will likely be tough to pull off.
Last year, Kansas faced off against Baylor at home in a game that many thought would be close, but then the Jayhawks handed the Bears their only victory of the season in a major way. Even though Kansas is returning a lot of experience and Baylor may not be a bowl caliber team yet, it’s hard to see the road trip as a Toss Up again.
Highly Likely Losses: Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, West Virginia
The reason many pundits think this will be David Beaty’s last season at Kansas has to do with how abysmal his record has been at a school that traditionally struggles to compete in football to begin with. Kansas has one conference win in Beaty’s three years and only two wins in the three years before that.
Even though it’s less clear what the top of the conference will look like next fall, the middle is full of good teams that are above average FBS squads. Against those teams, Kansas is likely to consistently be a 20 to 30 point underdog, even if this team shows some signs of improvement.
Iowa State showed last season that no team in the Big 12 is immune from an upset, but the Jayhawks are likely to face numerous uphill battles next season. They do get four opponents at home, where they’re most likely to get a victory.
To show improvement, Beaty’s team likely needs to get one of these upsets and keep a few of these games relatively close. A handful of embarrassing losses won’t do anything for his job stability.
Predicted Wins: 2-3
Kansas has significant experience coming back on both sides of the ball, so it should certainly be expected that they’ll be improved in 2018. The real question is how that improvement translates into something measurable, especially regarding the number of wins the Jayhawks are able find in the fall.
Without big time offensive talent or a position group that can be one of the conference’s best, it’s hard to see how Kansas can breakthrough to another level. The competition in the Big 12 is going to be as tough as it has ever been, with multiple teams capable of winning eight or more games.
If the Jayhawks take care of business against Nicholls State and win one of their Toss Ups, they would need only one upset victory to get to three wins. There are a lot of “ifs” in that statement, but with as much returning production as they’ve got, it seems feasible.