THE 2017 KANSAS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

“You know, someone once told me time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done, or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again.”

I don’t know how I happened upon this video, or this quote, because I haven’t actually watched True Detective. From what I can gleam, the detective in question, a man named Rust Cohle, laments the idea that every person in his life, himself included, is trapped in a doomed loop of repetition, where nothing ever changes and the only thing to look forward to is another go around on the flat circle.

In four straight seasons of watching KU Football as a student, I had started to come around to this flat circle theory. Every week was the same, going to the stadium to watch 4 hours of beatdown from each team in the Big XII from Baylor to Iowa State, seeing Jayhawks only in the context of other teams’ highlight reels, listening to jokes made at the expense of the Jayhawks with every reddit post or podcast introduction. Worst of all was watching this unfold each week, with my eyes fixated on the uncanny green FieldTurf as my peripherals noticed less and less crimson and blue surrounding it and more glaring silver bleachers, emptied by those who threw in a merciful towel well before I could. After each game, I knew the next would provide the same, after six days of rest and work to get prepared, I’d find myself in the same spot, watching the same mess, seeing the same things, over and over and over again. In those all-too-common moments, I felt like I understood what Rust Cohle meant. I thought I could understand Rust Cohle.

But, still, I’ll be there this fall. The difficult thing about trying to compare real life situations to fictional situations is that there’s always going to be something that falls just short of reality. Reality isn’t always as clean or as dirty as fiction might be created to convey. Television stories like that of Rust Cohle’s will always be invented, television settings will always be created, and television characters will always be portrayed.

And Rust Cohle is portrayed by Matthew McConaughey

And Matthew McConaughey is an alumnus of the University of Texas

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II. A WORD ON THE 2016 SEASON

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You know what? It feels okay to have a win on the schedule in which I can rub the nose of some other team, even if it was absolutely a fluke and KU is going to lose to them by like eighty points in Austin this fall, which I will get to later. I’d like to believe that this season is the turning point for KU football, because this year, some evidence exists to back that up.

In the past, the football preview has been based primarily on conjecture and hearsay, and this year, it’s just heavily influenced by conjecture and hearsay. Last year, of course, the football preview was non-existent. It’s back this year, and the amount of insight to be gleamed from this preview will be about as much as there was to be gleamed from the void left last year.

The point I’m belaying here is that this should be considered completely from a fan perspective and that nothing I say will come true, though I was totally correct that KU would not finish last in 2014, and I will put that on my headstone. This year, I’m updating and repeating that prediction. I do not think that Kansas will finish last in the Big XII in 2017. I also don’t think they’ll finish first, but I’m optimistic and saying it’ll be like ninth or eighth place rather than tenth. That would be a physical manifestation of progress.

I’ve talked about progress for the past two years. I thought that KU at the end of 2015 was better than KU at the start of 2015, and I thought the same about the beginning of 2016, and then the end of 2016, I think there has been progress since the dark, very dark, very lonely difficult days of the entirety of 2015. At the end of 2015, when I wrote that big long whole thing, I was searching for reasons to be optimistic, and the ones that I found – the young group of talented receivers and the defensive line – turned out to be KU’s strongest suit in the 2016 season. Let’s take a look at what me in November 2015 wrote about the fall of 2017 –

“It’s hard to predict anything two years from now. By that point, we’ll have a new president, we’ll be like fifteen movies into the Marvel comic book film franchise, and maybe we’ll be rid of that huge crane on campus… and maybe Jayhawk Boulevard will be finally finished… and maybe the Touchdown Club will exist.

The huge crane on campus is… gone? I haven’t checked since they bulldozed 19th street into oblivion and burned the Burge Union to the ground. Marvel just put out a new Wonder Woman movie, and, hoo boy, do we have a different president. The Touchdown Club has existed for years, actually, but I was talking about the rumored Lew Perkins Official Luxury Boxes on the Other Side Club, which is still nonexistent. This year, there is a Field Goal club, and it’s located right behind the goalposts where all the footballs come flying in towards what used to be the band at the end of halftime when the placekickers practice. I guarantee that it will be hilarious when some buzzed rich dude holding a can of Michelob Ultra gets hit in the face from a practice kick by the Southeast Missouri kicker before the game even begins.

“Speaking of which, I hope that the rumored Memorial Stadium renovation is at least in some sort of motion by this point.

It has been announced, at least.

The most prescient piece of what I wrote here is this:

“I would recommend putting a banner somewhere, preferably over some of the thousands feet of bare gray wall on the outside of the stadium. The banner could say something along the lines of “KANSAS” or “JAYHAWKS” or “EARN IT”, perhaps.

And uh…

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Now I can only assume, but I want to make it entirely clear that KU Athletics did exactly what I recommended they do, so I cannot rule out the idea that they got the idea to put up those banners because someone at KU Athletics read my post. I would heavily like to believe that, and I would like to Officially Welcome Dr. Sheahon Zenger to the list of Known JoeBush.net Supporters

“Anyway, by 2017, the freshmen whose names I’ve been listing off should be juniors. Juniors, theoretically, are getting to the peak of their college careers. Also, along with them, hopefully, there’s a good group of freshmen and sophomores coming in. This would theoretically be the year where we actually start to see some turn-around. Not a winning season, that’d still be a few years off. But an improving season.

Me from October 2015 said everything that I’m about to write in this preview.

“Maybe they get a win over a good team, and, hey, this could possibly be the elusive away victory year. I don’t even rule out bowl eligibility for this year at the absolute best, but that would take some immense player development and great recruiting.

This is exactly how I feel now. If everything goes well, KU should be able to be competitive in more games than not, and could be able to actually compete with other teams in the conference. I’ll be temperate with that, and say that I don’t think they’ll win many games, but they should be more competitive. With that being said, here are my two list predictions that I have buried almost 1200+ words into the article.

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THE BIG XII PREDICTION:

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Every year, I make at least one bold and incredibly wrong prediction regarding where certain teams will place in the Big XII picture in general. For instance, in 2014, I said that West Virginia had no chance and would finish last. In 2015, I said that Oklahoma State would join the Big XII’s cellar and stay there for a while. Last year, I said that Texas Tech would win the conference. So, please expect at least one of these teams to finish in a wildly different part of the standings. Please keep The Mantra in mind while reading this preview.

  1. Oklahoma State

    Oklahoma State is genuinely exciting this year, they ended last year with a huge victory over Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, and the two teams that were in the Cowboys’ way, Baylor and Oklahoma, are both significantly lower in the overall picture now due to everything bad that Baylor did and Bob Stoops’ retirement. Oklahoma State is the most stable team coming from the past two years, and that’s why I feel safe in putting them here at number one. By putting them here I have guaranteed that the Cowboys will have three losses come November.

  2. Kansas State

    Out of spite, I will not put K-State at the top here in these predictions, even though I think that the Wildcats can win the Big XII this year. I have literally nothing to back that up with other than the very impressive way that they finished the last season and the fact that Bill Snyder is the way that he is.

    The difficult situation that we face with the top two teams in this preview is the fact that they will face off in a conference championship game. This championship game will be a rematch, regardless of what happens during the season. I’m not a huge fan of the game being played, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Somebody’s playoff chances are going to get ruined by a bad performance in the Big XII championship game, and history would dictate that if anyone’s going to have a season ruined by the Big XII championship game, it’ll be the ‘Cats.

  3. Oklahoma

    So… Stoops is just gone, I guess. Just, like, whoops, out the door, Bob’s out. That’s going to be weird. I’ve only ever known Oklahoma as Bob Stoops’ team, and I’ve also only ever known Oklahoma as a winning program. I’m not convinced that this will have to change without Stoops, and Bob himself seemed to think that his replacement would do a fine job, but I can’t imagine that moving from one of your program’s best coaches ever to a 33-year-old rookie head coach will have positive results. Still, this is Oklahoma, and if any program is in a good shape to make this drastic of a change, it’s OU.

  4. Texas

    This right here is going to be the one prediction that’s absolutely not going to work out for me, Texas will probably end up far further down the list. I liked Charlie Strong a lot, but he wasn’t working out there, and they’ve got a winner in Tom Herman at the helm now. Just having Herman bumps them up a couple of spots from last year, I think. They’re going to be better this year. They won’t compete for the conference, but they probably, and I mean probably, will not lose to KU again, sadly. D’Onta Foreman was really good, so it’ll be hard to replace him, but I’m guessing the passing game, which was dormant under Charlie Strong, will be revitalized under Herman and the real talent they have in Shane Buschele will come through.

  5. TCU

    I’ve thought that TCU was on a downward spiral for each of the past three seasons, and why give up now? Pencil them in for like four or five spots ahead of where I ever predict them to be.

  6. West Virginia

    Did you know that West Virginia won ten games last year? I forgot! I’ve considered them a very dead team for like four years now and they just keep winning ten games each season, and they’ll probably do the same this year despite losing the key games that they need in order to show up well in the conference.

  7. Iowa State

    I knew who my bottom three were, and I knew who my top six were, and I wrote them both down, and that left a hole at the number seven spot. I searched and searched my brain for who could fill the seven spot, and when I realized that Iowa State would be in my number seven, it felt wrong. They’re too high, aren’t they? But I can think of three teams that Iowa State should beat, so, I guess they’re right where they need to be. So, congratulations, Iowa State! You’re number seven because I couldn’t remember your name until the end of the deliberations.

  8. Baylor

    Uh, well, a lot of bad stuff happened with and around Baylor and I’m guessing that this is the year that it comes back to bite them really hard.

  9. Kansas

    I’ll get to them, but, hey, Not Last! Remember the last time that I said Not Last? They ended up Not Last!

  10. Texas Tech

    I know that I said the Red Raiders would win the conference last year, and they very much did not. It’s boom or bust, baby, it’s Lubbock, baby, this is what happens, baby. Sometimes you’re first, sometimes you’re last, and most of the time, you

    The Tech defense was very bad last year, and the Tech offense was very good last year. However, their quarterback, who I pegged to be a Heisman hopeful last year, is off in the big city makin’ big money walkin’ around in some fancy ol’ boots or whatever you do in wherever he got drafted. The placement of the ninth and tenth spots will depend on the victor in the game between the Red Raiders and the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence in the first weekend of October. The winner of that game will be number nine, and the loser will be number ten – An anti-championship game, if you will.


So, Which of these Games Should KU Win?

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I have looked over the schedule with so much intensity that it is effectively impossible for me to get these predictions wrong, and you should feel free to bet as much money as is necessary to satisfy the rush you get from gambling on sports based off of my predictions. I don’t do anything else, apparently, all that I think about is a traditionally very bad football team and all of my experiences with that very bad football team, and they end up here on this blog post. I have the credibility as a fan that the man in his garage with the corkboard has about the moon landing.

Now, in the case that these are wrong, just understand that I have written all these jokes that have torn down my credibility to the point that I cannot lose. If I’m completely correct about these predictions, it’s because I’m smart and I think a lot about these, and if I’m completely wrong about these predictions, it’s because I don’t take this seriously at all and you shouldn’t have paid attention to me anyway.

I have divided this season’s games into different tiers, and I will give my predictions based upon changing factors.

TIER ONE: GAMES THAT THE JAYHAWKS SHOULD WIN

Week 1: Southeast Missouri State

Week 2: Central Michigan

SEMO shouldn’t be that much of an issue, even though they were absolutely an issue during the last meeting between the two teams back in 2014. CMU is right about even with the Jayhawks right now, and it’s probably better to play against them in the second week of the season than later on, because the Chippewas will start either a first-year quarterback or Shane Morris from Michigan a few years ago. Hopefully, the KU pass rush can get to him early and make sure that he doesn’t get into a rhythm. The Jayhawks will be at home and there should hopefully not be too much student disillusionment by this point, so that may be the deciding factor.

TIER TWO: GAMES THAT THE JAYHAWKS SHOULD WIN IF THE QUARTERBACK PLAY IS CONSISTENT AND THE DEFENSE HAS NOT REGRESSED

Week 5: Texas Tech

The Jayhawks defense should, hopefully, carry the weight against Texas Tech. The offense is key here, because we just don’t know what they’re capable of. Luckily, the Tech defense is not good. If the Jayhawks have good quarterback play, be it Bender or Stanley or I don’t think Montell Cozart’s there anymore, then they have a shot at home to win three games, and to win a game in the Big XII.

TIER THREE: GAMES THAT THE JAYHAWKS SHOULD WIN IF THE QUARTERBACK PLAY IS CONSISTENT AND THE DEFENSE HAS IMPROVED SLIGHTLY AND ALSO IF THE JAYHAWKS CAN HOLD IT TOGETHER ON THE ROAD

Week 3: at Ohio

Week 6: at Iowa State

Both of these teams destroyed KU via the ground game in 2016. My analysis is that, if they have a better time defending against the running game, then they should be able to hold their own. This will be tough, but most of the defensive line will return and if the linebackers are healthy, there might be a shot for KU. I don’t see either of these games as wins necessarily anymore, unfortunately, but a man can dream.

The Ohio game is the most important game, though. Every problem that faced the Jayhawks last year – No passing game, bad rushing defense, and an inability to perform on the road – will be tested in this game against the Bobcats. If they win this game, it will be the clearest indicator of the progression of the Kansas football program over the past three seasons. If it is a loss, then it’s just a loss.

TIER FOUR: GAMES THAT THE JAYHAWKS SHOULD WIN IF THE QUARTERBACK PLAY IS CONSISTENT AND THE DEFENSE HAS IMPROVED IN A SIGNIFICANT CAPACITY BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY THE OTHER TEAM IS IN SOME STATE OF DISARRAY DUE TO AN ATMOSPHERE CREATED BY ISSUES THAT HAVE LITTLE TO DO WITH THE PLAYERS ON THE FIELD

Week 4: West Virginia

Week 9: Baylor

Week 11: Oklahoma

All of these programs have different issues potentially. WVU appears to have regressed from last season, though I have thought that way for years. They’ve lost almost their entire offense from last year, so our issue is that we just don’t know at this point. They could come into Lawrence and Smash The Shit out of Everything and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Baylor’s issues are well documented and they don’t have anything to do with success or failure on the field. However, Baylor hasn’t been able to recruit or retain the players that they had back during their best years of 2013-2015.

Oklahoma’s coach retired this summer, and they seem to have a pretty good guy replacing him, but in the off chance that he’s not good, maybe they’ll play poorly in Lawrence and drop the game. This is unlikely, but I will remind you that this is sort of what happened to the Longhorns last year.

TIER FIVE: GAMES THAT DEPEND ON THE DAM BREAKING AND CLINT BOWEN FINALLY DEFEATING TCU

Week 7: at TCU

Well… It never makes sense, does it? Kansas and TCU should not play games this closely, but the proof is very nearly in the pudding. Not quite entirely in the pudding, but the proof is adjacent to the pudding. My prediction is that TCU will finally get over the hump and beat the Jayhawks by more than a touchdown this year, but who knows? Clint has their number, and perhaps Doug Meachem has their gameplan.

TIER SIX: GAMES THAT THE JAYHAWKS MAY WIN IN A DREAM THAT I HAVE

Week 8: Kansas State

Week 11: at Oklahoma State

I had a dream that KU beat K-State, but I also was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and struggling to put together a sousaphone under the stands and everybody was out on the field and I wasn’t and I blew it for everybody.

I have never had a single thought about Oklahoma State conscious or otherwise.

TIER SEVEN: LOOK THEY’RE NOT GOING TO LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN AND THEY’LL PROBABLY RUN THE SCORE UP BECAUSE WE MADE SO MANY JOKES ABOUT IT IN THE OFFSEASON

Week 10: at Texas

This is it. This is the payback that we have all feared. The Longhorns will win this game at home, and they will make sure that the Jayhawks feel it.

Yet, still, I don’t feel bad about the jokes. The jokes are my favorite thing about the Kansas football fanbase, because the jokes have developed over the years. The jokes are how I know that we’ve been paying attention.


So, What is Your Actual Record Prediction?

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My assumption is that the Jayhawks do breach tier two, but unfortunately go no higher. The talent isn’t quite there yet in the defensive secondary for the ‘Hawks to legitimately compete in the pass-heavy Big XII against too many other air raid offenses, and though I think that the offense will take a big leap forward in efficiency, and I think they’ll average more than like twenty-five points per game for the first time since like 2009. Last year was a season full of heartbreaks and moral victories, and this year will likely go the same way. Tight road games like Ohio and Iowa State will ultimately fall towards the home team, games like Oklahoma and K-State will probably be closer than normal but still not much more than a scare for the favored team, and we’ll be guaranteed at least one near-upset that falls short in the saddest way possible (I’m guessing that will be West Virginia and TCU).

So, 3-9.


A FINAL WORD ON THE SEASON BEFORE ALL THE WORDS I’M GOING TO WRITE DURING THE SEASON

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I have heard and read so much about progress from other writers or bloggers or whomever from around KU Football. The team last year looked better, competed better, and wasn’t quite getting blown out in every game. But ten losses is still ten losses, unfortunately.

This year, the progress on the field has to be shown in the win-loss column. A move from 0-12 to 2-10 to 3-9 doesn’t seem like the biggest leap forward, but it will at least be something tangible. It’s become commonplace to use the phrase “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” to describe a football season. I understand that. In college football, teams play at most fifteen and at fewest twelve games per season, which is fewer than any other major sport. Each game is worth about an eight percent share of the season total. In the NFL, each game is worth about a six percent share. In College Basketball, each game is worth about a three percent share. In those other sports, a team can drop one game and still have a shot at a championship. In college football, a team drops one game, and their championship potential is immediately jeopardized. Every game matters – It’s more like a series of sprints, really, which is a horrible way to run a marathon.

People shit their pants during marathons all the time. It’s a major issue that faces marathon runners. People die during marathons all the time. In fact, the man who ran the first marathon, Pheidippides, died at the end of the 26.2 miles. But despite all of that, in a series of marathons, which are in themselves a series of sprints, I will still be watching football this fall, alive, and with clean pants.

In the past four years, I’ve watched a lot of losing football, but I’ve had a great time in spite of that. I have stories from every game, from the highs of Texas last season to the lows of K-State the year before that.

This year, I will be cataloging those stories of every game at footballhell.net. I don’t know exactly, at this point, what’s going to happen there, but it’ll be something like this post I made after an SKC game in July.

I can’t guarantee you that this will be a good year, and I can’t guarantee you that this will be a bad year, but I can guarantee you that this will be a year full of experiences just like every one before it. I’ll be there all year, and I’m excited to see what happens.

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May you all be blessed by the nineteen-year-old me of Fox College Sports Pacific fame in the coming year.

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About Joe Bush

The guy behind JoeBush.net and a lot of other things
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