KU Kickoff 2018: How the Jayhawks could win 4 games — or more
Earlier this week, Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan officially made his win/loss prediction for the 2018 Kansas football team, picking the Jayhawks to finish David Beaty's fourth season with a 3-9 record. Clearly, that's not the only possibility for the Jayhawks, who, with a veteran group mixed with some new faces, could finish with more or certainly even fewer victories than the three Keegan's predicting. That's where the rest of us come in. In the days leading up to KU’s opener, we'll look at three more possible win totals for the 2018 Kansas football team, which opens the regular season at 6 p.m. Saturday night at home against Nicholls.
Let’s say you’re the super-positive type. A person who looks at a 50-percent filled glass of your favorite beverage and thinks, “Man, there is so much drink left! How will I ever finish it? This is going to be a terrific day.” Well, then this is the Kansas football season outlook case for you.
It would take an abundance of factors playing out favorably for the Jayhawks over the next three months, but if you’re convinced that’s possible you could probably talk yourself into KU winning at least four games for the first time since 2009.
The most talented and experienced players on the roster, Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen and Steven Sims Jr., want to finish their careers by delivering a breakthrough season for the program. That’s not a bad place to start, because they are leaders and will have high standards that they expect the rest of their teammates to meet.
In terms of what happens on Saturdays during actual competition, though, the first thing KU needs is for its revamped offensive line to play as well as coaches think it can. If newcomers in center Alex Fontana, right guard Dwayne Wallace and right tackle Kevin Feder jell and produce with left tackle Hakeem Adeniji and left guard Andru Tovi, then the offense could actually build some momentum in the weeks to come instead of regressing the way it did in 2017, following KU’s season-opening win.
If the O-line becomes a strength instead of a weakness, suddenly offensive coordinator Doug Meacham doesn’t have to ask as much out of Peyton Bender at quarterback, and the offense can ride running backs Khalil Herbert, Dom Williams and Pooka Williams, while mixing in throws to Sims and KU’s other receivers, as opposed to hoping quick hits and bubble screens work out.
An effective run-based offense would obviously benefit a defense that returns the majority of its starters from a year ago, allowing them to rest instead of playing a full series, seeing KU’s offense go three and out and then getting right back on the field.
Let’s say all of this goes according to plan. Then it’s not unreasonable to expect KU to win its two nonconference home games in September against Nicholls State and Rutgers.
And now it doesn’t become crazy to think the Jayhawks could end the program’s longstanding miserable road losing streak at 46 games by winning in Week 2 at Central Michigan — a team picked in the preseason media poll to finish fifth out of six teams in the MAC West Division.
In this utopian September KU finds itself one victory away from its best post-Mark Mangino season. Could a newly confident group of Jayhawks head to Baylor in Week 4 and show no signs of being the same team that failed to score a TD against the Bears in Lawrence in 2017?
Could one of the Big 12 visitors to Kansas David Booth Memorial Stadium — Oklahoma State, TCU, Iowa State or Texas — overlook the Jayhawks? What if one of those teams suffers through a turnover-heavy, mistake-filled game, as well, allowing KU to eke out a win like it did against the Longhorns in 2016?
A viewpoint originating from a pie in the sky gets Kansas football to a much better place in 2018.
In reality, even a 4-8 mark would be rather remarkable for KU, given how low the program has been for so long. Throw in the fact that 4 victories in 2018 would surpass head coach David Beaty’s win total from his first 36 games as head coach and that record actually looks like progress.
Officially, I’m guessing Kansas will be more competitive this fall than it has been at any point during Beaty’s first three seasons. But I’m also guessing the Jayhawks finish 3-9.