Kansas Full of Cupcakes

Jayhawks' No. 13 ranking too generous for easy early season schedule

College Football Preview: Week 8

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> Caparell: USC In Unfamiliar Territory  |  Blackburn: On The Firing Line  |  Crystal Ball: Predictions

Oct. 16, 2007

By Carolyn Braff



Carolyn Braff

Carolyn is an assistant editor and writer for CSTV.com.
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In this erratic year of college football in which no ranking is sacred and powerhouses weekly fall to powder-puffs, it is hard to pick a Top 25. Ohio State, USF and Boston College may not be the best the nation has to offer, but a perfect record, to some extent, speaks for itself.


Unless you are speaking about Kansas.


Even in this topsy-turvy season, the Jayhawks are in the wrong place.




Standing at a perfect 6-0, the BCS rankings have Kansas in the No. 13 spot, ahead of Florida, USC, Missouri and Auburn. Yes, all four of those teams have floundered at points, but each has also played plenty of convincing football. If the season ended today, Kansas would have a shot at the national title before Florida, and that is laughable.


The fault here lies mostly with the computers. The AP and Coaches' polls both rank Kansas at No. 15, below the Trojans and the Gators. But the BCS incorporates computers that reward wins, often with less regard for whom those wins come against, which is dangerous when examining Kansas' paper trail.


With the nation's No. 2 scoring offense and No. 2 scoring defense, the Jayhawks' final box scores average out to 50-10. Before taking into consideration the other teams on the field, those numbers are astounding. Afterwards, not so much.


Kansas opened its season with four home games against four of the nation's least impressive teams. A 52-7 win over Central Michigan looks statistically brilliant until factoring in the Chippewas' 102nd-ranked scoring defense. Putting up 52 on that team is not exactly a testament to a hotshot offensive attack.


Week 2 saw a home romp against Southeast Louisiana, a FCS (formerly I-AA) team, and a bad FCS team at that, one that finished 2-9 in 2006. Again, 62-0 is great for the stats sheet, but provides no barometer for BCS success.


The Jayhawks' third non-conference tune-up brought in Toledo, a team still winless in MAC play, for a 45-13 stomping. Nothing to write home about.


Kansas put the icing on its cupcake preseason in Week 4 when FIU came to town. FIU has the nation's worst scoring offense for the second year running, and along with the 116th-ranked scoring defense, beating the Panthers 55-3 says very little about Kansas as a team. (Incidentally, one of the three teams that fares worse than FIU in scoring defense is Toledo, Kansas' Week 3 opponent.)


A non-existent travel agenda for four straight weeks is a significant advantage when considering how much of football relies on routine. Without having to pack up and prepare elsewhere, the Jayhawks effectively played a month's worth of scrimmages to start the season, which is hardly the foundation for a championship run.


During preseason interviews, head coach Mark Mangino acknowledged his team's painless non-conference calendar. Mangino told the media that given the tray of cupcakes the schedulers had handed over, if ever there was a year for Kansas to break out of mediocrity, this was it.


Week 5 seemed to prove Mangino right. Kansas went on the road to beat its in-state rival, Kansas State, the week after the Wildcats delivered a lopsided 41-21 defeat to then-No. 7 Texas. Facing a competitor its own size, Kansas' production was considerably reduced -- the Jayhawk offense came away with 30 points, not 60, in a 30-24 win that was every bit as close as the score indicates.


Quarterback Todd Reesing did not put on a show to be remembered, completing 22-of-35 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns to go along with three interceptions, including a pick on the first play from scrimmage. But the Jayhawks did enough to earn the win and replace K-State in the national rankings, which made sense at the time; Kansas State had beaten Texas, and Kansas beat Kansas State, so Kansas should therefore be ranked higher than Texas.


Except that the 2007 college football season is no place for deductive reasoning. (Exhibit A: the love triangle that is South Carolina, Kentucky and LSU.)


And then there was last week's less-than-perfect win over Baylor. Again, the big numbers can easily eclipse the little ones, as Kansas came away with a 58-10 win, but Reesing completed just 14-of-31 passes for 186 yards against the nation's 86th-worst pass defense. The Bears allow opponents to average 251.1 yards through the air, so a top-20 passing team like Kansas should have had a field day.


Unless the team in question is not actually that good.


Against the nation's 80th-ranked defense, Kansas converted six of its 18 third-down opportunities. If the Jayhawk offense is what the numbers seem to say it is, and what the polls certainly indicate it is, that number should have been a lot closer to perfect.


"We were able to not play our best game, yet we still were able to get a big victory," Reesing said.


That's what happens when you play a pastry of an opponent.


While teams in the SEC are butting heads with ranked conference rivals week after week, Kansas is gliding through a sea of pushovers right into the BCS rankings. Running the table against the bottom feeders of a diluted Big 12 and a handful of middle-of-the-road non-BCS teams should not translate into a higher BCS ranking than a one-loss team like Missouri, or even a two-loss team like Florida.


Kansas' six opponents are a combined 15-24. By comparison, Missouri's are 23-19 and Florida's are 25-15.


Aside from next week's trip to Boulder, the site of the Oklahoma upset of Week 5 lore, and the Nov. 24 trip to Missouri, Kansas may not face a challenge all year, but that does not make the team deserving of a shot at the national title. The Jayhawks basically had five home scrimmages to prepare them for seven legitimate weeks of competition, and even if they do run the table, they should not be taking the place of more talented teams who are cursed to play in a conference too stacked for its own good.


Until further notice, we should not be in with Kansas anymore.