Ashworth: Kansas football may not take bottom of Big 12

The bottom of the Big 12 looked very vulnerable on Saturday.

Not coincidentally, Kansas’ chances of escaping the basement increased dramatically.

Kansas State, to the delight of Kansas fans around the country, laid an egg against the Bison of North Dakota State.  The Wildcats were hoping to start the season out with a bang, but instead harnessed the momentum of a three-toed sloth.

Kansas State rushed for 346 yards against Kansas in last year’s blowout, which was indicative of its commitment to the running game throughout the entire season.  However, against the Bison, the Wildcats were only able to muster 41 yards on 23 rushing attempts.  The loss of Collin Klein to graduation certainly hurts, as he was a dual-threat quarterback who took attention off the running backs, but the Wildcats must find a way to reinvigorate their rushing offense.  In addition, the defense must bounce back, especially after allowing a crippling eight and a half minute touchdown drive in the late fourth quarter.

Despite these setbacks, Kansas State is not as bad as that loss would suggest.  North Dakota State is not your usual FCS squad, and the venerable Bill Snyder will certainly make the requisite adjustments.

Meanwhile, West Virginia has something Kansas State doesn’t: a W in the win column.  However, West Virginia looked to be the inferior team as it struggled its way to a comeback win against William and Mary, a team that went 2-9 in the FCS last year.  If North Dakota State is the Franklin Roosevelt of the FCS, William and Mary is William Henry Harrison.  The Mountaineers could turn the season around if they steal Geno Smith back from the Jets (he probably wouldn’t mind), but the talent is simply lacking.  With the defense unable to adequately stop a mediocre FCS team, it is unlikely it will be able to hold some of the Big 12 offenses.

Iowa State also had a subpar showing against an FCS team, joining Kansas State in the loss column with a 28-20 loss to the Northern Iowa Panthers.  It wasn’t because Panther alum Ali Farokhmanesh showed up out of nowhere to deliver more devastating daggers to his opponents, but rather because of a poor rush defense and a disappointing third down offense.

The biggest obstacle between Kansas and escaping the basement is its schedule.  Its three most winnable conference games, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Kansas State respectively, are the last three games of the regular season.  It is certainly conceivable that the Jayhawks enter the West Virginia game with an 0-6 conference record.  Kansas’ confidence could be minimal and its attitude dejected, especially if it fails to avoid blowouts.

If Kansas can steal a game at the beginning of the conference season or earn the begrudging respect of the conference’s powers, then Kansas fans could see a three-game winning streak to end the season.  Such a winning streak would be a nice addendum to Weis’ recruiting pitches.

Such a winning streak could also send Kansas back into its first bowl game since 2008.

  • Updated Sep. 3, 2013 at 12:34 am
  • Edited by Heather Nelson