Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Best case, worst case: Kansas
By Max Olson
On Monday, we started our series on the best-case and worst-case scenarios for each Big 12 team.
The premise of these fun posts is to examine what the season may look like if everything fell into place for each school -- the best-case scenario for 2014. Conversely, we’ll also show what might happen if everything goes wrong -- the worst-case scenario. The truth, as usual, should fall somewhere in the middle.
Seven wins. Kansas' first winning season since the Mark Mangino era. Let's see how we can make this work.
An 8-5 season would result in a lot of celebratory Gatorade baths for Kansas coach Charlie Weis.
Kansas whoops FCS Southeast Missouri State in the opener. That's easy enough. But it will have to be a real butt-whooping, a glorious display of the Jayhawks' potential, because they need a confidence booster before they go on the road to play reigning ACC Coastal Division champion Duke.
In this game, KU gets lucky. Montell Cozart runs around in the pocket enough to trigger some form of potent post-Manziel stress disorder in the Blue Devils that causes receivers to get bafflingly wide open. Cozart takes advantage, Kansas receivers actually catch touchdowns, and it's all so amazing.
The Jayhawks go to 3-0 after taking care of business against Central Michigan. They give Texas a scare akin to 2012 in their Big 12 opener, but come up just short. Good thing there's an easy rebound game the next week against West Virginia. But the game that puts Kansas on the national radar is a startling easy win over Oklahoma State, one that sends the Pokes to 3-3. Kansas, at 5-1, is the talk of the country.
And just as Charlie Weis is being hyped up for doing one of the nation's best coaching jobs, his annual check for $2,054,744 from Notre Dame -- the check he gets to not coach the Fighting Irish -- arrives in the mail. Life is so sweet.
Even road losses at Texas Tech and Baylor can't kill Weis' vibe. KU gets to six wins and bowl eligibility by knocking off Iowa State at home. Weis carries the goal posts out of the stadium himself and throws them into Potter Lake. He begins contract extension negotiations the following Monday.
Fans fear their beloved, revived Jayhawks have run out of magic when they lose to TCU and Oklahoma the next two weeks, but this ain't over. Kansas goes into Manhattan and hands Kansas State a 21-point beatdown as revenge for five straight losses in the rivalry.
The Jayhawks go to the Liberty Bowl and make a rebuilding SEC team (how about Missouri?) look like a "pile of crap" (Weis' words, not mine) to finish the year 8-5. Yes, that's right, 8-5. Weis gets a pay bump to $5 million a year, and the Jayhawks are well on their way to a new dynasty.
Kansas exits nonconference play with an encouraging 2-1 record after squeaking out wins against Southeast Missouri State and CMU. The Duke game got ugly; let's just not talk about it.
But the offensive transition under new OC John Reagan is a rocky one, and Cozart can't keep up. He gets benched after four straight Big 12 losses in favor of Michael Cummings, who runs a little more but doesn't make much a difference. KU gets back in its rut of changing the game plan every week in a futile attempt to expose opponents' specific weaknesses.
Ben Heeney finishes with an admirable 146 tackles and earns second-team all-conference honors, but the rest of the defense is a work in progress that makes little progress. KU notches one Big 12 win, in overtime at home against Iowa State, but loses the rest to finish 3-9.
Charlie Weis resigns following another rough loss to Kansas State. The search committee moves quickly to replace him, overlooking the next Gus Malzahn and instead hiring former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who desperately wanted the KU job in 2011.
Oh, and one more thing: The day after Barnett is introduced at Kansas, Miami quarterback Jake Heaps is runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Life is so cruel.