The Kansas Jayhawks lost to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, 38-23, in the Big 12’s first foray into ‘Big 12 After Dark’ territory Saturday night. Actually, that doesn’t do justice to what the Chants did to the Jayhawks, nor does it do justice to what the Sun Belt Conference did to the Big 12 Conference.
This early in the season you expect a Power 5 Conference team to stumble out of the gate. It happens. You don’t expect three teams in the SAME POWER 5 CONFERENCE to lose to three teams from the SAME GROUP OF 5 CONFERENCE.
The Jayhawks were down 28-3 at halftime against the Chants. The fact is Kansas (0-1) was dominated in those first 30 minutes. That’s no joke. I mean the offensive numbers weren’t much different at halftime (197 total yards for Coastal, 150 total yards for Kansas). But the Jayhawks had three turnovers in the first half and the Chants were all too happy to cash in. The second half was better for Kansas, and the good news is that Miles Kendrick may have taken control of the starting quarterback job.
But you know, Kansas lost to Coastal Carolina last year. Remember that? Coastal came into Lawrence, Kansas, and beat the Jayhawks, 12-7. I mean, did KU just forget that? Was revenge not on their minds going into this one? Coastal played like it was applying for Big 12 membership. Kansas played in the first half like it wanted out.
And had that loss happened at the start of the day, you could be forgiven for saying, “You know what? It’s Kansas football. No big deal. The rest of the conference will hold serve.”
But no. It came on THE HEELS of the two biggest upsets of the day, both coming in the Big 12 and both coming at the hands of Coastal’s Sun Belt brethren.
Earlier in the day Louisiana, which won 11 games in 2019 and lost to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference championship game, went into Ames, Iowa, to defeat Iowa State, 31-14.
Shortly after the Ragin’ Cajuns dropped the hammer on the Cyclones, the Arkansas State Red Wolves stole one from the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan, Kansas, 35-31. I watched that game in the afternoon and the Red Wolves were the better team, especially in the second half, as they wiped out Kansas State’s 14-point lead.
By the time Miles talked with Fox Sports 1’s Tim Brando during their pre-game interview the league was COUNTING on Kansas to keep things from getting flat-out embarrassing.
No such luck.
In this ‘season like no other,’ two of these games weren’t even on the original 2020 schedule. When the Big 12 went to its ‘9 plus 1’ model for the season, both Iowa State and Kansas State had to go shopping for a non-conference game. Arkansas State and Louisiana needed them. A-State lost its big money game with Michigan, while Louisiana lost non-conference games with Wyoming and Missouri.
Coastal and Kansas were supposed to play on Sept. 26 originally, and the game was supposed to be in Conway, South Carolina. But when the Big 12 set its new league schedule to start on Sept. 26, the two teams moved the game up to Sept. 12 and moved it back to Lawrence.
So the Red Wolves, the Ragin’ Cajuns and the Chanticleers got the best of both worlds — big money and a big win.
The Sun Belt has sponsored football for 20 years. The majority of its membership was in FCS when the conference started sponsoring football. And these were big wins, to be sure.
Within the Sun Belt, Arkansas State and Louisiana are two of the league’s best teams. But outside of the friendly confines of the Sun Belt, well, both teams have had their issues.
Arkansas State had a 21-game losing streak against Power 5 teams. Louisiana hadn’t beaten a Power 5 team since 1996. Coastal is in its fourth season in FBS and is 2-0 against Kansas.
Iowa State hadn’t lost to a Group of 5 team in the Matt Campbell era (though it did lost to FCS power Northern Iowa in Campbell’s debut in 2016). Kansas State has now lost two straight games to Group of 5 teams (or have you blocked out their bowl loss to Navy last December?). Kansas hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 and hasn’t won more than three games since 2010.
Miles seemed in good spirits while talking with Brando. He knew about the upsets earlier in the day. How could he not? His son, Manny, is the assistant quarterbacks coach at Arkansas State.
Manny is probably the only happy Miles on this weekend. And the Sun Belt is the happiest Group of 5 league on earth.
And the Big 12? Well it has some work to do.
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