The Kansas Jayhawks are a laughing stock no more.
After 12 straight seasons with three or fewer wins, Kansas exploded onto the scene in 2022 with a scorching hot start behind dynamic quarterback Jalon Daniels. While they did taper off somewhat after Daniels went down injured, the team still managed to make their first bowl game since 2008.
Now, in a Big 12 Conference with four new schools, can the Jayhawks continue their upward trajectory, or will they slide back down into the college football basement? We’ll find out later in this article. And for those who’d like to find out more about football match previews and weekly reports, reputable sites like OvertimeHeroics.net are a good source.
The Keys to Kansas’ Season
To understand how Kansas will do this season, we first need to analyze the reasons behind their 2022 breakout.
Simply put, it was their fiery offense. The Jayhawks ranked top 25 nationally in total points scored last season behind the explosive talent of Jalon Daniels, a strong running game headlined by Devin Neal, and a balanced receiver room that saw four players eclipse 400 yards and 11 score at least one touchdown.
But for every 100 yards their incredible offense gained, it seemed like their defense gave it all back at times, if not more.
Kansas was one of only five teams last year who allowed at least five red zone scoring chances per game, their opponent red zone scoring percentage of 86% means teams had no problem putting points on the board once they got there. This combination led to them sporting a bottom 10 defense in all of college football.
How this balance swings will end up defining how the Jayhawks season goes, so let’s see how they stack up on both sides of the ball in our Big 12 Football Rankings for 2023.
With 10 offensive starters returning, this group has a serious chance to be the best Power Five scoring offense in the country next year as long as one thing happens:
Jalon Daniels needs to stay healthy for this whole thing to work.
In order for Kansas to be a successful team, they can’t settle for just a good offense, they’ll need to be truly great. Daniels led college football in Total QBR last season, so don’t be surprised to see him in early season Heisman talks if he starts off strong.
As great as their passing game is, on the ground is where they have a serious chance to take a step up. Devin Neal was electric after taking over for injured starter Daniel Hinshaw Jr., and with both of them healthy, they can provide the dynamic one-two punch to propel this offense to one of the best in the nation.
Good news! Kansas is returning over 80% of their defensive production from last season. Even though they had their struggles, an extra year of experience can only be beneficial for a defense that desperately needs it.
Look out though, the front four could be a real make-or-break group for the Jayhawks’ defense. All four starters from last year’s team left, and they’ll be relying on transfers including Austin Booker (Minnesota), Devin Phillips (Colorado State), and Patrick Joyner Jr. (Utah State) to fill in the gaps.
Overall, it’s safe to assume this will still be a solidly below-average defensive team, but some added transfers and more experience should see this group at least gradually improve.
Another place Kansas struggled mightily last season was in the kicking department. Jacob Borcila hit just seven of his 13 field goal attempts last season, with a long of just 40 yards.
With that in mind, incoming transfer Seth Keller from Texas State could be the most important addition to this team. He might not have the biggest boot (his career long is just 49 yards), but Keller is incredibly consistent from short ranges, which the Jayhawks’ elite offense should have no trouble getting him into.
With the Big 12 in such a state of flux, it’s hard to say for sure how next year is going to play out, yet we think that Kansas is in a strong position to build off their success in 2022.
But, as a caveat, that success most likely has a cap thanks to their defense that, while slightly improved, is still nowhere near good enough to be a threat for the conference championship.
In a lot of ways, 2023 Kansas is reminiscent of last year’s UNC team. An incredible talent at QB headlining one of the best offenses in football, but with not enough talent on the other end to warrant more than above-average respectability.
Final Prediction: 7-5 (5-4, 7th in Big 12).
Only Time Will Tell
Kansas football is certainly in a better place than it was 10, five, or even three years ago.
With an offense that has enough firepower to run with just about any team in the country, they have the potential to beat anybody on a good day. But, their defense might hold them back for the second year in a row from being a truly special team.
Kansas is probably due for another solid 6-7 win season to go along with a second straight bowl appearance, with the potential for eight or maybe even nine wins if their defense can go from terrible to even just below average.