Winning North realistic for KU football

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kansas University football fans, players and coaches have hoped, wished and dreamed their Jayhawks could win a Big 12 North title since the league was formed in 1996. But up to their 7-1 conference title tie in the Orange Bowl season of 2007, they never had better than a fourth-place finish to “celebrate.”

This season many in the enthusiastic family think, with good reason, that their team will definitely top the other five entries in the North. It’s time, the ultra-faithful say, to reach that postseason league title match. There will be considerable disappointment, and some grumbling, if KU misses that game again.

Hopes soared for the ’08 season, naturally. The resulting 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12 fell considerably short of what most projected. That crummy 37-34 upset at South Florida prevented a 6-0 start prior to the visit to Oklahoma. Then the Jayhawks fell to OU, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Texas and desperately needed a romp over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl to shorten the winter.

With Sept. 5 (Northern Colorado) so near, memories of what might have been in ’08 and what the Jayhawks learned are giving rise to zeal and zip, particularly among players who feel sure they’re ready for a fiery run for supremacy in the North.

Pragmatists preach that Nebraska looms as the top deterrent for such optimism. Yet NU has to find a proven quarterback as good as the departed Joe Ganz. Defense will be the Cornhusker forte, but it’s not likely NU can come close to presenting the offensive thrust that Todd Reesing, Jake Sharp, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe and eager but unsung teammates will uncork.

As for enthusiasm, it may never have been much higher in and around Lincoln, where they jammed the stadium for a mere spring game. However, NU may miss Ganz a lot. He should have been featured a lot earlier than mid-2007. Projected starter Zac Lee, and reserves Latravis Washington, Kody Spano and Cody Green all are pretty untested.

KU is considering itself a reasonable threat on defense and it will be interesting to see if Lee is good enough to spark NU past Kansas in the Nov. 14 Lawrence game. That will be a genuine North division showdown. The winner should be delirious, the loser just plain sick.

No good reason Kansas can’t annex Northern Colorado, UTEP, Duke, Southern Miss and Iowa State, then go to Colorado and surge to 6-0. The bad news is that Oklahoma visits the next week, and Texas Tech, Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas and Missouri toughen the suicide stretch for the season. T-Tech, KSU, NU and Mizzou, maybe, but Texas has dreams of and the material for a national championship. It’s unlikely KU, for all its fire and desire, can dump OU and Texas.

First things first, mainly that Big 12 North title. Win that and all sorts of doors could open. Kansas is capable of dispatching Iowa State, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas State and Missouri for a 5-0 North mark. The visit to Texas Tech is troubling, though.

Yet these Jayhawks know what they did in ’07, regret they didn’t do better in ’08 and are secure in the belief they’ll rule the Big 12 North. They have fond delusions of adequacy, so let’s don’t ever let them think they’re not that good.