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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Kansas football better than 101 ranking

First-year Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham puts KU receivers through workouts during the Jayhawks' first practice of the spring, on March 13, 2017, at Anschutz Pavilion.

First-year Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham puts KU receivers through workouts during the Jayhawks' first practice of the spring, on March 13, 2017, at Anschutz Pavilion.

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ESPN uses a formula that ranks all 130 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. It’s called Football Power Index (FPI) and is defined as “a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance.”

The 2017 FPI has Ohio State No. 1, Alabama No. 2, Florida State No. 3 and Oklahoma No. 4.

Just one of the 64 schools from the so-called Power Five football conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC) falls outside the top 100 and you can probably guess the name of that school.

Kansas, heading into the third season of a David Beaty rebuilding project that started with an 0-12 season and continued with a 2-10 mark, checks in at No. 101. Purdue of the Big Ten is next-lowest at No. 97.

Interestingly, all 11 FBS schools on KU’s schedule have a higher FPI than Kansas, including Week 2 opponent Central Michigan, ranked No. 85, and Week 3 foe Ohio, No. 91.

Using FPI, and adjusting to favor the home team, ESPN.com predicts the percentage chance each team has of winning a particular game on the schedule. The website gives Kansas less than a 50 percent chance in each game on the schedule, other than against Southeast Missouri State in the season-opener. It also should be noted that the game vs. Central Michigan is a virtual dead heat.

KU's chance of victory, per FPI, for every game on the schedule: SEMO (91), Central Michigan (49.8), at Ohio (35.5), West Virginia (21.9), Texas Tech (26.7), at Iowa State (19.7), at TCU (3.8), Kansas State (12.4), Baylor (14.5), at Texas (5.2), Oklahoma (2.5), at Oklahoma State (5.5).

Kansas is 1-20 in its past 21 Big 12 games, so I get that the Jayhawks heading into the season are underdogs in every conference game, but a few of the numbers seemed a little strange.

I agree that Texas Tech in Week 5 represents the best shot at a Big 12 victory, but think the game ought to be considered closer to a coin toss than one in which Kansas has just slightly better than a one in four chance of winning.

Also, the Longhorns no doubt will be in payback mode and won’t be playing for a lame-duck coach, but Kansas players also will be jacked for the game to prove that their school's first victory against Texas since 1938 was no fluke.

And Kansas almost always plays TCU tough, so even given the 41-game road losing streak and an eight-season conference road losing streak, you have to believe the Jayhawks have better than a 3.8 percent chance of pulling off the upset.

Several tangible reasons exist for believing the Jayhawks will be better than the preseason projection that has them outside the top 100.

To name a few, Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley are more equipped to perform in an Air Raid offense, in which they have spent their entire high school/college careers, than Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis. David Beaty will benefit from surrendering offensive-coordinator duties, including play-calling, and Doug Meacham’s presence should be a big boost. Depth is improved at defensive tackle and linebacker. The offensive line is deeper, more experienced, more physically ready than a year ago. An increased emphasis on flexibility brought by strength and conditioning coach Zac Woodfin should help. Newcomers Daylon Charlot, the Alabama transfer, and emerging Chase Harrell, give Steven Sims company as potential playmakers at wide receiver, and additions at running back, Dom Williams and Octavius Matthews, could more than compensate for the loss of Ke’aun Kinner, who will be missed.

Sometimes intangible gains can be nearly as important. The comeback victory against Texas late last season showed the players they can win in the Big 12 and that will allow them to play with freer minds, more confidence, at the end of close games.

None of that, of course, will make the schedule any easier.

Here’s how the Big 12 shapes up nationally, per ESPN’s FPI: Oklahoma (4), TCU (18), Texas (25), Oklahoma State (26), Kansas State (30), Baylor (34), West Virginia (48), Texas Tech (51), Iowa State (67).

Comments

John Brazelton 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If KU can come up with an additional two touchdowns per game through improvements in offense, defense and special team performance, we should be in a majority of our games this season going into the 4th quarter.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 2 weeks ago

While I truly appreciate the math that now dominates sports analysis, it's important to ask a simple question: where do the initial, fundamental numbers come from? Number of returning starters? Gross weight of the offensive line? Past performance? Pre-season math is virtually useless. It does get better as the season progresses, but the numbers don't account for Mike Lee, or Sparky or Chris Harris.

We all know that this team will be in a dogfight every minute of the season. Last year, Beaty decided to make an uphill climb even harder by monkeying with the QB's, the punt return, the play-calling and pretty much everything else. The math doesn't factor those mistakes in. Of course, we can't factor them out either, until we see proof that the team won't be disabled on game day by its own coach.

The roster is set. All the guys, just like their competitors, will be working out all summer. Starting now, it will be very much about coaching. Which staff can identify the right guys to play? Which staff can scout the opponent better? Which staff can expose weakness in the other team?

Mason and Mangino both inherited messes. Both had the program moving forward by year three. Time to move forward.

Garry Wright 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I have a feeling that this year is going to turn some heads. I like what I've been hearing about the team and it's attitude, workouts and improved talent. I don't always agree with Tom but I do concerning this article. I have no prediction concerning the number of wins, but I believe that there will be some surprises.

Brian Wilson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I disagree. Mason and Mangino inherited messes but Beaty inherited a disaster. Beaty had less than 65 schollies to start and although I don't know Mason and Mangino's numbers I can't believe it is even close. To me Beaty needs to improve one win per year until year five. We started with zip and now in year four I expect 3 wins. Any more than that is gravy. Now that we have all 85 scholarships in play its time to see improvement and IMO this wil be Beaty's second year as a far as having a legitimate program to work with. Also, you don't have a program until your seniors have been in the system and are handing down what they have learned to the Freshman and all four classes have been in the same offensive and defensive systems their entire college careers. The ideal cycle is 6 years. Thats when even you are getting the full benefit of your reshirt program. Then you have team depth that has knowledge and experience. At which time recruiting from community colleges becomes less needed.

John Fitzgerald 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I believe we still only have around 70-75 scholarships. It'll be a few more years until we're at 85.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Brian - While your premiss is correct, your math is a bit off. This is year 3, and we are not expected to be at 85 scholarship players until year 5. We'll have big turnover years the next 2 because we have gotten quite a few JC's, though fortunately they have all made it to campus - usually in time for spring ball, and the field. unlike the previous reclamation projects, Beaty started with an FCS roster, and has done an incredible job of rebuilding.

Bender, Baldwin, Octavius, and especially Charlot will transform the O this year. Meachem will get a lot of credit, just as Beaty got a lot of blame - more than deserved in both cases. Jimmies and Joes or lack thereof can and will make all the difference in the world.

Dave Roberts 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Beaty started with 58 scholarship players in his first season, whereas he now has 76.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Beaty should not get any blame for what happened in year one, period. We all had a feeling he was going to go 0-12 with what he inherited from the Gill and Weis regimes.

But he does deserve blame for the team not improving the following season. There is no reason in the world that Beaty's Jayhawks should not have won a third game somewhere in there, whether against Ohio, TCU, or Iowa State. (And no, beating a bad Rhode Island team or a tanking Texas team is not improvement.)

Beaty needs to win four games minimum this season. Anything less will be more of the same old crap we've had to put up with since Mangino was forced to resign.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 2 weeks ago

No, not really. Not when you consider the Rhode Island was worse than even us, and that Texas pissed away an 11-point lead late and lost in overtime; that game was more Texas losing it than Kansas winning it.

John Fitzgerald 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I would have liked more wins last year like anybody else but Beaty is also dealing with a depleted roster. Could you imagine playing with an FCS roster while in D1? That's basically what he's doing. Finally this year we'll have 76 scholarships which is much closer to the 85 mark, so I'm predicting we'll be a lot more competitive. He hasn't been perfect but it's not worth boo hooing over. Also, name a coach that took over a D1 program in a Power 5 Conference with 58 scholarship players on the roster when the team is allowed 85 and had a winning record in 3 years.

Jack Joiner 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Hit'em first, hit'em hard, knock'em down. leg whip'em and then give em a forearm shiver to the mouth. ESPN has no idea what kind of Warriors we have put together in the trenches.

Eric Eakins 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Where are your seats in the stadium because I want to sit next to you. Actually you should be on the sideline giving that speech to the defense right before they go in the game.

Micky Baker 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It's an interesting article. I too was shocked by only given a 3.8% chance to beat TCU. KU was just one or two plays away from beating them the past 3 seasons. I think that we have a much better chance at winning some of the other games, but what ESPN has to go with is limited during the preseason. I expect that the opening day starter will be Bender, and it will be interesting to see how the new offensive additions contribute. I also like the addition of depth on the OL and at DE(probably the heart and soul of this team going into fall camp).

Chris DeWeese 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think we beat either TTech or TCU (or both) this season. It's a long time coming, and we finally have some tools to do it.

Andy Godwin 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think the expectations from the outside pundits are spot on. Until you show you are dramatically improved (and can actually compete and win on the road), the national prospective will remain that KU football is still at the bottom. Time to show that times are changing in Lawrence. If the Jayhawks do not start 3-0, including a win on the road, then the enthusiasm for the Big 12 games will wain.

Dale Rogers 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The problem with this is those outside pundits are looking at this from afar. They are basing decisions on numbers without benefit of seeing the actual changes going on besides names and numbers. Time will tell.

John Fitzgerald 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think a large and difficult factor for ESPN analysts to consider is the toll it takes on a team of having a deficient amount of scholarship players. Beaty took over a very unusual situation that I'm sure not many coaches have to deal with in a lifetime so it's hard to judge how much of the teams failures have to deal with solely that or other factors such as talent level, execution, and coaching. Now that the scholarship amount is increasing and you start to lessen the influence that has on the team, how much do you bump up KU's win probabilities? Not saying it's ESPN's fault but given that information I agree these projections are a little off. We should be favored to win at least 3 games, and I expect us to win 4.

Steve Corder 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Do you LJW guys ever, when media is allowed to watch, attend K-State practices or the spring game so as to gauge more accurately the competitive condition of KU's team?

Eric Eakins 2 months, 2 weeks ago

At this point in the season (or non-season) these polls are click-bait, comment section encouragers, and/or pride inflaters (deflaters). Coaches have to keep the boys focused and build a system everyone is on board with. The love of sports is not the numbers but the overcoming of obstacles and the 'fighting will' over 'talent' wins. Sometimes the least can make a mighty showing. If numbers and talent win every time then Alabama would be undefeated and there would be no reason to play the games. RCJH.

Steve Jacob 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I always seem to be the one person here who does not buy the optimism. I see 2-10 again. If KU starts 1-2 the Big 12 season will be unwatchable. I hope I am wrong, KU goes 3-0 and find some wins in conference, but being realistic.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 2 weeks ago

You're not the only one. I'm not buying into the optimism until I see a record no worse than 4-8.

Randy Bombardier 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I am optimistic but looking at different things other than w's. Are we reducing turnovers, does the offense put together sustained drives? Can the oline make holes for the running game?

Last year passing game execution was very poor. I attribute much of that to too many moving pieces, especially at qb. If we clean that up and get just half of the explosiveness of TTECH we will win a number of games. We have a legit defense. They do not or did not last year.

Coaching improvement I'm hoping to see is game planning, situational awareness, play calling. I thought we were weak in those areas.

I think these guys have heart and if things don't go like they hope, how will they respond? Quit, like Texas? I don't think so. Maybe one more bad year would do us good in the long run. We say we know what it takes. Maybe, maybe not. We will see. I was very proud of the defense last year. Hope the whole team can play with that grit i saw from Jayhawk D.

DB Ashton 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This preseason nonsense headline would be just as accurate were it to read "worse than 101." More to the point is that without Kansas, the conference average here is 34, with Kansas, 40 -- our very presence independently drops each of nine football teams fully 6 rating points. We are out of our league and have been, consistently. Much of this is explainable -- we are not in Texas, not in Oklahoma. But Kansas State copes. How? If them, why not us? Were it not for our extraordinary basketball program, which operates in fundamentally different ways, the athletic department would be a national laughingstock, periodically stripped from stem to stern. The public at large accepts that we simply do not play football here and assumes we don't much care, since we appear to be capable of competence in other areas. Pieces like this that allege things football are getting better or are not quite so bad (what? 98th? 94th?) continue to make me very tired. Season after season after season...

Bob Bailey 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Position coaches are pretty good, but not the Coordinators. No one even knows how to teach tackling. And the Defensive Scheme has the team lining up out of position, with inadequate defensive assignments.

So far a lot of effort has been made to cover our holes with improving talent. Won't really work. And not enough coaching to work hard at "3 and out". The real knot in our tail is DEFENSE. Will be interesting to see how poor the other guys defensive team is.

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