Each summer the Kansas football program publishes its annual media guide, and every year the book is stuffed with pertinent facts and information, hitting on everything from rosters, to player and coach bios, to the team’s history.
Among the 190-plus pages in the latest edition, few stand out quite like one within the section dedicated to KU’s new head coach.
The entry is simply titled, Les Miles versus Top 25.
It serves as a convenient cue to anyone thumbing through the reference material of Miles’ history of prosperity, beyond the most prominent bullet point on his résumé, coaching LSU to a national championship after the 2007 season.
Over the course of 15-plus seasons as a college football head coach, Miles’ teams have gone 45-33 against top 25 opponents.
Miles enters his first season at KU with 197 games behind him, and roughly 40 percent of them came with his teams going up against ranked competition.
As one would suspect, Miles racked up the majority of those top 25 wins between 2005 and 2016, when he worked at LSU. But he also proved while helping rebuild Oklahoma State at his first head coaching job that he could lead an unranked team to upset wins, too.
In Miles’ first year on the sidelines at OSU, the Cowboys finished just 4-7. However, they headed into the offseason on the highest of notes, beating rival Oklahoma, ranked No. 4 in the nation.
“That 16-13,” Miles recalled recently of the final score, “was a favorite number for a long time.”
OSU knocked off OU again to close the 2002 regular season, with the Cowboys winning 38-28 versus the No. 3 Sooners, before finishing Miles’ second year with the program 8-5 thanks to a Houston Bowl win over Southern Miss.
Year 3 for Miles at OSU brought another top 25 win, as the Cowboys — unranked in this one, just as they were in their victories over OU — beat No. 22 Kansas State.
Miles’ fourth and final season in Stillwater, Okla., was the only one that lacked a signature top 25 win. Although the Cowboys spent much of the fall ranked themselves and went 7-5 overall, they were 0-3 against ranked foes, falling to three of the nation’s most prominent programs, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 7 Texas and No. 19 Ohio State.
When LSU hired Miles to replace Nick Saban, he held a 3-10 record versus top 25 teams. Miles’ fortunes soon would change as he took over a powerhouse SEC program.
Over the course of the following 11-plus seasons, Miles ended up 42-23 against ranked opponents at LSU. In all but one of those games — the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl, when LSU steamrolled Georgia Tech, 38-3 — the Tigers were ranked, too.
The current situation at Kansas, of course, is much more similar to the one Miles inherited at Oklahoma State than the circumstances he walked into at LSU. OSU finished with a losing record in 11 of the 12 seasons before Miles arrived. In the five years under Saban, ahead of Miles taking over, LSU was routinely ranked, went 48-16 and won the 2003 national title.
So the idea of Miles routinely adding multiple wins to his top 25 record each year at KU qualifies as farfetched.
Only time will tell how many opportunities KU and Miles will get this coming fall to take on top 25 teams. Still, it seems plausible the Jayhawks will face at least three ranked foes during Big 12 play. Both Oklahoma and Texas project as preseason top 10 teams. Plus, Iowa State has spent time in the top 25 each of the past two years, and the program could crack the preseason rankings, too, in coach Matt Campbell’s fourth season. KU will be on the road for both Texas (Oct. 19) and Iowa State (Nov. 23) and play host to OU (Oct. 5). Other top 25 matchups could materialize as the season plays out, too.
Whatever the number of chances ends up being, the next KU win over a ranked team, whether it comes this year or in the future, will seem like some form of a milestone. The Jayhawks haven’t won against a team ranked in the AP’s top 25 since 2010, in Turner Gill’s first year as the head coach. KU beat No. 15 Georgia Tech, 28-25.
Since then, it’s been nothing but losses for Kansas versus ranked teams — 32 defeats in a row.
In its history, KU is 26-169-2 against top 25 teams. The Jayhawks have won more than one game against a ranked opponent in only five seasons: 1968 (2-0), under head coach Pepper Rodgers; 1975 (2-2), with Bud Moore; 1983 (2-2), Mike Gottfried’s first season; 1995 (3-2), when Glen Mason was in charge; and, of course, 2007 (2-1), the crowning campaign of the Mark Mangino era.
Overall at OSU: 3-10
Overall at LSU: 42-23
Combined at OSU and LSU: 45-33