The case for calling off Saturday's Kansas football finale vs. Texas
By the time I started writing this, the Kansas football program had already sent out its weekly email notifying the media about the Monday Zoom call with Les Miles, which, this time, was arranged to preview Saturday’s season finale against Texas.
I would’ve sent a separate email if I were them. And I would’ve needed just four words to do it.
“That’s a wrap, folks.”
At 0-9 overall and 0-8 in Big 12 play heading into the finale of an entirely forgettable season, the Jayhawks have a laundry list of reasons that they could call off Saturday’s game against the Longhorns, which is currently scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in Lawrence.
COVID-19 protocols dictate teams in the Big 12 have a certain number of players at each position to be able to compete, and given the Jayhawks’ recent string of injury issues, opt-outs and trips to the transfer portal, the team has to be right on the line at a couple of positions.
No need to push it. Call it a season.
COVID-19 testing could be another reason to pull the plug. And this one exists as a factor on both sides of the fence.
Texas temporarily paused all football activities on Sunday after announcing that five people within the program — three players and two staff members — tested positive after last weekend’s game.
We haven’t had an update on the number of KU football players out because of a positive COVID-19 test or related contact tracing issues in a while, but it’s been pretty common at programs across the country throughout season and it’s safe to assume that at least some of those KU players who were on the recent did-not-dress list may have been out because of the virus in one way or another.
Who’s going to argue with COVID as a reason to scrap this matchup, which was already postponed once? The first step is already in place with UT's pause. This would be easy.
And then there’s the even more obvious reason to end the season early. It’s one that’s a little bit tougher to embrace for the true competitors out there, but it probably should be considered all the same.
Texas just dropped 69 points on Kansas State and did it by winning the second half 38-13 and racking up 608 yards of total offense.
There’s no guarantee the Longhorns (6-3 overall, 5-3 Big 12) will do the same to Kansas. But there’s also no reason to think they couldn’t.
Two UT running backs alone ran for 311 yards and six TDs against the Wildcats in Manhattan. The Jayhawks currently rank 119th out of 127 teams in rushing defense.
Given those realities, the Texas backs probably could run to Lawrence for the game and still have enough left in the tank to go out and win another game.
I don’t know about you, but a close call on the road against Texas Tech serving as the final act for the 2020 season sure sounds a lot better than a drubbing at the hands of Texas.
Nobody at Kansas would come right out and say that’s why they would be calling off the game, of course. But a little look-yourself-in-the-mirror moment and a creative action plan could achieve the desired outcome without needing to openly wave the white flag.
Heck, the Jayhawks already had Senior Day, so you're not even taking that away with this move.
It’s probably a moot point in the grand scheme of things. No matter how this season ends — a 3-point loss at Tech, a 40-point home loss to Texas or anything in between — very few Kansas fans are going to view much of the 2020 KU football season as a sign of progress or something to build on.
Hard to blame them for that. The scores were rough, the stats were even rougher and there were very few bright spots along the way.
They did exist. But you have to really want to see them to care. Many fans don’t. Again, hard to blame them for that.
Several freshmen and underclassmen made a significant impact this season and many proved they can play at this level. If they can become the foundation and help bring others along with them in the years ahead, things actually could start heading in the right direction again.
I know, I know; you’ve all heard that one a time or 10. But one of these decades it’s going to be true.
We’re getting off topic now.
The bottom line is this: I have to think that nobody on either side would object all that loudly if this weekend’s game never happens. (By the way, there's been talk that this weekend's OU-West Virginia game might get canceled to give both teams playing in the Big 12 title game two weeks to prepare.)
KU could close the book on 2020 and remember it as a season that ended with the Jayhawks having a chance to drive down the field for a game-winning touchdown on the road in the Big 12. Not bad.
Texas, meanwhile, doesn't get anything out of playing the game. Iowa State and Oklahoma already have clinched berths in the Big 12 title game and all the Longhorns can do by playing at Kansas is pick up another win for UT coach Tom Herman, whose future in Austin has been a hot topic of late.
There's obviously very little chance of KU pulling off the upset, but flukey things happen. Would Herman — or anyone at UT, for that matter — really want to risk losing to the Jayhawks at this stage in the season when they don't have to?
“What’s that? You can’t play because your roster is too depleted,” a UT official might say to KU Athletic Director Jeff Long during a phone call this week. “We definitely understand. See you during basketball season.”
“Sounds good,” Jayhawks everywhere might think.