2011 could be a really long year

It's the eve of the 2011 season opener for the Kansas Jayhawks, and Phog.net's Jim Williamson chimes in with his take on why - despite likely improvement on the field - it could be a rough one for Head Coach Turner Gill's squad.

I've got good news and bad news.

The good news is, the 2011 Kansas football team will be bigger, stronger and more athletic than the season before.

The bad news is, it won't make a lick of difference.

Kansas will start the season 1-0 with a win over McNeese State – no upset in the home opener this season – but then it gets ugly and stays that way. Kansas will go 1-11, and no, I don't have a subscription to Sports Illustrated.

Kansas only has three winnable games on their schedule: McNeese State, Northern Illinois and Iowa State. Northern Illinois has the most explosive offense in the MAC, despite losing a ton of starters off a team that went 10-3, lost in the MAC title game and then drilled Fresno State, 40-17, in the Humanitarian Bowl. New head coach and former KU assistant Dave Doeren takes over for the Huskies, and KU hasn't exactly set the world on fire against the MAC in recent years.

By the way, the Humanitarian Bowl is now called The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. I am not making that up.

Iowa State would be winnable at home and maybe even on a neutral field, but the game is in Ames. KU hasn't won on the road in a very long time.

The conference shake-up didn't help, either. Colorado's departure hurt; that was always a winnable game. Having to play both Texas and Oklahoma every year is just plain mean.

So, I'm calling my shot: 1-11. Why the bad attitude?

Kansas Football doesn't exist in a vacuum.

I'll give second-year head coach Turner Gill credit: he said he would put a faster, stronger, more explosive team on the field this season. Based on what I've seen, he's making good on his promise. I'm also confident that we're nearing the end of the major position shifts, ala Toben Opurum and Brad McDougald.

So KU does indeed have more playmakers. The problem is, so does everyone else.

Last I checked, Bill Snyder has the guys in Manhattan practicing, too. Mack Brown has his guys lifting weights. Gary Pinkel and Tommy Tuberville are recruiting their rear-ends off. No one is sitting around, waiting for Kansas to catch up. And when you start out as woefully far behind as Kansas did, you wish they would.

I believe the Jayhawks will indeed be better on the field, but the gap is too wide to make a difference this season.

Thin and getting thinner.

Losing Pat Lewandowski and Patrick Dorsey from an already-thin defensive line just once again serves to illustrate how undermanned the Jayhawks still are. Two of the best members of the team's worst unit? That's a killer.

Here's another example: proclaimed QB-of-the-future Brock Berglund won't practice with the team this fall due to his legal problems back home. That's probably the best thing for everyone involved, really, including Berglund. He's almost certainly going to be redshirted.

Nevertheless, there's no avoiding the reality that a guy who was going to battle for the starting QB job isn't even part of the equation, and that makes a negative impact on the entire team and program.

Injuries are unavoidable and will only magnify KU's fragile personnel situation as the season drags on. The only place Kansas can afford to be dinged up are at running back and wide receiver. Injuries will occur among those groups, but they're going to happen everywhere else, too.

Upsets are a product of passion.

There are some eternal truths in college sports. One of them is, the longer you let an inferior opponent hang around, the more they start to think they belong. Then they get a little swagger and they start playing over their heads. Once that happens, the superior team is in deep trouble.

Anyone who doubts this idea can look to last season's embarrassing loss to North Dakota State – or the amazing comeback win over Colorado, for that matter. I'm not sure the Jayhawks were inferior to Colorado, but how they dug that deep a hole against a pedestrian Buffs team that was in complete disarray is still a mystery.

Another of those eternal truths is, a team is a reflection of their coach.

Upsets happen when the underdog cops some attitude. Until I see outward passion from coach Turner Gill, I won't believe that Kansas can win a game that they probably shouldn't. Let's be clear: I'm not talking about beating #2-until-Bob-Stoops-screws-it-up Oklahoma; at this point, I'm talking about staying within two touchdowns of Missouri or beating a bad Iowa State team on the road.

It's easy to see where Gill's demeanor comes from: it comes from standing next to Dr. Tom Osborne for nearly a decade. No one ever mistook Osborne for Mike Ditka.

But it's easy – and probably appropriate – to be sober when you're pummeling Wyoming by eight touchdowns like Dr. Tom used to. When you're down by 14 or 17, as Gill often found himself last season, from the stands, appearing sober and sedate looks like you don't care.

Gill cares deeply, but he'd better let his team and, ultimately, boosters see it.


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