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A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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Two Kansas Schools: Both Need a Win

Among the interesting storylines associated with tonight’s Governor’s Cup, none are as intriguing as this: two teams, one with its back to the wall, another licking its wounds after a horrible performance against a bitter rival a week ago tonight. There’s Kansas, 2-3 through the first portion of Turner Gill’s debut season. There’s Kansas State, formerly 4-0, now 4-1 after a 35-point loss — at home, no less — to Nebraska last Thursday. Which team is in worse shape? That’s easy: Kansas. While the Wildcats are merely dealing with a single defeat, as disappointing as it might have been, the Jayhawks are still searching for an identity, a strength upon which to hang its hat under Gill’s guidance. It might take some time.

It’s not fair to say each team is headed in the same direction: for now, today, Kansas is scuffling while Kansas State seems on the right track. Yes, there’s that pesky loss to Nebraska — a game where the Wildcats looked slow, plodding, ineffective, what have you. Let’s not allow one loss — a loss to one of the best teams in the country — overshadow the strides the K.S.U. program has taken in less than two years under Bill Snyder.

Not to say the Wildcats won’t be searching for a measure of recompense, a performance that allows this team to forget what transpired a week ago. Well, perhaps not forget. K.S.U. would be wise to remember such a defeat — perhaps use the setback as motivation through the remainder of Big 12 play.

One could have said the same about Kansas: after a loss to South Dakota, a loss to Southern Mississippi or a loss to Baylor. It’s been nearly two weeks since that 48-point defeat at Baylor, but the sting remains.

While Kansas State suffered its most recent loss on a larger stage, the Jayhawks undoubtedly looked worse — yes, it’s possible. This is no slight to Baylor, which looks like a bowl team, thanks to a healthy Robert Griffin III. Kansas was simply overrun by a team largely lacking in top-notch athletic ability — in other words, Kansas was out-coached.

Several of Gill’s early moves have been puzzling. Not just on the field, either — though I’m curious as to his rationale behind a few position changes, or his handling of the team’s precarious quarterback situation over the first two games. I know it has nothing to do with K.U.’s on-field performance, but still: Gill’s decision to limit his player’s contact with the opposite sex after 10 p.m. is, well, strange.

History will prove whether Gill has a firm handle on the situation in Lawrence. History has already proven that Snyder knows what he’s doing: we have years of proof, in fact. I’m not swayed in the least by his team’s showing against the Cornhuskers: for starters, Nebraska might be just that good; and secondly, Snyder’s teams — such as a year ago — have always fared better once in the heart of conference play.

I don’t suspect this season will be any different. Yet the two teams do share a few similarities, as noted. Above all else, both are coming off disheartening defeats. When taken in a big picture view, however, I can’t help but come to the belief that while Kansas has work to — and work, and more work — before challenging for a bowl berth, K.S.U. is already poised for at least sevens wins this fall, if not more.

Both teams need a win; Kansas State is more equipped to get one. For Kansas, a team searching for answers, led by a coach still finding his rhythm, each game should be viewed as a learning experience.

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Comments

  1. Kansas State is certainly the better team heading into Thursday night’s game. Kansas has just been terrible and are a far cry from their recent top 25 teams. Both teams are coming off bad beatings but Kansas State certainly played the better team in Nebraska and undoubtedly learned from this experience. Look for them to take this game tonight and cover the -3 point spread.

  2. Jim Narby says:

    widgets are on Kstate

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