It's been a long wait for sure, but head coach Charlie Weis is doing some good stuff—a lot better than his 2012 record indicates.
Yes, a 1-11 record stinks, but take a closer look.
Kansas lost at Texas Tech 41-34, but the Jayhawks did take the Red Raiders to two overtime periods before losing. Two of the Big 12's better teams, Texas and Oklahoma State, got all they could handle from Kansas as well—the Jayhawks lost by only four points to both the Longhorns and the Cowboys.
There were a few blowouts, like a 56-16 loss to Kansas State, but that score is misleading—Kansas was only down 21-14 at the half before the Wildcats scored four touchdowns in the the third quarter. The point here is simple: In 2011, the Jayhawks were regularly blown out, with three teams scoring 60-plus points on them. In 2012, no on scored 60 points against Kansas.
Progress has been made.
Despite using a 60-point threshold as the mark of Kansas' improvement, there are the little things that point to a turnaround down the road. The Big 12 was very good last year—only Kansas failed to get a bowl berth—and Kansas still managed to be competitive in several games.
This year the Big 12 will be very strong at the top, but the quantity of bowl-eligible teams may drop—West Virginia and Kansas State have major rebuilding jobs ahead of them and Oklahoma's defense needs some youngsters to fill in the holes in the secondary.
One of Kansas' biggest weaknesses last year was sustaining its drives. The Jayhawks finished dead last in the league in both third-down conversions and red zone-conversions. Another glaring problem was the lack of teeth in the passing attack—the Jayhawks finished last in the Big 12's passing offense, which explains why once they fell behind, they couldn't catch up. Weis gave Notre Dame-transfer Dayne Crist a final shot in football, but his 1,313 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions didn't help Kansas' offense.
A Kansas bright spot has been running back James Sims, who returns this year. Sims was the league's leading rusher and his consistent productivity could help usher in a lethal passing attack from highly-recruited BYU transfer Jake Heaps. While most of the Big 12 teams are in the process of developing green quarterbacks to replace their veterans, Kansas has a turnkey quarterback with two years of experience.
Weis also went heavy on JUCO transfers in his last two classes. The experience is there, it's just a question of how they handle the higher level of competition at the FBS level. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has perfected the utilization of JUCO transfers and Mike Gundy has also had remarkable success with them.
The Big 12 may see some heavyweights struggle this year while a newcomer to the league (TCU) may make its move to the top. But the cellar-dweller of the Big 12 may be no longer.
Kansas will be a lot more competitive this year and it will upset a Big 12 team.
Charlie Weis' quest to be back in college football didn't begin last year—it starts right now.
And so does Kansas' turnaround.