What's NOT The Matter With Kansas?

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Dan Shanoff writes a weekly college football column for Deadspin. Email him to let him know what you think.

For some reason, the angry emails from Ohio State fans have dried up, sort of like the Ohio Stadium scoreboard clock in the 4th quarter. But I'm not here to gloat or say "Told you so" about the Buckeyes ... well, not really.


Obviously, I can't now take back any of what I have said previously about how overrated the Buckeyes have been, but there is one thing I would like to take back, from a post earlier this season — that first insane Saturday of upsets throughout the Top 10:

"For fans of a team like Illinois, an unexpected win over a ranked team like Penn State is, in its temporary way, as sweet as winning a championship."


That's still true (infinitely more so in beating Ohio State in Columbus), but in the topsy-turvy six weeks since then, expectations for the have-nots and also-rans can — and should — have changed:

• Sylvester Croom took over the worst program in the SEC and four years later is bowl-eligible, beating Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky along the way this season — something even LSU can't claim.

• Ron Zook took over the worst program in the Big Ten and three years later has the Illini winning in Columbus and on track for a New Year's Day bowl game.

• Mark Mangino took over the worst program in the Big 12 and has them playing more successfully than they have since the 19th century, with a legitimate shot at the national-title game.


The common factor: Brutal programs mired in vicious cycles of ineptitude not only reversing them under the toughest of circumstances, but actually excelling — and in short order.

Vision matters (Croom). Recruiting matters (Zook). Scheme matters (Mangino). But whatever the root causes of turnarounds: Thanks to what we have seen this season, fans of other programs — from the downtrodden to the mediocre to the best — all have the right to demand Croom/Zook/Mangino-style results.


Going back to that original point six weeks ago, your bar could be simple bowl-eligibility, the thrill of New Year's Day relevance or just a wild once-in-a-lifetime ride to the top of the BCS, but if this season has taught us nothing else, it's that your team should have just as good of a shot as anyone.

The slogan is simple: "Why not us, too?"

So take heart, Notre Dame faithful: Your epically terrible 1-win, 9-loss mockery of a football program is positioned perfectly for a "Cranginook"-style turnaround.


Just think of that, Irish fans: If you are extremely lucky, you can aspire to be Illinois, Mississippi State or Kansas.

At the very least, you should demand as much.

Bowl Clusterf*** Series Update: Despite finally elevating into the Top 2, Oregon is in trouble, and you can see it coming:

Provided that Kansas goes into its game against Missouri unbeaten (and Mizzou still has only that one loss, at Oklahoma) and Oklahoma maintains a single loss until the Big 12 title game, the winner of that game will deserve — and probably get, from human pollsters and certainly the computer polls — the "conference championship game bump" ahead of Oregon, much like Florida did over Michigan a year ago.


As they should.

Leagues with a conference-title game deserve that bonus when all other factors are equal, commensurate with the extra risk they put their top BCS-contenders through by even playing a conference title game.


Given the remaining schedules of LSU, Oregon and the Big 12 title-game winner, the Ducks look like the odd team out, even though they might not lose between now and BCS Selection Day.

Maybe at that point, the Pac-10 will lose their notorious self-righteous indignation toward conference title games. (Either that, or secede from the BCS entirely.)


This Week's BlogPoll Ballot Top 10
1. Kansas
All they have to do is keep winning.
2. LSU
SEC title game will clinch for them.
3. Oregon
BCS shut-out is foreshadowed
4. Oklahoma
Looking ahead to Big 12 title game?
5. Missouri
Could beat Sooners on neutral field.
6. West Virginia
Jumped by Big 12 impressiveness.
7. Georgia
Best 2-loss team in the nation.
8. Ohio State
Lost at home to an unranked team.
9. Virginia Tech
Vanquished the FSU curse, finally.
10. Cincinnati
You'll see when they beat WVU.
Click here for the full ballot.

More Notes From the Weekend:

(1) Play of the Year: Juice on 4th and Inches.
(2) America's new most must-see team: Navy.
(3) Vote Tebow: 300+ pass, 100+ rush, 7 TDs


This Week's Bandwagon: Unexpected uniform changes.

Georgia warmed up for Auburn at home wearing their usual red jerseys; when they came back out to play the game, they were in non-traditional — but entirely bad-ass — black jerseys, the first time UGA had worn black since anyone could remember.


Fired up by the stunt, the team rolled over Auburn and is playing as well as any team in the SEC, if not the country, with a shot at getting to the SEC title game in Dawg-friendly Atlanta, in what would be UGA's first meeting this season with LSU. Here's hoping they bust out the black jerseys for that, too.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Schedule:

BCS Top 2! LSU at Ole Miss, OREGON at Arizona (Thursday): Both have to win impressively in order to use the human polls to keep fending off whoever emerges from the hard-charging top of the Big 12.
Pick: LSU, Oregon


Big 12 Mania! Iowa State at KANSAS, OKLAHOMA at Texas Tech, MISSOURI at Kansas State: It's all about setting up an unbeaten Kansas-1-loss Missouri winner facing 1-loss Oklahoma in the BXII title game.
Pick: KU, OU, Mizzou.

Upset Special! West Virginia at Cincinnati: No need for 'Eers fans to gripe about being shut out of the BCS title game after they lose to the highly underrated Bearcats. Brian Kelly should be coaching Michigan next season.
Pick: Cincinnati


From Big to "Big": Ohio State at Michigan: Suddenly, just a really great Rivalry Game, nothing more. Big Ten title? Meh: Illinois is a better Big Ten story than either. Rose Bowl bid? Meh: Second-tier bowl this year.
Pick: Michigan.

As usual, send any comments or questions to danshanoff-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.