The basketball school and the newbie? Still looking hard to justify, I know
Once again, I find that I’m having to defend myself over some controversy here, especially when it comes to the Jayhawks, who have lost to their rival Wildcats for 15 years straight and haven’t even shared a conference title since 1968. However, since going 9-4 and beating Oklahoma—the only team to down the Longhorns in the regular season—for the first time this century, it’s safe to say that head coach Lance Leipold’s version of them doesn’t fit their usual mold.
As for their inferiority against Kansas State, I do concede that they run a good risk of losing to the Wildcats in Manhattan. But, while the Cats have about five Big 12 opponents that I would label as “questionable” (including OK State), the Jayhawks have two (neither of which are OK State).
Also, as KSU loses its quarterback, Will Howard, to Ohio State after his best season yet, Kansas has Jalon Daniels returning from a lengthy injury absence that he had shown great potential leading up to. I’m no expert, but I’d have to assume all of that could very well outweigh a single head-to-head result.
From there we have the Utes, who I can’t imagine are any bigger of curveballs to be in the running than the Jayhawks, as they are coming into the Big 12 after one of the most dominating stretches the team has ever seen.
In the last three years alone, Utah’s football program has won 28 games, including two Pac-12 title games in back-to-back appearances that were won by an average of over 25 points. And, similarly to Kansas, Utah also has just a couple of clear threats in their league play, along with an experienced QB (Cam Rising) returning from an extensive recovery period.
Especially when throwing in the fact that the Jayhawks and Utes don’t even have each other on their fall calendars, I feel most would agree that the two squads meeting in the 2024 Big 12 Championship game is quite a likely outcome at this point—but which one has the ultimate edge?
For me, the answer is pretty obvious, but if my previous quest to win you over in the selection of my finalists was remotely close to failing, I just might lose you here: It’s Kansas.