In David Beaty's fourth season, progress must be apparent.
After a total record of 3-33 over the last three season, the fans of the Kansas Jayhawks' laughable football program have finally had enough, and are tired of Beaty just saying that the results are "unacceptable." As a Jayhawk football fan myself, I keep thinking that each year might be different but am always disappointed come December.
Could this year be different?
I believe we'll definitely know after the first three weeks of the season. If David Beaty doesn't win all three of these non-conference games (which ESPN ranks as the third easiest non-conference in the nation,) he won't make it to the conference season.
Though the team's offensive line has been plagued by injuries and was by far the Big 12's worst in 2017, the Jayhawks return a lot of key players on offense, including running backs Khalil Herbert and Dom Williams, as well as wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. However, the Jayhawks have been quite ambiguous at the quarterback position, and one could argue that is the sole reason why the Jayhawks struggle on offense year after year.
The older Peyton Bender displays a good football IQ and the ability to really sling the ball, but his accuracy issues have cost Kansas time and time again. The younger Carter Stanley doesn't have a particularly strong arm but is a bit more accurate than Bender.
While the players currently atop the QB depth chart aren't among the nation's best, I find the problem to be David Beaty's idea that the Air Raid offense suits this team well.
Spoiler alert: it doesn't.
Before we take a look at Kansas' non-conference season game by game and make a prediction, I feel that for Kansas' offense to truly progress, the staff needs to realize what they have in Herbert, Dom Williams and freshman Pooka Williams. I believe that all three RBs are some of the best in the conference, but they just need to be utilized as such.
Once the Jayhawks can establish the run and make a defense respect at least one aspect of their offense, throws start becoming easier to make (see Jacksonville and Philadelphia vs New England in the playoffs. Both teams excelled on offense with a subpar QB.)
Week 1: Nicholls St, W 34-10
Nichols St is by far the best FCS opponent that the Jayhawks have played since they notched wins against Rhode Island and Southeast Missouri State, but I still like Kansas' physicality and size against the Colonels. Look for KU to really run the ball here, even if David Beaty still wants to air the ball out more.
Week 2: @ Central Michigan, L 34-31
According to ESPN BPI, the Jayhawks have a 61% chance of winning this game. At home, I might be lead to believe that, but on the road…good luck. The Jayhawks haven't won a road game since 2009, and I'm not sure that the streak is coming to an end this year. The Chippewas finished the season 8-5 in 2017 but gave up 185 yards per game on the ground which was in the bottom half of the MAC conference. This is a winnable game for Kansas, but offense playcalling must be better than years' past.
Week 3: Rutgers, W 24-21
This is probably the most pivotal game of the whole non-conference. If KU can come out and dominate this game (which is obviously not likely, but IF) then Beaty might keep his job with a loss against Central Michigan. I still feel like this might be a starry-eyed prediction, but it's all contingent on if Beaty will commit to running the ball.
Rutgers gave up 182 yards on the ground per game last season, which was good for the fourth worst team in the Big 10. It's pretty simple. If one of the three-star running backs can put together an excellent 100+ yard game, or cooperatively run all over the Scarlet Knights, the Jayhawks will win this one. If KU decides to depend on the arm of Carter Stanley or Peyton Bender, they will lose.
Overall, I think David Beaty will be out of the job. I understand how long it takes for a coach to build up a program, and I really do like him as a person, but if Beaty can only muster one win in this cupcake non-con, then enough is enough.
As a Jayhawk fan who frequently daydreams about the nostalgic 12-1 2007 season with Todd Reesing and company, I sincerely hope KU can get back to form soon. The fans, players, and alumni deserve it.