The 2021 season produced two new title contenders in the Big 12 Conference as Baylor and Oklahoma State faced off in the Big 12 Championship Game. The conference announced plans to replace Texas and Oklahoma in 2025 by adding Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and BYU in 2023. The 2022 season will be the last season of the Big 12 Conference as it’s been known for the last decade.
There will inevitably be more seismic shifts this season after UCLA and USC announced intentions to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference. Whether the Big 12 adds more schools or has more members poached by other conferences remains to be seen, but this will be the last year with just 10 member institutions in the conference.
With that, we will preview each team in a power ranking style. We’ll start with the tenth ranked team and work all the way down to my pick to win the Big 12 Championship Game in December.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
The Kansas Jayhawks are the tenth ranked team in my preseason power rankings. Kansas has brought up the rear in the Big 12 every year since 2014 when it finished ninth, just one win ahead of an 0-9 Iowa State squad. The Jayhawks might not improve much in the win-loss column due to a tough schedule this year, but the program seems to be finally heading in the right direction under Lance Leipold.
Kansas beat Texas in football (again) to give the Jayhawks a 1-8 record in conference play last season, but it’s been since 2008 that Kansas won multiple games in conference play when it finished with a 4-4 record. That was the season Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech finished in a three way tie for first place with 7-1 records and round robin wins against one another. Graham Harrell, now the offensive coordinator at West Virginia, was the quarterback of that Texas Tech team. Winning multiple games in conference play might be enough to throw a parade down Massachusetts Street.
WHAT. A. GAME.— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 14, 2021
Kansas completes the upset of Texas in OT with this two-point conversion
(via @SportsCenter) pic.twitter.com/vCnorQzAEu
A tough schedule suggests that parade might have to wait another year. The Jayhawks non-conference schedule features home games against Tennessee Tech and Duke with a road game against Houston sandwiched in-between. Kansas should beat Tennessee Tech and could be competitive against Duke. The Blue Devils will serve as the Jayhawks best shot at getting a second win in 2022, but Leipold has shown he can make this group competitive in the Big 12.
Kansas upset Texas 57-56 in overtime in Austin for its first road win in Big 12 play in 13 years. The Jayhawks also drew eyeballs by pushing Oklahoma to its limits at home. Heroics from quarterback Caleb Williams, who has since transferred to USC, saved OU from national embarrassment.
Texas wasn’t as lucky, but losing to Kansas in football is nothing particularly new for the Longhorns. KU beat Texas in 2016 at home and pushed the Longhorns in Austin in 2019, losing 50-48. For whatever reason, Kansas has been more competitive against Texas than any other team in the Big 12 over the last five seasons, going 2-3 and losing two of those three games by a combined nine points.
Quarterback Jalon Daniels was excellent in the win over Texas, completing 21 of his 30 passing attempts for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Daniels added 45 yards and a score on the ground and didn’t turn the ball over. He followed that up with a good performance at TCU, completing 22 of 30 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Kansas lost its last two games 31-28 to TCU and 34-28 against West Virginia. That’s as promising of a close to a season as Kansas has had in a decade.
Daniels returns to captain the offense in 2022. Jason Bean is back as well after playing most of the 2021 season as the starting quarterback. Devin Neal had a nice freshman season at running back for the Jayhawks, including a 169 yard performance against Texas. Kansas also landed Minnesota transfer Ky Thomas, who rushed for 824 yards as a freshman last season. Those two will need to continue to improve this season. Daniel Hishaw Jr. returns from injury to give Kansas some depth at the position.
I asked Kansas coach Lance Leipold if bringing Jalon Daniels to media days is a way of naming a starting quarterback— Landon Reinhardt (@landonian87) July 13, 2022
He joked that star running back Devin Neal hasn't been named the starter, but knowing where the quarterbacks stand in July is "night and day" from last year
Kansas loses its top receiver from a year ago in Kwamie Lassiter II. The Jayhawks didn’t sign a receiver out of the high school ranks last year, but did land Minnesota transfer Douglas Emilien. That means Leipold will have to develop what he already has on campus, along with Emilien, who played in two games for the Golden Gophers last season but didn’t record a stat.
Trevor Wilson played in 12 games and caught 27 passes for 364 yards and a score last year and Luke Grimm caught 22 passes for 349 yards and a three touchdowns. Lawrence Arnold finished with 27 receptions for 316 yards and three scores. Lassiter II cleared the field by nearly 300 yards and finished with six touchdown receptions. Will one of the above options emerge as the top dog, or will it be a younger, less experienced receiver? That is one of the looming questions for the Kansas offense.
The offensive line returns four starters to give Daniels some peace of mind. Continuity up front is exactly what Kansas needs with a quarterback still developing and growing. According to The Athletic’s Max Olsen, Leipold is particularly excited about the growth and progress left tackle Earl Bostick Jr. has made over the course of the offseason. Kansas did not have an offensive player selected to the Big 12 preseason football team.
The Jayhawks return two of their best defenders this year in Kenny Logan Jr. and Gavin Potter. Those two will need to have productive seasons and be leaders for this defensive unit. There are a lot of question marks and new faces in the mix on the defensive side of the football.
No surprise here @KennyLogan23 has been named to the Preseason All-Big 12 team.— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) July 6, 2022
More ➝ https://t.co/O53HlbZLFH pic.twitter.com/jw6v3ZgKUK
Kansas hammered the transfer portal on the defense side of the football in the offseason. Leipold added Miami (OH) transfer edge rusher Lonnie Phelps to help replace sixth-round pick Kyron Johnson on the defensive line. Purdue transfer safety Marvin Grant and Ohio State transfer safety Craig Young should provide some help in the secondary, along with Michigan State transfer cornerback Kalon Gervin. Louisiana transfer Lorenzo McCaskill and UCF transfer Eriq Gilyard will bolster the linebacking corps.
Kansas has several players capable of contributing on the defensive line, including Malcolm Lee, as more teams in the Big 12 shift focus on the defensive side of the football to having depth along the defensive line. Oklahoma State and Baylor both showcased how disruptive a deep defensive line unit can be late in the season last year.
The Jayhawks defenders have a lot to prove in 2022. The returners need to improve on poor stats from last year, including allowing 42.2 points-per-game. The transfers ended up transferring to Kansas for a reason. Those guys need to prove themselves as playmakers. There is some potential on the defense side of the ball, but there has to be more than significant improvement for the defensive unit if Kansas is to win multiple games in 2022.
The goal for Kansas this year is to be competitive in every game. If the Jayhawks can just be competitive and continue to build on a strong close to last season, that will be an encouraging next step. The defense needs to mesh into a cohesive unit that is capable of being disruptive. The offense needs to produce at a higher level and develop some receivers.
Kansas has a stronger foundation to build on than its had in recent years. Building something on top of that foundation is the next step. If the Jayhawks can start to build on that foundation, the next step is to build up the football facilities that currently rank as some of the worst among the power five ranks.
Kansas Jayhawks 2022 Schedule
|September 2||Tennessee Tech||W|
|September 10||@ West Virginia||L|
|September 17||@ Houston||L|
|October 1||Iowa State||L|
|October 15||@ Oklahoma||L|
|October 22||@ Baylor||L|
|November 5||Oklahoma State||L|
|November 12||@ Texas Tech||L|
|November 26||@ Kansas State||L|
|Overall Record||2-10 (0-9)|
Disclaimer: I will once again be posting my Tallysight picks each week here on the site. Just because I picked Kansas to go 0-9 in Big 12 play in July doesn’t mean my opinion won’t change once I see this group play together. This is just my best guess as of July. With that being said, there is excitement and energy around this Kansas program for the first time in a long time. Let’s see if Lance Leipold can push this Kansas team to places it hasn’t been since Mark Mangino occupied the sidelines in Lawrence.