We'll take a look back at what we thought the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team were in August, and how it shook out now that January has arrived.
Best case: 9-3, with losses to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Nebraska. The Jayhawks were aided by a favorable South rotation without Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule.
Worst case: 2-10, with wins over North Dakota State and New Mexico State.
Reality: Kansas was less competitive than even the most pessimistic Jayhawks fans figured their team would be, and the Jayhawks slid to 3-9 with just one conference win. Interestingly enough, the Jayhawks won a game (Georgia Tech) I had as a sure loss in both scenarios, and lost a game (North Dakota State) I had as a sure win in both scenarios. Kansas varied greatly between my best and worst case scenarios, but you're never sure what to expect with a bunch of new players (Hi, Oklahoma State!) and a new coaching staff.
Analysis: Losing the best quarterback in school history (Todd Reesing) and two of its best receivers (Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier) meant Kansas would be rebuilding for sure, especially considering that group managed to go just 5-7 as seniors. The Jayhawks struggled from the beginning, dropping a shocking season opener to North Dakota State at home, 9-6. They rebounded by beating the defending ACC champs, Georgia Tech, but the Yellowjackets, ranked at the time, finished 6-7.
In short, Kansas was who we thought they were. There's no doubt the Jayhawks got better down the stretch, but 55-7 and 59-7 losses to Baylor and Kansas State, two middle-of-the-road teams in the Big 12, were eye-openers. Kansas at the end of the season was about what I expected. I never thought they'd play as poorly as they did early on.
For Kansas, though, the lasting image of its season could be the epic comeback against Colorado. Down 45-17 with 11 minutes to play, the Jayhawks rallied to beat Colorado at home for their lone conference win. It's definitely something to build on. Kansas still has big, big questions at quarterback, but found a reliable option at running back in freshman James Sims. Receivers Daymond Patterson and Chris Omigie showed flashes of potential down the stretch. Linebacker Huldon Tharp missed the entire 2010 season, but he'll be back next year.
Turner Gill has put together a pretty good recruiting class in 2011, and developing that talent will be key to making sure Kansas climbs closer to its best-case scenario in 2011.