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Second-half outlook: Kansas

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Record: 5-1

Remaining schedule: Oklahoma, at Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Nebraska, at Texas, Missouri (at Kansas City)

The Jayhawks looked to be the top challenger in the North before recent defensive struggles. They barely escaped against Iowa State and fell at Colorado when turnovers and sacks caught up with them on offense. Getting running back Jake Sharp will help a struggling running game that produced minus-8 yards against Colorado and is averaging 50.5 yards per game in Big 12 play. Some kind of running game will be important to balance the productions of Todd Reesing and his deep receiving corps. Maybe it was the level of competition, but their defensive struggles really didn’t manifest themselves until they started playing conference opponents. And if that defense was challenged by Iowa State and Colorado, it doesn't bode well for when the Jayhawks will meet high-powered offensive teams like Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas over the next few weeks. Mark Mangino changed out three of his starters in the secondary last week and needs the new players to produce immediately. The key to the Jayhawks will be getting a chance at their first Big 12 title game appearance will be getting an upset or two over those North teams and beating Nebraska on Nov. 14.

Best-case scenario: The Jayhawks jump on an Oklahoma team that is still moping after its Texas loss and win the following week at Texas Tech as the Red Raiders struggle with a quarterback question. They then beat Kansas State and Nebraska and play Texas competitively in Austin, setting up a game at Arrowhead Stadium against Missouri where they can wrap up their first undisputed Big 12 title.

Worst-case scenario: The defensive problems that were apparent in the Jayhawks’ last two games continue dogging them throughout the rest of the season in a difficult finish. The Jayhawks could conceivably lose all six remaining games if those problems stretch out and the turnover bug that popped up against Colorado continues.

My prediction: Mid-level bowl. The Jayhawks will win two of their six remaining games, beating Kansas State and Nebraska. It will be enough to get them to a bowl game, but that wasn’t what Mangino was expecting after his team’s 5-0 start.