They are similar in many ways. Maybe not quite identical, but similar. The Duke Blue Devils and Kansas Jayhawks are both undefeated going into their matchup Saturday. But that’s not the similar I’m talking about. I’m referring to the similarities of where they’ve been in recent years and the expectations most had for these two in the 2022 season.
Seasons of futility
From 2012 through 2018, the Blue Devils went to six bowls and made an appearance in the ACC title game. There was a ten-win season, a nine win, and two eight-win years. They finished that time period on a three-game bowl win streak. Then came a coaching change. Things went downhill after that. Over the next three seasons, Duke would win just ten games. Only six of those wins were over Power 5 teams-two others came against FCS opponent North Carolina A&T. It was that bad.
Kansas has been worse. Far worse, actually. The Jayhawks are currently on a run of twelve consecutive seasons of winning three or less games. Twice they went winless. Two other times they had just one win. Kansas football has not had a winning season since 2008 and have been considered the worst of the Power 5 teams over the last few years. The Blue Devils’ three seasons of futility pales in comparison to what the Jayhawks have gone through.
Nobody expected this
If you look through the college football preview magazine put out by Athlon Sports, you’ll see both the Blue Devils and Jayhawks were predicted last in their conferences. In the magazine’s position rankings, Kansas was last in every position but one in the Big XII-Duke was last in all but two in the ACC. To say where these two are right now was unexpected is a gross understatement.
Because head coach Lance Leipold is in his second year with the program, you would think the Jayhawks may be a bit further along in their rebuild than the Blue Devils under first-year head coach Mike Elko. But I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. Elko and his staff have done a magnificent job to this point bringing their team along and changing the culture that surrounds it. Regardless of what happens Saturday, both of these programs are trending upwards.
I’m sure many people looked at the schedule before the season, saw these two are scheduled to meet again, and thought, “Well, I guess one of them has to win.” How quickly things have changed. Both have spotless records and the game is generating some national attention. And, yeah, one of them does have to win, but there are going to be a lot more eyes than before who will be looking to see which team it is.