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Tait's Take: What to make of KU being picked 9th in Big 12 poll

3 min read
Members of the Kansas football program go through a team workout at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. [Matt Tait photo]

For the first time in league history, the Big 12 Conference will open its football season with 14 members.

And for the first time in more than a decade, the Kansas football team has been picked to finish somewhere other than last place in the preseason media poll, which was released late last week.

In 2022, KU finished 6-7 overall and 3-6 in Big 12 play, qualifying for its first bowl game in 14 years. That success and the fact that the Jayhawks return 17 of 22 starters on offense and defense, was enough for the Big 12 media to pick Lance Leipold’s to finish ninth, just a couple of points behind conference newcomer Central Florida and firmly ahead of the three other newbies — BYU, at 11th, Houston at No. 12 and Cincinnati at No. 13.

Any way you slice it, the Jayhawks are projected to finish in the middle of the pack, albeit the lower part of that tier. And while that landing spot is significant stuff in terms of recent history, there’s little doubt that the Jayhawks themselves believe it’s too low. Their goal, this year and every year moving forward, will be to finish on top.

Texas occupied the top spot in the preseason poll, garnering 41 of the 67 first-place votes available. Five other programs got at least one first-place vote, which speaks to the wide-open nature of the conference race and the uncertainty surrounding how everyone fits in, with those four new schools now calling the Big 12 home.

At No. 9, KU was picked to finish ahead of two old conference running mates — Iowa State at No. 10 and West Virginia, which landed in last place by a sizable margin.

Three quick thoughts on the preseason poll:

• While some Kansas fans surely don’t like the sound of ninth, it’s worth noting that the Jayhawks were just nine points away from being voted into the top half of the Big 12 Conference. That’s significant, and viewing it that way should provide a little different perspective, one more befitting of a program on the rise.

• This first preseason poll with the four newcomers included in it really underscored the potential gains now on the table for Kansas. Five years ago, no one would have looked at KU and said it was in better shape than BYU, Houston or Cincinnati. Today, though, the program, at least on paper, is starting off ahead of those programs and the fact that they’re now in the mix to be on KU’s schedule in some fashion or another opens up the potential for more wins in the future.

• Finally, being picked ninth should do nothing but motivate the Kansas players and coaches to prove they deserved to be picked higher, putting them on a path to surpass expectations for the second season in a row. Every team likes to look for that slight that can turn into a little extra motivation. But few teams have as much potential in this department as the Jayhawks. Not only are they still trying to shake off the stigma of the disaster that was the previous decade, but being slighted in any way, no matter how big or small, is the perfect fuel for so many personalities on this team, including the head coach and quarterback.

Here’s a look at the complete poll:

1 – Texas, 886 (41)

2 – Kansas State, 858 (14)

3 – Oklahoma, 758 (4)

4 – Texas Tech, 729 (4)

5 – TCU, 727 (3)

6 – Baylor, 572

7 – Oklahoma State, 470 (1)

8 – Central Florida, 463

9 – Kansas, 461

10 – Iowa State, 334

11 – BYU, 318

12 – Houston, 215

13 – Cincinnati, 202

14 – West Virginia, 129