Archive for Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chinstraps and mouthpieces: Bowl game would be big for KU

November 30, 2005

6-5.

It's a football record that might not mean much to programs such as Southern Cal, Ohio State or Texas, but it's a mark that has Lawrence buzzing right now.

After Saturday's 24-21 heart-stopping overtime victory against Iowa State, Kansas made itself bowl-eligible for the second time in three years.

The Jayhawks were in the same boat in 2003. KU needed a victory against Iowa State in its regular-season finale and advanced to a bowl game with a modest 6-6 record.

Perhaps there are too many bowls these days, but teams have to start somewhere. Kansas came back to top No. 25 Iowa State on Saturday -- trailing at one point, 14-3, to a team that could have advanced to the Big 12 Conference title game with a victory.

It's possible that a bowl game this year, albeit a lower tier bowl, will be just the beginning for a program that has shown signs of success but has been unable to sustain good fortunes.

KU, for the second year in a row, finished two conference games behind the top team in the Big 12's North Division. That might not be saying much, considering Colorado won the division last season with a 4-4 conference record and went 5-3 this season in Big 12 play.

Football analysts these days like to take shots at the Big 12 North, citing it as a weak division. That might be the case, but it seems cyclical. When the Big Eight and Southwest Conference merged in 1996, it was Big Eight schools that had the upper hand against teams from the south.

As years went by, the South Division -- Oklahoma and Oklahoma State from the old Big Eight and Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas A&M from the former SWC --ecame stronger.

These days, those South Division teams have the upper hand during the regular season.

A columnist from a Texas newspaper compared the North Division to the private schools from the old SWC -- Rice, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian and Baylor. The argument was that those schools just were not very good near the final years of the

SWC and subsequently led to the conference's demise.

Baylor is making progress in the Big 12, while TCU is 10-1. One of those wins came against Oklahoma, while the Horned Frogs' only loss was to -- gasp -- Southern Methodist.

As for the Big 12 North not measuring up to its southern counterpart, take a look at the Big 12 football champion since the conference was created in 1996. South teams have won five title games, while North teams have won four.

Again, success, in many ways, is cyclical. There will be teams that always will be good, but even they have down years.

The same goes for the Big 12 North. The division again will have national-title contenders. Perhaps one of these seasons, Kansas will figure into that equation.

vvv

Speaking of the Jayhawks, KU students need to realize that tearing down goalposts is more meaningful when it is an occasional event.

After KU's last three home games, fans have busted out of the stands and onto the field to take down the goalposts.

Tearing down the posts after beating Nebraska for the first time in nearly four decades is one thing, but Missouri and Iowa State?

Enough is enough.

vvv

The day-after Thanksgiving has become a much-anticipated day for a few friends and me in our hometown.

For the past three years, we've gathered for an afternoon of two-hand touch football.

Each year, it slowly attracts more players.

We even discussed conducting a "draft" to decide who would be on which team for the annual Turkey Bowl. In reality, we just picked sides minutes before the game on our high school football field, but it's become a bit of a tradition.

One player said he planned to participate again next year, although his wife mentioned that they needed to spend Thanksgiving elsewhere with her family next year.

Trying to lighten the mood, I jokingly told her she could be the grand marshal of a newly formed Turkey Bowl Parade next year.

I think they'll be back for the 2006 Turkey Bowl.

Interestingly enough, my brother, who now lives in Texas, said he knows of a group of friends there who have played a football game Thanksgiving weekend every year since they graduated from high school. The friends now are in their 50s.

I'm not sure we'll last that long, but for a couple hours each November, I feel almost as if I'm back in high school -- "almost" being the operative word.

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