Jayhawks won't be one-hit wonder

Remember how you felt when the Kansas football team became bowl eligible after game six this season?How about your reaction to KU's first defense of a top-10 ranking this year when it mauled Nebraska, 76-39?How about when the Jayhawks improved to 11-0 for the first time in history?Remember your excitement as the final seconds trickled off the clock late Thursday night on Kansas' 24-21 victory over No. 3 Virginia Tech (No. 5 AP and coaches' polls)?Get used to it.The Kansas football program completed its six-year turnaround Thursday. It has gone from being the most reliable rent-payer for the Big 12 North cellar to rolling with the nation's elite.And the Jayhawks aren't going anywhere.Thanks to the Orange Bowl victory, 12-1 record, potential top-five finish in the final poll and at least 15 starters returning, the Jayhawks likely will open the 2008 campaign ranked in the top 10. They should back up that ranking with lots of victories, too.Critics who blasted KU for not playing a tougher non-conference schedule the same season they didn't have to face league foes Oklahoma (No. 4 BCS, No. 3 AP and coaches' polls), Texas (No. 19 BCS, No. 17 AP and coaches' polls) and Texas Tech will have no room to cry foul next season. In addition to the league foes, top-25 team South Florida (No. 21 BCS, No. 23 AP, No. 25 coaches' poll) will provide a stiff road test. Plus, Missouri (No. 6 BCS, No. 7 in AP and coaches' polls) will still be on the slate.Even with a more difficult schedule, there is no reason to expect a drop-off. Perhaps 12 wins will happen again; maybe it'll be more like eight or nine. Either way, Kansas will be a force again in 2008. There should be no doubts about that.KU proved it wasn't a fluke this season by beating Virginia Tech - a team that was making its 15th straight bowl trip. That victory gave Mark Mangino a long-awaited signature victory, and it's a win that should change the psychological face of Kansas football permanently.By finally attaining that signature victory after near-misses against OU and Texas in recent years, the mindset of Kansas players and fans should change (if it hasn't already). It shouldn't be assumed that losses are guaranteed simply because Oklahoma and Texas are on the schedule. If the Jayhawks can beat Virginia Tech, then there's no reason they can't beat those teams too.Of course, KU has treaded in this territory before. Thursday marked KU's first victory over a top-10 opponent since claiming a 40-24 victory at then-No. 4 Colorado on Oct. 7, 1995. The then-No. 24 Jayhawks improved to 5-0 with that win before ultimately finishing with a 10-2 record and No. 9 ranking in the AP poll.A few factors (among them, the untimely pulling of quarterback Mark Williams' redshirt and coach Glen Mason scaring off recruits by accepting the Georgia job and then backing out on it) derailed KU's chances of using that season as a springboard to national elite status, however. Similar factors are nonexistent this time around. Plus, the current Jayhawks have more depth and all-around talent.This is a Kansas that knows it can play with and beat top-five opponents on any given day as long as the Jayhawks show up for four quarters. The Jayhawks proved that they belong, and they're built to last.This season wasn't a fluke, but rather it was the beginning of Kansas' time as a football power.


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