Changing expectations: Kansas football should compete for 2024 Big 12 championship

Oklahoma State v Kansas
Oklahoma State v Kansas / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

Prior to the arrival of head coach Lance Leipold, not much was expected from the Kansas football team.

They were picked to finish last in the Big 12 in both year one and year two under Leipold. Then, following a surprise six-win regular season and a trip to the Liberty Bowl, the Jayhawks made the climb to ninth in the 2023 Big 12 Preseason Poll (out of 14 with the addition the of Central Florida, BYU, Houston, and Cincinnati to the Big 12).

The Jayhawks exceeded expectations once again, finishing eighth and earning their second consecutive bowl game appearance and first bowl win since 2008. The team will also likely finish in the Top 25 of the Associated Press’ final poll of the 2023-24 season following the national championship game next week.  

All of that is to say expectations have changed at Kansas. In fact, there are actual expectations of this program now, thanks to Leipold and his staff.

One expectation fans and media members should have of this program heading into next season is for the Jayhawks to finally compete for their first ever Big 12 championship.

With Oklahoma and Texas heading to the SEC and no clear-cut Big 12 juggernaut remaining in their place, there’s no reason why KU can’t compete for the conference title with the talent they have returning and are adding next year.

Just this week, KU wide receivers Lawrence Arnold and Luke Grimm – stars of this year’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl win – announced their plans to return to Kansas.

All-Big 12 First Team cornerback Cobee Bryant alsoannounced that he would be returning for his senior year at KU, despite having the option of exploring the NFL Draft or perhaps joining a more established program in the SEC. Along with Mello Dotson, KU should have the Big 12’s (and perhaps one of the country’s) best defensive backfields.

Quarterback Jalon Daniels is also returning, as is running back Devin Neal, who has the chance to become KU’s all-time leading rusher by the time he finishes his Jayhawk career.

On top of all that returning talent, KU is set to add their strongest crop of incoming freshmen in school history with the likes of 4-star talents Deshawn Warner, Jalen Todd, and a bevy of other great high school prospects in a recruiting class ranked No. 48 in the country.

Yes, KU loses a lot of talent on both the offensive and defensive lines. But there is still plenty of time for them to combat those losses through the transfer portal. This staff has also proven their ability to develop talent from within, so there’s no reason to think those needs won’t be addressed.

Simply put, KU has the staff and roster in place to compete for the program’s first Big 12 championship in school history – and that should be the expectation heading into next season.