Berry’s college football predictions: Can Jayhawks spring another historic upset?

Berry’s college football predictions: Can Jayhawks spring another historic upset?

Berry Tramel: Between 2008 and 2022, Kansas football had a record of 8-106 in Big 12 games. Since then, Lance Leipold has coached KU to an 11-9 overall record, beating Texas, OSU, West Virginia, Duke, Houston, Iowa State, Illinois, Brigham Young and Central Florida.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Oct 25, 2023, 7:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Oct 25, 2023, 7:00am CDT

Kansas doesn’t often beat Oklahoma in football. Let’s see. Eight times since Bud Wilkinson became the Sooner coach in 1947.

So when it happens, it’s memorable. 

The Jayhawks knocking OU from the unbeaten ranks, 1975 and 1984, the former ending Barry Switzer’s 28-game winning streak, the latter in Troy Aikman’s emergency debut as the starting quarterback.

Superstar-driven stunners in 1961 and 1964. The great John Hadl in the former, the greater Gale Sayers in the latter. Sayers scored on the first play of the game and the last play of the game, giving KU a 15-14 win. You could look it up.

The bewildering 1990s, when KU had a better program than did the Sooners and went 4-4 against OU.

The biggest of all those games, of course, was 1975, when the Sooners were No. 1 in the nation and KU was a decent 5-3 coming into Owen Field. Nolan Cromwell, a wishbone quarterback from tiny Ransom, Kansas, became a Jayhawk legend starting with that day.

And now another unbeaten OU team prepares to play Kansas. Brent Venables —  a Sunflower State native himself, from Salina —  has coached the Sooners to a 7-0 record and the No. 6 national ranking. The Jayhawks come in 5-2, brimming with confidence under miracle-man Lance Leipold and clearly capable of wrecking OU’s playoff hopes.

“Got a lot of respect for what the Kansas program is today, the transformation that’s taken place under coach Leipold and his staff,” Venables said Tuesday. “What a great job of development. Great schemes, putting their players in position to be successful. They’ve gotten better each year that they’ve been there. And they’ve got a veteran football team, had a lot of success, playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

You know the story well. 

Between 2008 and 2022, Kansas football had a record of 8-106 in Big 12 games. Since then, Leipold has coached KU to an 11-9 overall record. Leipold’s Jayhawks have beaten Texas, OSU, West Virginia, Duke, Houston, Iowa State, Illinois, Brigham Young and Central Florida.

Now Leipold gets a chance at a season-making upset. The Jayhawks, who host the Sooners at 11 a.m. in Lawrence, could derail the Sooners’ College Football Playoff hopes.

When Venables left OU for Clemson after the 2011 season, the Jayhawks were early in their slide into football despair. When Venables returned a decade later, Leipold had revived hope. So Venables missed the worst stretch of football a major-conference program ever has produced.

But as a Kansan, he followed from afar.

“I know of the different coaches,” Venables said. Roll call: between the successful Mark Mangino and Leipold, KU employed Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, David Beatty and Les Miles as head coaches.

“They’ve always had great support there in their sports and athletics,” Venables said. “No reason that they can’t be successful.

“I love the base where they’re at in the Kansas City area. The depth of the players isn’t necessarily there from a population standpoint in the state of Kansas. Missouri’s obviously more populated. But I think you look at the resources that they have and the success that they have with their basketball program, they’ve shown they can be incredibly successful, and that’s what they’re doing now.”

Kansas hasn’t just lost to the Sooners 18 straight times, the games rarely have been competitive. From 2014-17, OU beat the Jayhawks by a combined 203-20.

But that has changed. Leipold’s two KU teams have come within 35-23 and 52-42 of the Sooners. The former was the famous Caleb Williams game, when the then-freshman quarterback pulled the ball away from teammate Kennedy Brooks on a fourth-down play and ran for a first down himself in the final two minutes, setting up the sealing touchdown.

Leipold has the Jayhawks playing well and believing.

“You see his fingerprints all over the program,” Venables said “So going to be a great challenge for us. Another really highly-ranked offense that does a lot of tough, challenging things.

“I love that there’s pride restored in being a Kansas guy. It’s good for the Big 12.”

That doesn’t mean it’s good for the Sooners. Let’s get to the predictions.

Last week: 28-15. Season: 348-98.

Oklahoma at Kansas: Sooners 41-31. KU at home this season has beaten Illinois 34-23, BYU 38-27 and Central Florida 51-22. There’s nothing easy about this assignment.

Cincinnati at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 37-20. The Bearcats are putting up fights in Big 12 play — 20-6 vs. OU, 32-29 vs. Baylor, 35-27 at BYU. But UC is winless in conference and seems likely headed for last place.

Brigham Young at Texas: Longhorns 27-12. BYU has been to Austin twice — lost 17-16 in 2011, then won 41-7 in 2014. Plus the Cougars won 40-21 at Provo in 2013.

West Virginia at Central Florida: Mountaineers 26-24. Big 12 upset special. WVU has made its season winning tight games. UCF has imperiled its season losing tight games.

Iowa State at Baylor: Cyclones 20-16. Remarkably, the 3-4 Bears could get back in the bowl hunt with a win. But Iowa State has been the better team this season.

Houston at Kansas State: Wildcats 42-13. Can the Cougars emotionally recover from a gut-wrenching loss against Texas? Seems unlikely.

Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville: Bulldogs 30-13. Georgia has won five of the last six in the Cocktail Party series, but of more note, these games rarely are dramatic. Only one of the last nine games has been decided by less than 14 points.

Tennessee at Kentucky: Volunteers 24-11. Can the Vols recover from the second-half collapse at Alabama? If not, the season could spiral down.

Mississippi State at Auburn: Tigers 21-19. Massive game for Auburn, which is 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The schedule lightens considerably —  Vanderbilt, Arkansas and New Mexico State await — so this would be a launch to a good finish in Hugh Freeze’s first season.

South Carolina at Texas A&M: Aggies 35-15. The Gamecocks are A&M’s designated annual cross-division rival. That will end, of course, with the expanded Southeastern Conference. Too bad. Nothing screams SEC tradition like South Carolina-A&M.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: Rebels 48-7. Mississippi quietly rolls along, at 6-1, with the only loss at Alabama, a game the Rebs led at halftime.

Ohio State at Wisconsin: Buckeyes 42-10. Badger coach Luke Fickell was an Ohio State nose guard who was interim coach between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer. If Fickell ever wants the Buckeye job, beating Ryan Day is a good place to start.

Purdue at Nebraska: Boilermakers 28-27. After Purdue, the Cornhuskers have Michigan State, Maryland, Wisconsin and Iowa. Nebraska isn’t likely to go 5-0, but if it does, and Minnesota loses to Ohio State, the Huskers win the Big Ten West.

Michigan State at Minnesota: Gophers 21-9. Minnesota’s win over Iowa gives the Gophers a legit chance at the Big Ten Championship Game. But that Ohio State game looks unwinnable.

Maryland at Northwestern: Terrapins 27-8. If Maryland was in the Big Ten West, it probably would be the division favorite.

Indiana at Penn State: Nittany Lions 33-14. The Hoosiers are 2-24 against the Nittanys, winning only in 2013 and 2020.

Oregon at Utah: Utes 20-18. National upset special. Showdown between the programs that have won the last four Pac-12 titles – Oregon in 2019 and 2020; Utah in 2021 and 2022. 

Oregon State at Arizona: Wildcats 31-30. Remember when we thought Deion Sanders had produced the upstart team in the Pac-12 for 2023? Wrong. It’s Jedd Fisch at Arizona, whose Wildcats are 4-3, 2-2 in the Pac-12. The last two weeks, ‘Zona has gone to triple overtime against Southern Cal and whacked Washington State .

Colorado at UCLA: Bruins 29-26. The Deion Sanders hype train has slowed. This is Deion’s last best hope to get bowl eligible. His Buffaloes are 4-3, and Colorado still has Oregon State, Arizona, Washington State and Utah, the final two on the road.

Washington at Stanford: Huskies 31-10. Talk about a hangover. UW went from that rousing victory over Oregon to needing a late pick-six to beat hapless Arizona State 15-7 in Seattle.

Southern Cal at California: Trojans 40-14. My goodness, the shine has come off Lincoln Riley. Somewhat undeservedly. The USC transformation remains real.

Washington State at Arizona State: Cougars 23-14. Great performance by the Sun Devils in taking Washington to the brink, but there’s no evidence to suggest ASU has turned a corner.

Florida State at Wake Forest: Seminoles 39-17. The Atlantic Coast Conference is starting to go from deep at the top to deep in the middle, with only Florida State standing tall. 

Duke at Louisville: Blue Devils 23-20. When last we saw the Cardinals, they were getting stunned by Pittsburgh, a seven-point underdog. Come to think of it, the ACC has been ground zero for major upsets. Georgia Tech was a 19-point underdog yet beat Miami 23-20. Last week, Virginia was a 23½-point underdog yet won 31-27 at North Carolina.

Pittsburgh at Notre Dame: Fighting Irish 28-19. Notre Dame is 6-2; the Irish finish with Pitt, Clemson, Wake Forest and Stanford, so 10-2 and a major-bowl berth should be in the near future for the Irish. 

Syracuse at Virginia Tech: Hokies 26-16. In the 14-team ACC, only five teams have a winning conference record. Struggling Virginia Tech is one of them (2-1).

Clemson at North Carolina State: Tigers 31-10. Troubled days for the Riley brothers. Not just Lincoln at USC, but Garrett, whose first year as Clemson’s offensive coordinator has been a slog.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech: Tar Heels 40-17. Inexplicable doesn’t begin to describe UNC’s home loss to Virginia.

Virginia at Miami: Hurricanes 35-14. Cavalier tailback Mike Hollins, who was wounded in the 2022 shooting that killed three teammates, scored three touchdowns in the upset of Carolina. You’ll not find many better college football stories than that.

Connecticut at Boston College: Eagles 15-12. BC is 4-3, 2-2 in the ACC, and can get within a whisker of bowl eligibility. All that despite a team that is several rungs below mediocre.

Tulsa at Southern Methodist: Mustangs 44-16. TU, 3-4, will be hard-pressed to make a bowl. The Golden Hurricane finish with Charlotte, at Tulane, North Texas, at East Carolina.

Tulane at Rice: Green Wave 31-24. Tulane remains a strong candidate for the Peach Bowl or Cotton Bowl. The Green Wave certainly acquitted itself well a year ago, beating USC in the latter. 

Memphis at North Texas: Tigers 32-20. UNT is 3-4 overall, 1-2 in its first American Conference season. The Mean Green program just never has caught fire, at least not since the Hayden Fry days of 44 years ago.

East Carolina at Texas-San Antonio: Roadrunners 45-10. UTSA remains unbeaten in the American Conference.

Florida Atlantic at Charlotte: Owls 26-21. Basketball schools. Both have made a Final Four. Charlotte back in 1977 (remember Cornbread Maxwell?). FAU last March.

Massachusetts at Army: Black Knights 17-15. As much fun as it is when the Cadets or Air Force or Navy have success, it’s discouraging to see them struggle on the gridiron. And Army’s 62-0 loss at Louisiana State was not fun.

Wyoming at Boise State: Broncos 27-16. A virtual elimination game in the Mountain West Conference, since each has a league loss.

Nevada-Las Vegas at Fresno State: Bulldogs 30-28. If UNLV pulls this upset and gets to 7-1, it’s time we got serious about Barry Odom’s Rebels.

Air Force at Colorado State: Falcons 25-17. With each week, Air Force in the Cotton Bowl takes on more and more of a possibility.

New Mexico at Nevada: Lobos 26-22. Biggest upset of last Saturday? Both New Mexico (over Hawaii) and Nevada (over San Diego State) won on the same day.

San Jose State at Hawaii: Spartans 34-3. With all the talk about Washington State and Oregon State joining (or joining with) the Mountain West, it makes me wonder about Hawaii’s viability for the league. The Rainbow Warriors are football-members only.

Old Dominion at James Madison: Dukes 25-14. My apologies last week for leading you astray about James Madison. The Dukes remain ineligible for the post-season, including the Sun Belt championship, so there will be no Peach Bowl for JMU. The school still is serving its second year of probation after moving up from Division I-AA.

Georgia State at Georgia Southern: Golden Eagles 29-21. Our annual geographic service about Georgia mid-majors. State is the urban school in downtown Atlanta. Southern is the school in the classic Deep South town of Statesboro.

Troy at Texas State: Trojans 19-17. Three teams are tied atop the Sun Belt West, with 2-1 records. These are two of the three.

Marshall at Coastal Carolina: Chanticleers 24-22. The Sun Belt is a fun league. These teams are sixth and fifth, respectively, in the Sun Belt East, yet both are quite capable.

Southern Mississippi at Appalachian State: Mountaineers 34-7. I was chatting with a former Southern Miss staffer the other day, talking about the demise of the Golden Eagles’ program. From 1990-2007, Southern went 118-84-1 under Jeff Bower. During that span, Bower went 13-44 against what we now call power-conference teams. That’s 57 games; more than three per year. And the Golden Eagles held their own. Bower beat Alabama twice and Auburn twice, Oklahoma State and Illinois twice. He beat LSU and Georgia and Nebraska and North Carolina State and Pittsburgh. With Bower, Southern Mississippi was a mid-major force. The Boise State of the South. To replace Bower, Southern hired OSU offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, who went 34-19 in four years and took the North Carolina job. Since Fedora, the Golden Eagles are 55-87. Since Bower, Southern is 4-25 against Power Five programs, beating Virginia twice, Kansas and Kentucky. The worst college football fire of the 21st century was Southern Miss letting go of Jeff Bower.

Louisiana at South Alabama: Jaguars 25-20. South Alabama must be busting its buttons with pride, knowing what it did to OSU (33-7) back on Sept. 16.

 

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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