There’s likely never been a college football team as ecstatic about going 6-6 as Lance Leipold’s 2022 Kansas Jayhawks squad.
Such a statement might draw cries of exaggeration, but it’s hard to argue the past 14 falls have been anything but full of dread and despair in Lawrence.
The tide is beginning to turn, however, as the Jayhawks — after failing to win more than five games in a single season between 2009 and 2021 — raced out to a 5-0 start this fall.
Behind the dazzling option reads of junior quarterback Jalon Daniels and the dynamic rushing of sophomore back Devin Neal, the Jayhawks emerged as a surprise Big 12 Conference title contender midway through the season.
A shoulder injury to Daniels, combined with some bad luck, led to the Jayhawks losing five of six down the stretch, including three-straight double-digit defeats at the hands of Texas Tech, Texas, and rival Kansas State.
Still, Leipold’s bunch is set to return to a bowl game for the first time since winning the 2008 Insight Bowl under Mark Mangino, and Kansas sports betting is more than ready.
The Jayhawks will face Arkansas in the 2022 Liberty Bowl on Dec. 28 in Memphis (4:30 p.m. Central, ESPN).
Oddsmakers at FanDuel Sportsbook Kansas list the Jayhawks as a 4.5-point underdog with a +152 moneyline. The game’s over/under is 67.5 total points.
How Kansas Jayhawks Got to 6-6
The Jayhawks couldn’t have imagined a better start to their season than how they performed out of the gate, beating FCS squad Tennessee Tech, West Virginia, Houston, Duke and Iowa State in succession.
Daniels’ performance in those five contests was good enough to draw Heisman Trophy hype, with oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook Kansas placing him as high as +2800 to win the award, which ranked ninth in the country at the time.
Neal finished with 1,061 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry out of the backfield.
A shoulder injury suffered by Daniels during Kansas’ 38-31 home loss to TCU on Oct. 8 derailed his team’s momentum, as the Lawndale, California, native missed the Jayhawks games against Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
It’s little surprise the Jayhawks went 1-3 in those contests, ending any hope of capturing the program’s first conference title in 54 years.
Still, things are looking up for Leipold entering the bowl season, as Daniels will likely be back next fall, and Neal is only a sophomore.
That dynamic duo, along with fellow sophomore Lawrence Arnold (KU’s leading receiver with 597 yards and four touchdowns), will have a shot at taking KU a step farther next fall.
Next-Season Overall Record of 6-6 Bowl Teams
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How 6-6 Bowl Teams Have Fared Afterwards
If you’re using Kansas sports betting apps to scout futures wagers for the 2023 college football season, here’s something to know — over the past decade, 6-6 bowl teams usually finish around the same the following year.
In 2022, the 19 teams that went 6-6 last season combined to go 119-118, with UNC and LSU posting the best year-end record (at 9-3), while Old Dominion, Boston College, Virginia, and Virginia Tech all won just three games.
Over the past five 12-game regular seasons (excluding 2020 because of COVID-19), the teams that went 6-6 combined to go 457-432 (.514) the year after.
If you expand the scope to include all 6-6 bowl teams over the past decade, you’ll see those squads went 762-711 (.517) the following year.
Best Follow-up Seasons for 6-6 Bowl Teams
Kansas’ Outlook Entering 2023
Leipold’s team could go the way of 6-6 exemplars, such as Michigan State in 2013, which went from 6-6 to 13-1 and into the College Football Playoff, or UCF, which went from 6-6 to 13-0 in 2017.
They could also go the way of Purdue in 2013 or Baylor in 2017, both of whom went 1-11 after going 6-6 the year before.
The Jayhawks shouldn’t miss a beat entering the 2023 season, however, with Daniels and Neal returning and a winnable trio of non-conference games.
Kansas will play FCS squad Missouri State and the Big Ten’s Illinois in Lawrence next year, while making a rare road trip to Reno to face off against Nevada of the Mountain West on Sept. 16.
Of those three, only Illinois finished above .500 this season.
The Fighting Illini are another of the turnaround stories from the year that was, going 8-4 under Brett Bielema and finishing second in the Big Ten West.
There’s no reason Kansas shouldn’t be 2-1 or better entering the nine-game Big 12 slate next fall, which improves its odds of making it back to a bowl game in 2023.
For now, at least Leipold and his players can take solace in the fact the Jayhawks managed to win more game this year (six) than they did in the previous three seasons combined (five).