Read more from Owen Kemp at Rock Chalk Talk.
With one game left in nonconference play the Kansas Jayhawks are wildly inconsistent at best. Some would go as far as calling them a bad team, while others believe the Jayhawks are pretty good if and when they play their best.
On Saturday, New Mexico State comes to town and the team represents the last opponent and the last opportunity for coach Turner Gill and his team to put together a solid game and tilt the trend in a positive direction. The problem is, it isn't going to get any easier.
Road game, home game, top opponent or cupcake, the Jayhawks take the field and it's hard to tell what to expect. If the Jayhawks can manage a win on Saturday against the Aggies from the land of enchantment, they'll sit 2-2 with eight games to play. Those eight games represent quality opponents, conference opponents and with the way the Jayhawks have performed not a single "gimme."
And it's that thought that brings us back to the opportunity in front of the Jayhawks on Saturday. The communication errors, the miscues and the mistakes in execution will quite clearly not get it done in conference play. As a matter of fact they didn't fly in nonconference play. New Mexico State provides perhaps the easiest, most controlled environment for Kansas to give it one final dress rehearsal before the real deal.
New Mexico State brings the #115th ranked rushing defense, the #96th ranked passing defense, the #119th ranked total defense and the #114th ranked scoring defense in the country to Lawrence. If that's not the cure for the ails of a Jayhawks offense that's stumbled through the opening weeks, then there is no cure. Kansas and the Jayhawks staff will need to seize the opportunity to identify what they can do best and execute that in a fluid manner. Clean it up, polish things off and enter a critical stretch of the season.
If Kansas can get a win entering conference play with some real momentum then there might be an outside shot at approaching the six win mark and maybe just maybe a bowl game. "If" is the opportune word and real momentum means the win has to look good on Saturday.
New Mexico State has been handily beaten this year by San Diego State and UTEP. If Kansas can't do the same, it's hard to envision a team that hasn't built on anything during the first third of the season going into an eight game conference stretch and being able to do so. That's why this game is a critical one for Kansas to win and it's why this is a critical game to win in a relatively smooth and easy fashion.