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Senior defensive end Codey Cole III lines up against the Boston College offensive lineman. The Jayhawks defeated the Eagles 48-24 Friday, Sept. 13.

Column

Kansas football has long been the laughingstock of the Big 12. The program has failed to reach five wins since 2009 and has had four different coaches in the same timeframe.

However, the fourth and current coach, Les Miles, has given the program something no other coach was capable of — hope.

This season, Kansas football fans rallied and hyped up the team all offseason. Needless to say, the expectations for Miles were high. After a comeback victory in the season opener, fans began to believe in the Les Miles era, that was at least until the Jayhawks lost to Coastal Carolina in the second game of the season.

Once again, Kansas football was back, the program had fallen off the map, and fans were left hopeless yet again.

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Senior cornerback Hasan Defense celebrates with his teammates on the bench. Kansas defeated Boston College 48-24 Friday, Sept. 13.

Then, game three took place.

The Jayhawks traveled to play Power-Five team Boston College. Most expected Kansas to be walked over and the game to be done by the end of the first quarter. That stigma seemed true as Boston College raced out to a 10-point lead and an interception from quarterback Carter Stanley. The Jayhawks were back. Nobody cared. All hope was lost. Miles wasn't the answer.

But a flip switched and Kansas turned it on, becoming seemingly unbeatable. Kansas ended the game with 48 points, beating Boston College by 24 points.

Maybe Miles is the answer?

That question will be answered on Saturday, the most defining game of the season.

For Kansas football to be considered on the uprising, it needs to string together wins. What bigger win are the Jayhawks capable of than a conference opener? Kansas is known to struggle in conference play, and that is why it is vital for the Jayhawks to defeat West Virginia in the first Big 12 matchup of the year.

After the Mountaineers, Kansas will play TCU, Oklahoma and then Texas, meaning the most likely outcome will be three straight losses. Thus, the win over West Virginia is a must for any chance at five wins.

West Virginia has the same record as the Jayhawks, 2-1, but the difference between the two squads is defense. Kansas possesses a ball-hawk defense that can turnover any quarterback in the country. The Mountaineers don’t possess that quality.

On top of that, West Virginia is not great against the run. It has allowed at least 100 rushing yards in each of its first three games. With senior running back Khalil Herbert and sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr. in the backfield, the run has become an area of expertise for the Jayhawks.

The perfect opportunity for the Jayhawks to score a conference victory comes against West Virginia, and it may be the last opportunity for a while.

The time is now for Kansas to capitalize and prove it is heading in the right direction. For fans to believe in Kansas, the Jayhawks need to secure wins. For people to rally around Kansas, a win over the Mountaineers is of upmost importance.

The idea to bring in Jeff Long and Les Miles was to create change in the football program. If the Jayhawks fail to top West Virginia on Saturday, the never-ending saga of hope turned to disappointment will continue being a common theme for Kansas football, and the idea of a culture change may be all but forgotten.