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Big 12 Storyline 2020: For Kansas, Les Miles, a long, winding road of hard work lays ahead

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Oklahoma v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Oklahoma Sooners have an opportunity to win their sixth consecutive Big 12 championship. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are loaded with their own rendition of star power in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. But maybe this is the Texas Longhorns’ year after all.

From coaching to quarterback play, the Big 12’s intriguing storylines are worth monitoring. Most of the conference’s teams are expected to improve at the quarterback position, as 70 percent of the league’s starting quarterbacks return this season. Of the three teams that don’t return a starting quarterback, the Texas Tech Red Raiders brings back a healthy Alan Bowman and – *drum roll* – the Spencer Rattler era is set to begin in Norman.

With Matt Rhule out and Dave Aranda for the Baylor Bears, now half of the league’s coaches are in their first or second-year as head coach, making fourth-year Tom Herman a wise man of sorts.

Those are just a few of the most exciting narratives at play. Let’s get into it.

We’ll continue with ... the transitioning programs.

Kansas Jayhawks

Year two of the Les Miles era — will the Jayhawks improve enough to win at least two conference games for the first time in 11 years?

In year one, Les Miles accomplished the same feat as Kansas’ last three head coaches. His team went 3-9 and won a conference game. If it weren’t for Cameron Dicker’s game-winning field goal, the Jayhawks would have had their best season record-wise since 2009.

The mid-season decision to promote Brent Dearmon to offensive coordinator gave some life to the Jayhawks’ offense down the stretch last season. Kansas put up 48 points at Texas and 37 points in a homecoming win verses Texas Tech. As a former NAIA head coach and offensive analyst under Gus Malzahn, Dearmon changed the identity of what was a pro-style offense into a more modernized spread offense to fit the Big 12 style of play.

Unfortunately for Dearmon and Kansas, they’ll have to replace starting quarterback Carter Stanley — who was really coming along towards the end of his career in Dearmon’s offense. Along with replacing Stanley, Kansas ranks 125th in the nation in returning production (SP+). They do return star running back Pooka Williams, though.

Rebuilding a program like Kansas may be the most challenging Power Five job for a college football coach to take on. And that’s probably why Les Miles jumped on the opportunity this late in his coaching career. The mythical Mad Hatter always has something up his sleeve.

Oh, and the Longhorns have to travel to Lawrence in November again.

The last two trips up there weren’t very pretty for Texas.