In 2001, the Kansas Jayhawks finished their season 3-8, which led to a coaching change in Lawrence. Over the years that followed, the Jayhawks, which had last had a winning season in 1995, started a slow build to being competitive in the Big 12, which at the time rivaled the SEC as the strongest football conference in all the land.
Here a quick list of Kansas' accomplishments since 2001. After going 2-10 in 2002, the team went 6-6 before losing to North Carolina State in the Tangerine Bowl. The team took a step back in 2004, finishing with a losing record, but Kansas rebounded in 2005 winning the Fort Worth Bowl. In 2007, Kansas stayed in the conversation for a national championship, but a final game loss to Missouri squashed those hopes. However, they still earned an invitation to the Orange Bowl, and they knocked of Virginia Tech 24-21.
Kansas did not fade, winning the Insight Bowl in 2009, but the team fell back a bit in 2009 before the Turner Gill Era turned out to be a disaster in 2010 and 2011.
In all, perhaps the hiring of Mike Mangino ignited the turnaround for Kansas. Mangino, who was the first coach to leave Kansas with a winning record since Jules Sikes in 1953, led the program to its best seasons in recent history. Also of note was the development of a quality quarterback in Todd Reesing. During his time at Kansas, he set several school records, and he finished his career with a 62.4% completion percentage, over 11,000 yards, 90 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. It is little doubt that the best years at Kansas happened during his time under center.
Perhaps the most controversial factor that led to the Jayhawks success is the weakening of the top of the Big 12. Teams like Kansas and Missouri started competing in the conference as teams like Nebraska began to weaken. While Texas and Oklahoma remained the two dominant programs, space was created for new schools to improve as well.
Kansas also had two All-Americans during the time, Anthony Collins and Aqib Talib.
While I think Mississippi State is in the ballpark with Kansas concerning the decade that followed 2001, I give the slight edge to Kansas because of their Orange Bowl victory. However, I would rather have the current situation in Starkville over the situation at Kansas.