#24 Texas (5-2) @ Kansas (1-6)
- Game Time: 11:00
- TV: FSN
- Sirius Channel: 117 (TX) 137 (KU)
- The Spread: Kansas +21
The Lowdown: Texas got back in the win column last week by beating Baylor, 56-50, after suffering through back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and West Virginia. The Texas defense struggled, yet again, but it didn't matter thanks to the Longhorns newfound penchant for scoring points of their own.
Saturday's game at Kansas figured to be the one conference game on the schedule that was a slam dunk coming into the season. But given Texas' inconsistent play and lack of any defense, this is far from a sure thing even if the Longhorns are 21 point road favorites.
That's in large part because of Kansas' improved play in 2012 even if they don't have the wins to show for it. Sure, they got blown out by Kansas State but that was a seven point game at halftime. There has been only game this season where Kansas was truly overmatched and that was last week in Norman where Oklahoma rolled to 52-7 win in a game that was over by the middle of the second quarter. Those are the same Sooners that lead Texas 36-2 at halftime so Texas knows how that goes all too well.
The Jayhawks come in allowing 31.4 points per game on defense which is actually almost four points better than Texas at 35 points per game.
The difference between these two teams have come on offense. Texas scores points. Kansas does not.
The Jayhawks have scored a league worst 17.3 points per game and have switched quarterbacks as a result. Dayne Crist was officially benched this week and redshirt Michael Cummings will be making his second straight start. As Charlie Weis said this week, if the status quo isn't working, you have to find some way to make improvements.
Early in the season, KU's defense played relatively well and survived by creating turnovers. In the first four games, KU was +6 in turnover margin and was competitive to the end in each of those games.
Over the past three weeks, however, the Jayhawks have only two turnovers to their credit and are -6 in that category. The lack of turnovers combined with the increased competition is one reason KU has been outscored 128-37 over that span.
For Texas, the offense has been humming right along behind quarterback David Ash and an improved running game. Besides the 21 points UT scored against OU, Texas has scored more than 30 points in every game this season and eclipsed the 40 point mark four different times.
That the good news. The bad news is that the Longhorn defense has had no luck stopping anyone and no, shutting out New Mexico doesn't count (although New Mexico is sitting at 4-4). Poor tackling, missed assignments, you name it and it's probably been an issue this season for Texas.
You can point to the good offenses they've had to play thus far, but that hasn't been much of a problem for Oklahoma, Kansas State, or Texas Tech. The Longhorns schedule isn't any different than anyone's else in the league so if Mack Brown wants to complain about facing Heisman caliber quarterbacks every week, go right ahead, I guess.
Kansas, Keys to the Game:
1. Find yards in the passing game. If the Jayhawks have any chance of pulling the upset, it's going to be because of their running game. That being said, the only way KU can run the ball is if they have some kind of threat throwing the ball. The Longhorns' defense has been brutal stopping the run, but stopping the run becomes much easier when there is no threat to worry about through the air. Cummings doesn't have to play out of his mind for KU to win, but when Weis' asks him to throw, he needs to be target.
2. Defense, defense, defense. The Jayhawks defense hasn't been great this year, but they've have shown improvement at times. They had success slowing down Oklahoma State holding Joseph Randle to 80 yards on 29 carries and allowed the Cowboys just 116 yards rushing on the day. If they can get a similar effort from their front seven on Saturday, there's no reason Kansas can't hang with the Longhorns for four quarters.
3. Michael Cummings. For the second straight week, Cumming gets the start although this week, there's been much less talk of using a two quarterback system as they did last week with Dayne Crist. Cumming gives Kansas more of a running threat from the QB position which should be a good thing given UT's struggles stopping the run. If Cummings can pick up a few yards of his own on the ground and avoid any costly turnovers, it will be a successful day for the redshirt freshman.
Texas, Keys to the Game:
1. Get out to a lead early. Texas needs to end any thoughts of Kansas upset right out of the gate. It's an early start and temps figure to be hovering at a balmy 40 degrees at kickoff and UT can ill afford to sleepwalk through the first half as they did against Oklahoma. Plus, the longer the Jayhawks hang around, the tougher it gets for Texas. Not to mention, if the Longhorns get up early, Kansas is going to have to throw the ball more than they'd like to which plays away from their strengths. Advantage, Longhorns.
2. Stop the run. C'mon, Texas. This is getting just silly given the talent that is on the field. In four Big 12 games, the Longhorns have held one opponent under 200 yards rushing just once and that was West Virginia who still picked up 192 yards on the ground. Oklahoma State ran for 275, Oklahoma 343, and Baylor 255. The strength of this Kansas team is their running attack, but this is the first time Texas has played a team without much of a passing game to worry about. If they load the box and still can't stop the run, well, then this defense is officially broken.
I'm still holding out belief that Kansas is going to win a Big 12 conference game yet this season. If it does happen, it figures to be in Lawrence and KU only has two more home games. This week versus Texas and November 17th against Iowa State.
Is this the week the Jayhawks pull the upset? No, but they are going to put a scare into the Longhorns.
Texas is going to score some points, but this might actually be favorable matchup for the Kansas defense. Not from a personnel standpoint, necessarily, but I expect Dave Campo to have a solid plan in place to slow down the Texas ground game. That might actually be one advantage of having a coordinator with so much NFL experience.
Might Kansas get burned by Ash in the process ? Quite possibly, but if you're going to pick your poison, make Ash be the one to beat you, not the Texas running backs. We saw glimpses of that type of game plan against Oklahoma State and it worked for most part. Granted, it was raining for most of that game which played a part, but it was effective nonetheless.
Taking all that into consideration, Kansas simply doesn't have the offensive firepower to completely exploit the Texas defense the way other teams have. James Sims and Tony Pierson will get their yards, but the Longhorns defense will get enough stops in the red zone when they need it.
David Ash will hit a couple long touchdowns and Mike Davis will have his second straight big game with Texas pulling out a win that will be much closer than most expect. Texas 34 Kansas 24.