Defending conference co-champion Kansas State goes into Austin looking for its sixth straight win over Texas. The Longhorns are hoping to right their seriously listing ship after suffering consecutive blowout losses and yieldling huge yardage on defense in both losing efforts, something highly uncharacteristic of a Texas team. The Wildcats lead the overall series between the two schools 8-5. Kansas State has owned Texas of late and is the only Big 12 team to have the better of the Longhorns in the overall series. The two schools have met only 13 times in football, although the series dates all the way back to 1913.
A couple of factors to consider regarding where this game is being played: Texas is 13-2 in Big 12 openers under head coach Mack Brown. Kansas State is making its first road trip of the season and is 4-7 in conference road openers.
Starting quarterback David Ash returned to practice on Wednesday, but his status for Saturday’s game with K-State is still very questionable. Ash reportedly is still suffering from head and shoulder injuries he suffered in the Longhorns loss at BYU two weeks ago. If Ash cannot go, the Horns will go with backjup QB Chase McCoy, who threw for 191 yards and a touchdown last week against Misissippi on 24 of 36 passing.
The Texas offense has not been the problem in the Longhorns’ struggles the past two weeks. The offense is averaging 493 yards a game so far in the season. The UT defense, however, is giving up just as many total yards its opponents, and the overwhelming majority of that is on the ground (308 yards per game).
Kansas State was a run-heavy team with Collin Klein at quarterback the past couple of years, but this season, the Wildcat offense has been more balanced. Fifty-ning percent of K-State’s offensive plays in the first three games have been runs, but in past seasons this percentage has been even higher. K-State quarterback Jake Watershas completed 69 percent of his passes this season and is averaging 224 yards per game.
With great depth at the running back position, the Texas offense prefers to establish the running game to set up its passing attack. So far this season, the Horns are averaging 205 yards per game on the ground, third best in the conference, and their pass offense ranks fourth in the league, at 288 yards a game.
K-State head coach Bill Snyder likes his guys to be able to sustain drives and control the football and the clock. That’s been their winning formula through much of Snyder’s time in the Little Apple. In order to win this game, Texas is going to have to find a way not to have its defense spend long stretches of time on the field. Extending that thought, this means that, while on offense, the Longhorns cannot afford to get in third-and-long situations, and they are going to have to do better than a 35 percent conversion rate on third down.
After two stunning losses in succesion to nonconference opponents, Texas’ major preseason goals are all but shattered. But the Longhorns still have a very big goal still out in front of them: They can still win the Big 12 Conference crown. And a victory of Kansas State, which has been their biggest nemesis in conference play, would be a giant step on the road to a fourth Big 12 championship and in righting the direction of their season.
“We win the Big 12 championship, we’ll be excited, and that’s all we’ve got left,” Texas’ Brown said.
Three Things to Watch for in the Kansas State-Texas Game
- In big conference games such as this one, turnovers can be the deciding factor. So far this season, Texas is plus-two in that department (meaning the Longhorns have more fumble recoveries and interceptions than their opponents), while Kansas State, which has always prided itself on winning the turnover battle and making its opponents beat themselves, is minus-two.
- Kansas State senior running back John Hubert got his game going last week against UMass with 118 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the quarterback duo of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams complemented the Wildcats’ rushing attack with a combined 151 additional yards. Look for K-State to build more of that into their game plan this week against a highly suspect Texas rush defense.
- To a large extent, Mack Brown’s future at Texax, which is teetering big time at present, rests on the outcome of this game. Following two of Texas’ worst losses in almost half a century, a loss to Kansas State would mean he is all but gone. Another loss to Oklahoma three weeks from now definitely would be the final nail, and might even end his season as well as his career at Texas.
Game prediction: Kansas State 27, Texas 24
Other Big 12 Picks in Week 4
Luisiana Tech 17 @ Kansas 27 - Kansas is at home and hopes to snap a 22-game losing string against FBS opponents.
West Virginia 20 vs. Maryland 34, in Baltimore – West Virginia’s defense is better, but the offense is lagging. Maryland is 3-0; make it 4-0.
Louisianba-Monroe 14 @ Baylor 55 - Oklahoma defeated ULM 34-0. Baylor’s margin of victory will be even higher, despite five-point win last year.
Texas State 13 @ Texas Tech 38 - Texas State leads the country in rushing defense. That won’t help them against Texas Tech’s aerial circus.
Last week’s picks: 6-2
For the season: 20-5