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Texas Preview

KU beat Texas in 2016. People forget that.

Iowa State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

November 19. 2016.

With 2:36 left in the game, ESPN’s win probably chart still showed Texas at 96%. This was just after KU failed to convert a fourth-and-six from their own 38-yard line. But then, after the KU defense held on three straight running plays from D’Onta Foreman, Texas elected to try and convert a fourth-and-five to put the game away. They failed, Kansas drove down for the game-tying field goal, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Texas was 3-17 on third downs. The Longhorns turned it over six times. UT panicked late. KU was steadfast.

Imagine thinking it will ever not be funny that Texas lost to KU in a game of American football. (Hopefully, with Les Miles in the fold, that day will be here sooner rather than later.)

Anyway. It’s Senior Day in Lawrence, and the Jayhawks welcome the Longhorns for the final regular season game of 2018.

Texas Schedule

L @ Maryland, 34-29

W vs Tulsa, 28-21

W vs USC, 37-14

W vs TCU, 31-16

W @ KSU, 19-14

W vs OU, 48-45

W vs BAY, 23-17

L @ OSU, 38-35

L vs WVU, 42-41

W @ TTech, 41-34

W vs ISU, 24-10

How They Rank

Following the conclusion of all the games from Week 12, Texas is ranked #33 in S&P+ (out of 130). Their offense is ranked #26 but their defense is ranked at #56.

Kansas is down at #109 overall, with the #116 offense and #103 defense. I promise this will be my final #RutgersFactor joke.

In the preseason, Texas was given an 81% chance to beat KU by S&P+. That number is up to 86.7%. S&P+ predicts a 19-point UT win, 39-20.

F/+ has a worse outlook for Kansas, predicting a 23-point Texas win and giving the Longhorns a 91.0% chance for victory.

ESPN’s FPI gives UT an 84.2% chance of victory.

Vegas has the line set at -15 as of the time of this posting.

Players to Watch

QB Sam Ehlinger has a bruised shoulder but is expected to play against Kansas. Ehlinger has a 21-2 TD-INT rate and completes 65.0% of his passes. Ehlinger also has the second-most rushing attempts on the Texas offense. If Ehlinger can’t go, Texas will turn to Shane Buechele, who tossed 3 INTs the last time Texas played in Lawrence.

UT’s leader in rushing attempts is Tre Watson, who is listed as questionable for the KU game. Watson averages 4.1 yards per carry on 140 attempts. If Watson is unable to go, look for a lot of Keaontay Ingram, who averages 5.4 yards per carry on 116 attempts.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey is UT’s primary receiving option, hauling in 70 passes for 1,033 yards and 8 TDs so far. Collin Johnson will also be a factor, with 53 receptions for 730 yards and 5 TDs in 2018.

SR LB Gary Johnson leads the Texas defense in tackles (74) and TFLs (14.0). He also is second on the team in sacks with 5.5. DB Cade Sterns leads UT with 4 INTs, while DL Charles Omenihu is an absolute beast along the line with 7.5 sacks and 12.5 TFL.

Keys to the Game

RUN. THE. BALL. We’ve seen a couple of games this year where KU has had more rushing attempts than passing attempts - TCU and OU come to mind - and those have been the games where the Jayhawks have been competitive.

Be aggressive. Come on, Beaty. This is your last game as the head coach at Kansas. It’s time to play some balls to the wall football. No punts in plus territory. No timeouts on fourth down. Throw the ball down the field (on play-action after you’ve established the run). Try to win the game.

Les is More. Sure, Texas is playing for a bid to the Big 12 Championship game next week. But, not only is it senior day for guys like Joe Dineen, Daniel Wise, and Steven Sims, but everyone who ISN’T a senior will want to play well for Les Miles, who will no doubt be in attendance.

The Pick

Texas has been an interesting squad this year. Unlike Oklahoma, they don’t have any glaring weaknesses. But, they have had games where they’ve struggled on offense - K-State, Baylor, and Iowa State come to mind. If Kansas is to have a shot at the upset, no doubt it will require multiple turnovers on defense (much like every other Kansas win over the past four years).

On the other side of the ball, Texas will be able to simply “out-athlete” Kansas at most positions. It may be beneficial for the Longhorns to play cover zero and load up the box. If they can keep Pooka Williams under 100 yards, the likelihood of an upset diminishes greatly.

I’d really like to predict something along the lines of a 27-24 Kansas win, but too many things would have to go right for the Jayhawks. (Sidebar: Can you imagine if David Beaty left town 2-2 vs Texas?) (Another Sidebar: But also 2-2 vs FCS teams.)

It is notable that the weather forecast calls for 50 degrees and rain, which in theory benefits KU’s ground game while simultaneously slowing the Texas air attack. However, I think the most likely scenario is that Kansas goes back to struggling on offense and Texas wears the Jayhawks down in the second half. Texas 24, Kansas 13.