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Behind Enemy Lines: Texas Longhorns

We preview tomorrow’s game with our SB Nation sister-site Burnt Orange Nation

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas Jayhawks are back in action tomorrow, as they head down to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns. Texas is coming off a big loss to Oklahoma and is likely looking for blood. What can we expect from them in this game?

To help answer that, I chatted with Gerald Goodridge of Burnt Orange Nation, the SB Nation site that covers the Longhorns. We did a podcast already, but this is a different set of questions to give you a quick primer on the Jayhawks’ next opponent.

RCT: Texas has lost the two biggest games on their schedule so far. At the halfway point of the season, have the Longhorns lived up to expectations?

BON: It depends on whose expectations you’re measuring against. There is a contingent of Texas fans that expected this to be a trip to the playoff, so to them it is. I saw a perfect scenario where it could have happened, one where LSU didn’t improve on offense and Jalen Hurts didn’t mesh with the OU offense, however that was a pipe dream. Any rational fan knew that Texas would likely lose a game or two this season, with the two likeliest losses coming in the first six games. I think the story of the season will be written in the next six games.

RCT: Sam Ehlinger hasn’t kept up the hype that many people had for him coming into the season. How much of that is on him, and how much is on the rest of the offense?

BON: The last two weeks have been below-standard for Sam Ehlinger, but he actually managed to put together the best five-game start in school history, eclipsing Colt McCoy’s blistering 2008 season. I think part of the problem is that he played against Heisman candidate Joe Burrow in the game where he officially threw his hat in the ring, so he didn’t get much shine in spite of putting up 400 yards on a defense from the conference with allegedly good defenses. Against the best defense he played this year in the Cotton Bowl, the offensive line got absolutely manhandled and Ehlinger was sacked nine times. I’m not a QB coach, but it’s hard to throw from your back.

RCT: The defense is extremely thin. Who do you expect to step up and make big plays on defense this weekend?

BON: Keondre Coburn, a man Malcolm Roach calls Snacks, is a big part of the defensive scheme for Texas. He’s a space-eater in the middle of the defense and his ability to reset the line of scrimmage has been pivotal for the Texas front as it faces teams that want to establish the run. With Roach out early, Texas needs a big game from Ta’Quon Graham and T’Vondre Sweat along the edges as Kansas tries to get the RPO game established.

RCT: What is going to be the most crucial matchup in this game?

BON: Really for me I want to see how the offensive line responds after getting absolutely embarrassed by the OU front a week ago. Zack Shackelford got abused in the middle and the guards didn’t really look much better. That caused problems in both the run game and the passing game, with Texas only handing the ball off 13 times on nearly 50 offensive snaps. So I need a good game from the Longhorns’ line.

RCT: What part of this Kansas team scares you the most as a Texas fan?

BON: Pooka. He’s about as dynamic of a playmaker as it comes. If that dude is feeling it early, paired with the injuries and tackling problems in the secondary, he could have a huge day.

RCT: Prediction Time! How close is this game going to be? What will be the narrative for these teams after this one?

BON: I think it could be a one-score game for a while, possibly late into the third quarter. I think the biggest differentiator for Texas will be the depth of talent at some spots, so Texas can rotate in some fresh bodies and pull away late. I think maybe a 35-21 type game. For Texas I think the narrative will be the same, a thin defense struggling against offensive playmakers. For Kansas, the potential of the offense under Dearmon will likely be a big talking point.

A big thanks to Gerald for helping us out today. For more, don’t forget to check out the podcast, and you can see the questions I answered for him over on BON.