Longhorns look to bounce back at home against the Jayhawks
The Texas Longhorns came up short in their annual midseason rivalry game with Oklahoma, losing 34-27 in Dallas last week. The loss dropped the Horns to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 action. Yet, while disappointing to the team and its fanbase, losing to Oklahoma did not eliminate Texas' hope of making it back to the Big 12 Championship Game. But the margin of error is much thinner now, and this week's clash with the Kansas Jayhawks takes on greater importance as a result. Kansas, in its first season under head coach Les Miles, is 2-4 overall and 0-3 in conference play after losing 45-20 to the Sooners two weeks ago.
Kansas at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: Longhorn Network
Spread: Texas -21
When Kansas Has the Ball
Kansas has shown an ability to move the football both on the ground and through the air in the first half of the season. Unfortunately, as usual, the Jayhawks have struggled with consistency. The 48-24 victory at Boston College in Week 3 has undoubtedly been Kansas' high point of the year, as the Jayhawks ran for a season-high 329 yards and added 238 passing yards, which was good for a season-high 7.88 yards per play.
The low point? If not an embarrassing 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina in Week 2, it would certainly be the 51-14 loss to TCU. Kansas averaged 95.5 passing yards in those two games at just 4.26 yards per play. And while the Jayhawks understandably aim to run the football and have one of the most talented ball carriers in the Big 12 in Pooka Williams (445 rushing yards, TD), KU has been most competitive when it can throw effectively.
Quarterback Carter Stanley has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,175 yards and 12 touchdowns with four interceptions. Not surprisingly, his worst games came against Coastal Carolina (when he averaged 5.6 yards per pass attempt and threw two interceptions) and TCU (2.9 yards per pass for 84 yards on a 41.4 percent completion percentage). Andrew Parchment, a junior college signee in the 2019 class, has emerged as Stanley's top target. Parchment leads the team with 32 receptions, 422 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. His 70.3 receiving yards per game ranks sixth in the Big 12.
Kansas should have opportunities for success against Texas, which ranks last in the Big 12 in both total defense (453.3 yards per game) and yards allowed per play (6.38), both of which rank No. 112 in the country. Of course, it’s worth noting the Longhorns have been hit hard by injuries, especially in the secondary, and have played a tough schedule that includes top offenses in Oklahoma and LSU.
When Texas Has the Ball
Texas will also have room to operate offensively. Kansas ranks ninth in the Big 12 in total defense (444.5) and seventh in yards allowed per play (5.79). Also, other than Oklahoma, the Jayhawks have faced a much softer group of opposing offenses.
The Longhorns have an edge at quarterback. Sam Ehlinger is off to a terrific start, completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions while averaging 7.9 yards per pass. Ehlinger has also added 227 rushing yards and a team-leading five touchdowns on the ground.
Huge target Collin Johnson has only appeared in three games because of a groin injury; despite returning last week, he exited the game after suffering a hard hit from a Sooners defender. The 6-foot-6 Johnson ranks third on the team with 190 receiving yards after posting season-highs with six receptions and 82 yards last week.
Other Texas wideouts have stepped up with Johnson banged up. Devin Duvernay leads the nation with 53 receptions, which he has turned into a team-leading 517 receiving yards. Duvernay's four touchdown catches are tied for the team lead with freshman Jake Smith, who ranks second among Texas wideouts with 16 receptions and fourth with 173 yards. Breakout deep threat Brennan Eagles, whose 22.4-yard average per catch is fifth-best in the country, is second on the team with 291 receiving yards.
But the running back position has been impacted even more by injury. In fact, true freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson was moved to running back because of injuries and leads the team with 363 rushing yards and an average of 5.8 yards per carry with two scores on the ground. Johnson has split carries with starter Keaontay Ingram (322 yards, 3 TDs). Texas ranks No. 9 in the conference in yards per carry (4.23) and seventh in rushing offense (163.0 ypg). The good news? Kansas ranks last in the Big 12 and 122nd in the country in run defense (220.83 ypg).
In addition to season-long injury concerns in the secondary, Texas is also expected to play without linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch after he was hurt last week and must sit defensive end Malcolm Roach for the first half due to a late targeting ejection against the Sooners. With safety Caden Stearns also sidelined in each of the last two games, head coach Tom Herman and the Longhorns must take on Kansas without arguably their best player at all three levels of the defense in the first half and in the back seven for all four quarters.
Texas may have significant injuries across the depth chart and deficiencies in the rushing attack, creating explosive plays, and stopping opposing offenses. But the Horns have a huge talent advantage and are rightfully a heavy favorite. Texas should get back on track and keep the goal of a Big 12 title in sight.
Prediction: Texas 35, Kansas 20