The home team is riding a four-game losing streak following a loss to the Baylor Bears on a field goal at the gun. Nevertheless, KSU head coach Chris Klieman is in no danger of losing his job, which is a luxury that his counterpart on the Texas sideline probably envies. Media reports indicate Texas head coach Tom Herman will likely get his walking papers after failing to make good on yet another season that started with promise.
Here's what to watch in this matchup.
Texas at Kansas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -7
When Texas Has the Ball
The Longhorns are coming into this game with issues across their offensive line. Tackle Sam Cosmi announced earlier this week that he's opting out for the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. Meanwhile, an ankle injury could keep center Derek Kerstetter out of action.
That doesn't bode well against Kansas State's disruptive defensive line, a unit led by veteran edge rusher Wyatt Hubert. Hubert leads the Big 12 in sacks with 7.5. Herman will likely shy away from leaving UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger exposed to the KSU rush very often.
Longhorns wide receiver Brennan Eagles played the best game of his career last week versus Iowa State, torching the Cyclones for 142 yards on five grabs. Frankly, the Horns have needed that kind of impact from Eagles all season, but the talented wideout has rarely delivered. No one on the Texas sideline would complain if he keeps up the pace this week.
When Kansas State Has the Ball
The Wildcats have sustained four straight Ls in large part because their offense has fallen apart. They scored 10 points versus West Virginia and 17 against Oklahoma State before getting blanked by Iowa State two weeks ago. They put 31 on the board against Baylor in their last outing, so maybe the Wildcats found a spark.
You can pin part of KSU's struggles on opponents catching up with freshman quarterback Will Howard. The rookie has yet to prove his reliability as a thrower, and he has been picked off eight times this season on just 141 attempts. Against Baylor last week, he completed nine of his 18 passes for just 88 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions.
That means KSU's offensive attention will probably turn to the running game. The Wildcats will be running into the teeth of a Texas defense that gives up a scant 3.2 yards per carry, however. If possible, K-State head coach Chris Klieman and his staff should consider some creative approaches to putting the ball in running back Deuce Vaughn's hands. The diminutive freshman represents the Wildcats' most explosive option.
The biggest question coming into this game is the mental state of the Longhorns. Safety Caden Sterns joined offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi this week in opting out, meaning Texas will be down two team captains. That doesn't speak well of the morale in the locker room.
On the other hand, Kansas State is reeling. The Wildcats blew two leads of two possessions in the fourth quarter versus Baylor, the latest in a string of disappointments as the season has drawn to a close.
In the end, Texas has the more reliable quarterback of the two teams. Moreover, given how well the defense has rounded into form down the stretch of the season, the Wildcats probably won't have much luck moving the ball. So long as the Longhorns avoid giving up any shot plays and gaffes on special teams, they should head home from Manhattan with a win.
Prediction: Texas 27, Kansas State 17
Podcast: Coaching Carousel and Week 14 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.