When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Texas rush defense
Not only do the Jayhawks feature the second-leading rusher in the Big 12 in junior James Sims, but they’ll be facing a team that, statistically speaking, owns the worst rushing defense in the conference.
It won’t be easy — it never is — but there’s no doubt that the Jayhawks deserve the edge in this one, not only because of Sims, but also because of Tony Pierson, Taylor Cox and the fact that this team has run the ball well against everyone it has played this season. That includes Oklahoma, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma State.
In recent losses, UT surrendered 343 yards rushing to OU and 192 yards rushing to West Virginia. For the season, the Longhorns are giving up an average of 216 yards per game on the ground.
Kansas pass offense vs. Texas pass defense
KU coach Charlie Weis said earlier this week that he planned to open up the offense a little more for new starting quarterback Michael Cummings. That should help KU’s offense be more balanced and bring back some of that big-play potential.
However, until we see Cummings successfully throw the football for an extended period, it’s hard to say that the advantage lies with the Jayhawks.
Not only is Cummings an inexperienced QB, but the UT secondary features two or three future pros. That, along with the fact that Texas ranks second in the Big 12 in sacks (17) and loves to blitz, is enough to give the visitors the nod in this category.
When Texas has the ball
Texas rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
UT may not be able to stop the run, but it sure can do its share of damage on the ground. Led by a stable of talented running backs that features three guys who have topped 245 yards rushing so far this season, Texas has emerged as a team that loves to pound the football.
Sophomore Joe Bergeron has done most of the heavy lifting for the UT rushing attack, leading the team in yards (418), carries (92) and touchdowns (14). Johnathan Gray (316-63-1) and Malcolm Brown (245-40-3) have also proven to be solid, and with quarterback David Ash doing enough through the air to keep opposing defenses honest, this UT ground game has become difficult to stop.
Texas pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
Texas ranks just seventh in the Big 12 in pass offense — eighth in total offense — and has had its share of trouble throwing the football this season. Sophomore QB Ash looked great early on and has carried that momentum throughout the season.
Weis called Ash one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the country, partly because of his big frame and ability to throw the deep ball and partly because he has the horses to run underneath it. Texas’ receivers are as fast and athletic as any bunch in the Big 12, and Ash has spread the ball around: Six players have 12 or more receptions so far this season. The group is led by Mike Davis (500 yards and four TDs) and Jaxon Shipley (268-4).
Here’s the deal: Until KU shows drastic improvement in its special teams, the opponent is going to get the advantage in this category each week. This unit has struggled all season, but the Jayhawks are coming off arguably their worst special-teams game of the season.
Not only did the Sooners return two kicks for scores, but new place kicker Nick Prolago missed a field goal, making the Jayhawks just 5-of-11 this season, with Prolago sitting at 0-for-1. KU’s coaches devoted extra time and resources to special teams this week in practice, so expect to see a few new faces in new places out there today.
Still, Texas ranks in the top half of the Big 12 in three special-teams categories and features a few blazing fast return men.