When Kansas has the ball
Kansas rush offense vs. Texas rush defense
Last year, the Jayhawks nearly pulled off the upset of Texas by pounding the ball with their rushing attack and never letting up. James Sims carried the ball 28 times and logged 176 yards, and the rest of the KU runners chipped in another 93 yards and KU averaged nearly five yards per carry. Things don’t figure to be quite so easy this season, as UT has improved against the run, but the Longhorns still surrender more than 200 yards a game to opponents and also have given up 12 rushing touchdowns. Largely because of a new offensive line and their struggles with the passing game, the Jayhawks have not been as potent on the ground this year (133 yards per game and seven touchdowns), but they figure to take a lot of confidence into this game because of last year’s performance. Add to that the run threat of true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, and it’s easy to see how KU could find success again in Austin. Edge: Push.
Kansas pass offense vs. Texas pass defense
Things were better through the air for the Jayhawks last week, as both Cozart and starter Jake Heaps threw touchdown passes and junior Rodriguez Coleman broke out a little with 75 yards and a touchdown. A good chunk of that production, however, came with the game out of reach, so it remains to be seen if KU’s quarterbacks and receivers can get going from start to finish. The Jayhawks enter today’s game averaging just 157 yards per game through the air, and the offensive line still lacks consistency in pass protection. The Longhorns enter giving up 203 passing yards per game but with a lot of experience and talent in the secondary. In addition to several upperclassmen in coverage, defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat (six sacks and two pass break-ups) and Cedric Reed (three, four) also have put their stamp on UT’s pass defense. Edge: Texas.
When Texas has the ball
Texas rush offense vs. Kansas rush defense
A few weeks ago, the Texas offense was built behind the spread style of quarterback David Ash, who could move around well, get rid of the ball quickly and get the Longhorns’ long list of playmakers involved in the passing game. But that all changed when Ash was hurt and Case McCoy took over, which inspired the Longhorns to go more to a power running game and a conservative passing game. Running backs Johnathan Gray (656 yards, four TDs) and Malcolm Brown (234, three) have created a potent 1-2 punch and UT enters the game averaging 200 rushing yards per game and nearly five yards per carry. KU assistant coach Scott Vestal said earlier this week that Texas’ offensive line is as improved as any unit in the Big 12, and KU’s front seven, which has given up an average of 204 rushing yards per game, figures to have its hands full this week. Edge: Texas.
Texas pass offense vs. Kansas pass defense
In seven games this season, McCoy has thrown for 992 yards and five touchdowns while completing 59 percent of his passes. But it’s not necessarily McCoy’s statistics that make the UT passing game tick. It’s the way others play around him. McCoy is averaging just 12 completions and 20 attempts per game and has made his biggest impact by elevating the play of those around him and forcing Texas into finding its identity as a power-running team that takes its shots down the field only occasionally. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, McCoy has the size needed to hang in there and make plays. And wide receivers Jaxon Shipley (368 yards, 33 receptions), Mike Davis (381, 29), Kendall Sanders (273, 26) and Marcus Johnson (257, 10) give him plenty of options in the passing game. McCoy and Johnson appear to have strong chemistry. The Jayhawks’ cornerbacks have been good all season, and the secondary as a whole has picked up seven interceptions so far this season. This match-up will be a challenge for both sides. Edge: Push.
For the second game in a row, the Jayhawks figure to be without one of their biggest special-teams play-makers in Josh Ford, but KU will have its most dangerous special-teams weapon in punter Trevor Pardula, who continues to hang in there as one of the nation’s leaders. During last week’s loss to Baylor, Pardula punted 11 times and averaged more than 46 yards per kick. While the KU kicking game has been a strength for the Jayhawks, it’s the return game that’s been a strength for the Longhorns. Returner Daje Johnson averages a 14.1 yards per punt return (KU’s Connor Embree sits at 15.1), and four Longhorns average 16.5 yards or more per kickoff return. Texas kicker Anthony Fera, though experienced, ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 in punting and third in place kicking, having hit 11 of 12 field-goal attempts, including a long of 50 yards. Edge: Push.