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Three thoughts as Texas hosts No.20 Kansas State

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What the Horns can do to right the ship against the Wildcats.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns will look to get back on track after the bye week against the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats in Austin at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium this Saturday.

Texas hopes to have several key members of their team returning from injury this week, which will help against a 6-2 Kansas State team that just two weeks ago defeated then-No. 5 Oklahoma.

Here are three thoughts that the Longhorns should consider heading into the match up in order to put the odds in their favor.

Stay on schedule

The Texas offense is ranked No. 11 in the FBS in overall offensive FEI according to Footballoutsiders.com, yet they struggle in two key metrics — busted drive rate and turnover rate. The Longhorns rank 101st in the nation with a 0.149 busted drive rate and rank 44th in the nation with a .096 turnover rate. One of the main reasons for the high turnover and busted drive rates is being behind the chains on second and third down.

Despite having a high success rate when running the ball on standard downs, Texas chooses to be pass heavy on first and second down, resulting in passing downs. The Longhorns rank 56th in the nation on passing down line yards per carry with an average of 2.87 and rank 77th in the nation in passing down sack rate, allowing the defense to get to the quarterback 8.3 percent of the time in passing situations.

Texas should be set up for success in this area against a Kansas State defense that ranks 103rd in the nation in line yards per play with an average of 2.77 and No. 108 with a stuff rate of 15.8 percent. Since Kansas State does rank No. 12 in the nation in standard down sack rate with rate of 8.7 percent, Texas needs to be wary of slow-developing pass plays, especially in standard down and distance.

The best pathway to success is relying in the inside run game, using inside zone and power, along with short, high-percentage passes on early downs in order to keep the down and distance reasonable and sustain drives.

This serves multiple purposes. First of all, it will result in more points on the board. More importantly, it will protect a struggling defense by controlling the game clock and minimizing the amount of time the Kansas State offense is on the field. Lastly, it will help win the field position battle, keeping the defense from having to defend drives from the wrong side of the 50-yard line, which has happened far too often in 2019. In order for this metric to be successful, Texas will need to avoid having more than two busted drives in the game on Saturday.

Explosive plays

Despite their No. 11 ranking in Offensive FEI, the Longhorns rank 39th in explosive plays offensively with a rate of 0.17. Defensively, Texas ranks 92nd in the nation with an explosive play rate of 0.177. The Longhorns need to win this battle on Saturday in order to see success on the score board, which should not be too difficult of a task as Wildcats rank No. 90 in the nation with a defensive explosive play rate of .171 and No. 117 in the nation with an explosive play rate of 0.063. In short, the Wildcats defense struggles nearly as much as the Longhorns defense with the explosive play, however, the Kansas State offense is not nearly as explosive as Texas.

Defensive line play

Due to its lack of ability to create explosive plays, the Wildcat offense ranks number 40 in the nation in offensive FEI. The Wildcats, however rank much higher in busted drive rate (No. 9/0.047) and turnover rate (No. 5/0.047). These rankings are largely a result of Kansas State ‘s commitments running the football and staying on schedule. Meanwhile, the Longhorns defense ranks No. 128 in the nation with a busted drive rate of .031. A major reason for the Texas inability to obtain the elusive three and out is its defensive line play.

The Texas defense ranks No. 72 in the nation with a line yards per carry of 2.54 and No. 113 in the nation with a sack rate of 4.1 percent. The defensive line will need to step up and make some plays against a consistent Kansas State offense and force some three and outs in order to allow the offense to get a comfortable lead against the Wildcats. If the Longhorns fail in this area, they could lose the battles of fatigue and time of possession, giving the Wildcats offense an upper hand late in the game, which is not a good position for this Longhorns team.