If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to spend your weekend doing something other than watching Texas Longhorns football. But it also might be the last time they win this season?
Texas enters Saturday on a four-game losing skid, but hey it could be worse! In Lance Leipold’s first season in Lawrence, the Kansas Jayhawks (1-8, 0-6) come to Austin on an eight-game losing streak and are dealing with injury issues at the quarterback position.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Horns look to get back into the win column while dealing with injuries throughout the roster and Saturday’s game presents an opportunity to heal up before ending the season against West Virginia and Kansas State.
As of Thursday, neither Leipold nor Texas knew who would be starting for the Jayhawks on Saturday. My guess is that we’ll probably see two to four different quarterbacks take snaps.
Their starter all year has been North Texas transfer Jason Bean, but the sophomore was injured in last week’s 35-10 loss against Kansas State. Bean took snaps in practice on Thursday before offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki revealed that he will be a game-time decision.
We don’t root for injuries here, but the Texas defense would be better off seeing Bean on the sideline Saturday. Bean is a dual-threat quarterback and Leipold likes to run an option-based offense when he’s on the field.
If he’s able to break contain and find open space, he will test the tackling of the Texas defense. Something that, as we know, the Horns have struggled with all year. Or the last 10 years. Either one works.
Leipold likes to get Bean on the move in the passing game as well through variations of play action and designed bootlegs. Compared to his Big 12 peers, Bean ranks last in nearly every major category, but ranks first in rushing yards out of any quarterback in the conference.
The key to killing this Kansas offense is keeping Bean from hurting you on the ground. In the six conference games Kansas has played this season, the Jayhawks have only scored over 20 points in one of those games. In those same games, Bean has rushed for over 24 yards in just two of those. Can you guess one of those opponents?
Bean rushed for 59 yards and threw for 246 yards with a touchdown in what has been his best game in conference play this season.
They eventually lost by 12 points, but it was the closest margin of defeat this season. In their four other conference losses, the closest margin of defeat was 25 points against Kansas State.
Per BCF, Kansas averages 1.44 points per drive (118th in the nation) and 5.24 yards per play (97th). The total offense is up from last year, but is still anemic with only three other teams in the country averaging fewer points per game than their 15.1.
And if Bean isn’t good to go, it could get worse. Three quarterbacks were listed on the depth chart for this week, not including Bean. That means Texas could see Miles Kendrick (who came in for Bean last week and got knocked out of the game literally a few plays later), Jalon Daniels (who played the majority of the game against KSU), or Thomas MacVitte.
Kendrick has played intermittently this season, with most of his reps coming after Leipold elected to make a quarterback change in the second half against the Wildcats.
Freshman Jalon Daniels and Kendrick started off and on last season with neither guy taking control of the starting gig, but Leipold hoped to redshirt Daniels this season. If Kendrick is healthy, expect him to play over Daniels.
Kendrick struggled in Les Miles’ offense last season, only topping 100 yards passing three times and throwing 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. He’s looked better under Leipold's new scheme, albeit in limited action.
If Daniels plays, expect to see a little bit more passing than running. He’s played in just three games this year with 24 passing attempts to just four rushing attempts.
The two other playmakers to watch on this Kansas offense are freshman running back Devin Neal and senior wideout Kwamie Lassiter. Neal leads the team with 505 yards rushing and coincidentally, his best games of the season line up with Bean’s best games. He’s broken 100 yards twice this season (OU and Duke) and averages 4.2 yards per carry.
Lassiters is Bean’s favorite target with the wide receiver leading the team with 36 receptions for 439 yards. They also have a taller and more physical wideout in freshman Lawrence Arnold, who has mossed a few cornerbacks this season and has caught a team-high three touchdowns.
Three stats to summarize the Kansas defense:
- Only two other teams in the nation give up more points per game than Kansas this season. Opponents are averaging 42.78 points against the Jayhawks this season.
- Kansas ranks dead last in points allowed per drive, with opponents averaging 4.51 points every offensive possession.
- Their defense also allows 7.87 yards per play this season, 128th in the nation.
Opponents are averaging close to 500 yards per game against them, with 250 coming on the ground. Even if Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson aren’t good to go, Texas will attack by running the ball. They give up 6.6 yards per rushing attempt (129th in the country), which will be music to Sark’s ears after another frustrating offensive performance last week.
If Texas can’t score more than a touchdown against Kanas or if they fail to score in the second half again, then it might be time to change a few things but I feel like I don’t need to go too much in-depth on the Kansas defense.
This game, like the last three, will be more about Texas than their opponent. Outside of Oklahoma, every Big 12 team has exceeded their scoring average against Kanas this season.
Speaking of Oklahoma, I know a lot of Longhorns fans have been saying “if Kansas nearly beat Oklahoma, who knows maybe they can beat Texas” this week. Sure, 2016 happened and 2019 almost happened, and after four straight losses, who knows what the current mind frame is in that locker room. Plus, a handful of players on the Kansas roster are from Texas. A lot can go wrong, right?
Yes, but no. Besides not getting off the team plane and showing up until the second half against Kansas, the Sooners ended up winning by 12 points. You can point at Caleb Williams struggling on 50/50 balls that worked against Texas but the biggest thing I noticed was third-down efficiency for Kansas.
On the season, Kansas has converted 32 percent of their third downs. Against Oklahoma, they converted 9-of-13 attempts on third down while also converting their own fourth-down attempt. They were able to do that by getting into manageable third downs and thus drained a lot of time off the clock and kept Caleb Williams and the Oklahoma offense on the sideline.
If Kansas is going to pull off the improbable, they’ll need some help from Texas, but converting third downs and controlling the clock is key.
The Longhorns are a 30.5-point favorite against the Jayhawks, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.