The Texas Longhorns unofficially ended its conference championship run with the loss to the TCU Horned Frogs this past weekend. This week they travel to face the Kansas Jayhawks, who are also currently 6-4. Kansas got out to a surprisingly strong start to the season before losing their starting quarterback Jalon Daniels in Week 7 of the season against TCU. Along with the regular preview for the game, this week, I dove further into the inconsistency in the Longhorns’ performances.
Quarterback Quinn Ewers had his worst performance of the season which had fans begging to put Hudson Card back in. We have seen a consistent struggle with Texas putting points on the board in the back half of games, but Texas wasn’t even able to get out to a lead in the first half. Ewers finished 17-of-39 passing after starting 0-of-8 and throwing an interception. He tallied 171 yards and concluded with a QBR of just 21.
While the passing offense continued to struggle, Sark didn’t seem to have confidence in the run game either, giving Bijan Robinson the ball only 12 times from which he produced 29 yards. The table below shows PPA in the TCU game which is calculated using down, distance-to-go, and field position to calculate the expected yardage gained per play and compare to what a team or player actually produces.
Both teams seemed to struggle on offense, but it really came down to a few missed opportunities for Texas to extend their drives to within field goal range that became the biggest factor. Amazingly, a TCU team that allowed 377 yards per game somehow held Texas to just 210 total yards.
The Jayhawks defense is heavily reliant on their defensive edges. Their front seven ranks 81st in the nation in pass rush and averages just two sacks a game. Additionally, they produce a havoc rate of just eight percent, which is last in the conference. While the front seven altogether struggles, the edges perform better than the interior lineman and linebackers in both run stopping and pass rushing. These consist of Lonnie Phelps (46 total tackles, six sacks), Malcolm Lee (24, one) and Jereme Robinson (25, three). When it comes to the secondary, Kansas ranks only slightly better than Oklahoma State in passing coverage. However, we do know that is not indicative of what is come to on Saturday as Oklahoma State was able to slow down the Texas offense in the second half.
For the most part, Texas was able to lock down one of the most proficient offenses in the nation. TCU averaged 40.5 points per game on the season, Texas held them to just 17. TCU led the conference with 486.1 yards per game on offense, and Texas held them to 350. Unfortunately, we are reminded about the tough life of a defensive back. No matter how many times they were able to clamp down, a couple of blown coverages led to TCU’s Quentin Johnston getting the ball on crucial plays.
Apart from the Texas Tech and Oklahoma State games, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has evidently improved the Longhorns defense. For more details, scroll down to the Comparison section, but generally Texas holds opposing offenses to below what they are typically able to produce.
The Jayhawks came out with a bang this season, and for a moment even led the conference. They seemingly lost their momentum when Daniels was sidelined with a separation of his shoulder. At the time, Daniels was number one in the conference in QBR. However, backup Jason Bean has performed at the same level passing wise and is equally as much of a threat on the ground as well. Bean tends to pick the deeper routes when he goes through his progressions, averaging over nine yards per attempt. He had a worrisome leg injury last week in their game against Texas Tech which could hold his mobility back in this week’s matchup. Below is a table featuring the Kansas offensive stars and their PPA metrics for the season.
Slot Luke Grimm loves finding the middle of the field but also poses a threat on the outside, moving well after the catch (I type him as very similar to Whittington). Quentin Skinner is used as an exclusive deep threat allowing X receiver Lawrence Arnold to move wherever works best against the defense as he is utilized at every level. Their offensive line has only given up eight sacks on the year, providing either quarterback with plenty of time to get off their passes or scramble effectively. Lastly, Devin Neal has 951 yards on 142 carries this season (6.7 YPC, leading the conference) and seven touchdowns.
Texas is a nine-point favorite over Kansas, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
It appears Texas games always stray from what is expected, both in positive and negative lights. At least for this season, we have a hunch that when teams play against Texas, we don’t seem to get what was predicted on either side of the ball. I calculated the differentials for EPA (expected points added per play) in a variety of margins. This is interchangeably called PPA.
I took the average for each team Texas played this season (UTSA excluded due to no play-by-play data) and compared it to how they performed in their game against Texas. Using EPA for rushing and passing, offense and defense, the graph below constructs the differentials for the games this season. Bars in the positive region indicate the team played better against Texas than they do all season. Disclaimer: this does not prove that it was in direct relation to the opponent stepping up or Texas falling short. Bars in the negative region show the opposite, teams performing worse against Texas then they usually do.
Ideally if we were a top five team, we would see that each team we face performs worse than they usually do when facing us. However, it is evident that is not the case. I would classify these games into three different tiers:
- Dominance: UL-Monroe, Bama, West Virginia, Oklahoma. Texas holds their opponents below expectation in almost every category that would guarantee a win most of the time.
- Luck: Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech. Narrow wins and losses that come down to a few clutch plays because Texas slips in two or more categories.
- Failure: Oklahoma State. Texas allows their opponent to have one of their best games of the season.
- WTF: TCU. This game was just bizarre. TCU had a high-powered offense and a mediocre defense and the deviation from what was normal for them was bewildering.
My prediction is that if Daniels plays on Saturday, the Kansas game falls into the luck tier, if not, then dominance. And with the Baylor game, I am leaning more towards luck/failure.
In last week’s article, I began to analyze how Texas performed in the past few seasons relative to the talent composite of the roster. I might be beating a dead horse here, but I wanted to expand from just the Big 12 conference, so this week I compiled the metrics based on top teams in the nation. The teams included were either the most winning in their conference or consistently in the top 25 of talent composite scores dating back to 2015 (when the metric started).
The formula I decided would be best for this analysis was equal to (wins/talent score) x 100. Total number of wins was better than win percentage as it accurately favored teams who played extra games (conference championships, bowl games, CFP). For instance, an 11-3 team ought to rank better than a 10-2 team. Using this as a ratio over talent score then boosted the metric for teams who are able to accomplish more with less. And lastly, multiplying it by 100 was just to easily scale it down for reading purposes; I would interpret it as the number of wins gained per 100 points of talent on the roster.
Teams who made the CFP that year are indicated with a black dot. I also calculated the average number for the teams admitted to the CFP for that year and overlaid that onto each graph for reference. Another note is that the 2020 season was shortened for most teams due to COVID so the number of wins for that year drops off, but it has an equal effect on all teams.
The following tables accumulate the average “Wins per 100 points of Talent Score” metric and display the most successful teams when it comes to utilizing their rosters.
By now, you may have also noticed that the bulk of these top 25 teams reside in the SEC and that number will only grow when Texas and OU move over. We knew that Texas lacked the talent development needed to make the CFP compared to OU. It was alarming to see that the only two other programs are worse at developing rosters in the past seven years, Florida State and UCLA. After seeing Texas A&M fumble the bag with their highest ranked recruiting class this season, I was desperate to prove that Jimbo is worse but even they have had better success. Texas has had rosters with composite scores ranging from 811 to 893 which is below what the blue blood teams are averaging. But TCU has shown that they are able to achieve as much if not more than Texas has in the past few years.