The No. 3 Texas Longhorns continue their final march through the Big 12 with hopes to bring the title with them as they leave for the SEC.
They also have an opportunity to avenge one of the more embarrassing losses of the last few years, when the unranked Kansas Jayhawks came into Austin and beat them in overtime. If Texas comes away with a win, it may be one of their most hard-fought wins of the year as Jalon Daniels and the high-powered Jayhawks offense come to town. How will this matchup play out?
Burnt Orange Nation: Kansas is 4-0 once again and Lance Leipold clearly has the Jayhawks on the right trajectory as a program. What’s the mood and vibe like among the longsuffering KU football crowd?
Rock Chalk Podcast: In the words of 2022 National Champion Remy Martin: “The vibes are immaculate”. Kansas football fans have long felt that a turnaround like this was possible, but most didn’t realize how important it was to have both a competent coach AND athletic director. Kansas has one of the best combinations at those two spots, and it’s showing with how far this team has come this quickly.
BON: Jalon Daniels is clearly one of the top QBs in the country but has relied on his legs less than he has in years past. What is different about his game this year and what does it do for the offense?
RCP: This appears to be more about success by other players and game situations than an actual change in his game. Specifically, the Illinois game was one where he was coming off of a back injury, so it made sense to avoid hits from QB runs. Leipold confirmed after the BYU game that they intentionally limited his rushes in the Nevada game to avoid hits before conference play. And against BYU, the great performance by the defense made it a bit harder to build momentum, and success elsewhere lessened the need for his running. It definitely helps the offense to be able to be very successful everywhere else without needing Jalon to run it, because it gives them another dimension that teams have to pay attention to. And only using it sparingly makes it harder to recognize when it is going to happen.
BON: It’s not really a secret that KU has gotten it done primarily on the offensive side of the ball, while the defense has been good enough to win, but not elite. What can they do this weekend to slow down a Texas offense that has seemingly found its rhythm?
RCP: The Kansas defensive line is criminally underrated. Last year, the defensive line clogged things up and then started getting pressure in the backfield in the second half after wearing everyone down. Instead, this team is able to get early pressure, forcing an offensive adjustment, and then they switch it up and do the same early in the second half. This is a more aggressive team that is faster across the field, and they have been able to use that to their advantage to play like a top-25 defense.
BON: What is one storyline you’re watching this weekend?
RCP: Turnovers. Kansas has a problem with fumbles, Texas hasn’t given up the ball. The Jayhawks have done a great job of pressuring opponents into making mistakes. It’s even more impressive given that they don’t actually recover many of the chances they create.
On the other side, the Jayhawks have done really well of bringing pressure with 4, which allows players to jump routes and force quarterbacks into poor decisions. And Quinn Ewers didn’t seem to handle pressure well.
BON: Kansas wins this game if.....
RCP: ...they force Texas mistakes. The Jayhawks faced their first halftime deficit against the BYU Cougars, and they responded beautifully. While they haven’t had to make huge comebacks like last year, but they are definitely still capable, especially with this defense. But they have to create those opportunities by forcing long drives that give them plenty of opportunities for a crucial sack or interception. I won’t write this game off unless Texas is up by 21 going into the fourth quarter, but the defensive strength and offensive misdirection will go a long way to making this game easier to win.
BON: Kansas loses this game if....
RCP: ...they can dominate the line of scrimmage. The Kansas offense has been very good at slowly down opponent rushes, and the defensive line has been good at bringing pressure from the edges, forcing running backs to drop deep in order to try and get around or hope to find a hole in the middle. The fact that Kansas hasn’t needed to bring extra players in order to get pressure has helped a lot in coverage, but if Texas can make them bring extra, that will help the receivers a lot.
BON: What’s your prediction?
RCP: I came into the year saying that Texas would need to underperform in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance in this one, but I’ve talked myself into this upset more and more as the week has gone on. This feels a lot more like a rock fight between two really good teams than the mismatch blowout that many are expecting.
I look at this Texas defense, and while they have been a LOT better than I thought they would be, they seem to be getting most of their accolades from shutting down an Alabama offense that is nowhere near what we are used to seeing. And then the Texas offense hasn’t had the dominant offensive line that I was expecting, and Quinn Ewers is way too ready to let one bad play affect his game.
So give me a close win for the Jayhawks, as Jalon Daniels and the offense are familiar with success in Austin, and everyone on the Kansas side is much better than they were last year. A 3-point win for Kansas vaults them into the Top 10.