The No. 3 Texas Longhorns came away with a more acceptable win over the Baylor Bears in their last trip to Waco for the foreseeable future. This Saturday, they will host the No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks at home. Kansas has flown under the radar in most polls only just rising to number 24 in the AP. They got off to a hot start last season as well behind dual-threat quarterback Jalon Daniels and will look to continue their winning streak this year as well. This weekend could be another great benchmark to see how Texas handles high powered offenses before heading into the Red River Shootout.
Jalon Daniels did not play in the season opener against Missouri State as he was still nursing a back injury. Second string Jason Bean handled the FCS opponent well completing 22-of-28 passes. However, in Daniels’ three games this season, his efficiency has been similar to the numbers he was putting up during his start last year before his shoulder injury against TCU. Below is a comparison for Ewers and Daniels on the season in passing metrics.
While Daniels does wait for plays to develop and take shots downfield, he isn’t very successful in the long range. His high completion rate is primarily due to the short range passing game. In the 0-10 yard range, he is 7-of-8 on the outside left with two of those leading to touchdowns, 14-of-16 in the middle, and 4-of-4 in the outside right. Below are the usage, EPA, and box score stats for their offensive weapons.
X receiver Lawrence Arnold has caught 18 of his 19 targets while Z receiver Quentin Skinner has had less success reeling catches in. Slot receiver Luke Grimm is their highest graded receiver based on off passing routes as he frequently slips under coverages designed to protect the deep ball to Skinner and Arnold. The Jayhawks use their tight ends more as run blockers but they do receive targets here and there when the defense isn’t expecting it.
Daniels currently ranks second highest in the conference in time to throw at 3.09 seconds (UCF’s Timmy McClain is first at 3.46), compared to Ewers, who gets the ball out the fastest at 2.29 seconds on average. That number jumps up to 4.42 seconds when Ewers scrambles, meanwhile it is a staggering 5.77 seconds for Daniels which exhibits his ability to extend plays while outside of the pocket.
Their backfield is dominated by Devin Neal who currently has one of the highest YPC rates at 6.9 and has already racked up nine touchdowns on the season. Daniel Hishaw Jr has more of the trucking ability, but still has above average agility at the position.
Strength of schedule is difficult to examine early in the season, as voiced by readers last week. But it is difficult to compare offensive strength with such limited data points. This week, I elected to compare offensive success rate against each opponent compared to what their opponent has allowed on the season. A reminder that a successful play is marked by one of the following:
- Offense scored
- 50 percent of yards gained on first down
- 70 percent of yards gained on second down
- A successful third- or fourth-down conversion
It is further separated into passing and rushing success rate and displayed below. Interpretation example: In the Texas game vs Rice, the Horns’ passing success rate was 12 points higher than what Rice has allowed on passing plays all year, while their rushing success rate just met expectations.
We can see the Horns early struggles in the passing game against the Cowboys in Week Three. Despite their blowout win against Baylor, their success rates were just slightly better than what Baylor has given up so far this season. Success rate doesn’t necessarily correlate with score but rather how consistent offenses are at working towards first downs, in control of the game, and working a controlled offense rather than a frantic and lucky one. The last eight minutes of the game against Alabama is a testament to being able to take over a game and is represented in the numbers. The Jayhawks’ run game has surprised all of their opponents so Texas will look to their strong front seven in slowing down the run.
A statistic that stood out to me this week was red-zone stop percentage. Texas is currently tied second in the nation with Michigan and Duke at a 50-percent stop rate. Michigan has faced less red-zone attempts (given an easier schedule as well). Syracuse currently leads at 56-percent stop rate on nine attempts. The chart below shows how the breakdown of all red zone attempts defenses have faced this season. I included all Big 12 members plus teams that are floating around the top 15 in the polls for comparison. The bars are ranked first by stop percentage, and second by total red-zone attempts.
For Texas, their sole touchdown allowed in the red zone was a 15-yard pass in garbage time against Rice, in which I might add, Rice receiver Luke McCaffrey was absolutely pummeled by safety Michael Taaffe. Otherwise, the transformed Longhorn defense has done a phenomenal job so far in holding their ground, forcing at least 30-plus yard field goals or turnovers. Another defense I wanted to touch on is Penn State, who has only allowed four red-zone attempts this season but has allowed touchdowns on all four. Looking forward, Oklahoma ranks 25th in the nation in stop percentage on seven attempts.
The standout feature here is that Kansas has a zero percent stop rate in the red zone on 14 attempts, giving up six rushing touchdowns, four passing touchdowns, and four field goals. Two of these passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and two field goals all came from their 38-27 win against BYU last week, whose passing offensive efficiency ranks 11th in the conference (only Iowa State is worse), and rushing offensive efficiency ranks 9th in the conference (Houston, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State being below). Red-zone attempts do only tell one side of the story, the Jayhawks held BYU to nine total rushing yards last week. As long as Texas can get the ball moving and consistently get downfield, the red zone seems to be open to powerful runs by Jonathan Brooks and CJ Baxter, or passes over the middle.
While Kansas ranks 78th in EPA allowed on defense, and 75th in success rate allowed, there are some key players that can be game changers on Saturday. Their top pass rushers are defensive tackle Tommy Dunn Jr (4 tackles, 1 sack) and edge rusher Austin Booker (11, 3.5). Tommy Dunn Jr currently ranks 27th in pass rushing grade amongst Power 5 interior defensive lineman (meanwhile Longhorns T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy rank 7th and 11th respectively). Nose tackle Devin Phillips (2, 0), edge Hayden Hatcher (12, 0), and will linebacker JB Brown (16, 2) don’t rank above average in pass rush, but rank well in the run defense.
In the secondary, their star player is cornerback Cobee Bryant (8 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble). Safeties Marvin Grant (13, 1, 0, 1) and Kenny Logan (23, 2, 1, 1) also rank above average in pass coverage this year and have certainly accumulated some impressive box score stats already.
One team will walk away with their first loss of the season. A top-tier Jayhawks offense will face their biggest defensive threat yet in the Longhorns. If Texas can prevent Kansas from establishing the run early on, it will certainly hinder the rest of their offensive scheme to manipulate coverages and launch the long ball. Ewers and crew will face a defense that is safe to say will be their second most difficult yet so far this season. This will be a vital performance and stepping stone before heading into Texas/OU. The current spread is Texas -16.5, according to Draft Kings.