Somehow, after dropping the season-opener to Maryland and narrowly sneaking by Tulsa, the 2018 Texas Longhorns are just one win away from a trip to the Big 12 Championship game. The good news is that path runs through Lawrence against the Big 12’s bottom-feeder, the Kansas Jayhawks. The bad news, however, is the last time Texas visited David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, the Horns left with arguably the worst loss in program history.
This time around, with a Big 12 title bid hanging in the balance, can the Longhorns exorcise yet another demon and deal Kansas a loss to cap the David Beaty era?
The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss that and more.
Obviously, the last time Texas was in Lawrence, the Longhorns suffered arguably the worst loss in program history. With where this program is headed, would beating Kansas put that all in the past?
Cody Daniel — Co-Editor: I would say so as long as Texas wins convincingly. If this game comes down to the final seconds like the Baylor game, or a final drive like the Tulsa game, the Twitter trolls will still make note of that — “Texas’ best team in a decade barely beat Kansas,” or something like that.
Gerald Goodridge — Contributor: This senior class has been on a big of a revenge tour this year so I can only imagine how motivated they are for this game. If they can manage to put a beating on Kansas, while securing a spot in the Big 12 title game, most of them would be fulfilling their promise to former head coach Charlie Strong to bring the program back.
Wes Crochet — Contributor: Yes, absolutely. It’s funny how storylines sometimes get written. Not only is Texas looking for revenge, a win means the Longhorns lock in a chance to compete for the Big 12 Title. These upperclassmen have to be more than ready to have another shot in Lawrence, Kansas — land of the fake mascots.
Abram Orlansky — Contributor: Certainly, this is an opportunity for the Texas Longhorns to engage in quality competition. And, uh, certainly, if they can come in first place on Saturday — ‘scuse me, Friday — there’s no question it would effectively exorcise some demons.
Sam Ehlinger re-aggravated his shoulder injury, but will play vs. Kansas. With Texas one win over the Big 12’s bottom-feeder away from the Big 12 title game, would you sit Ehlinger on Friday?
Cody: Ideally, Ehlinger plays and the defense comes out dominant, allowing Texas to jump out to a quick 21- or 24-point lead, and then Texas can sub in Buechele or a true freshman the rest of the way. But Texas scored just seven points in the second half without Ehlinger vs. ISU, so I think him starting would be best.
Gerald: Coach Royal said it best: You have to dance with the one that brung ya. Ehlinger has been a huge reason why Texas has been successful this year so if he’s good to go, he has to get a shot. That being said, if he’s not ready to go then definitely sit him. I want to see Texas build a big lead early, so they can give Ehlinger the hook and let one of the freshman close it out. That way you can also preserve Shane Buechele for a Big 12 title game and bowl game, if necessary.
Wes: If Ehlinger can go, you start him. Winning in Kansas is priority number No. 1 as that locks in the Longhorns’ travel plans to the Big 12 Title game. Now, if Texas has the opportunity to relive Ehlinger of his duties midway through the game, then Herman will absolutely do so. And that’s likely the goal.
Abram: Texas is blessed with a very quality backup in Shane Buechele. He has the chest necessary to propel the Longhorns to finish in first place on Friday. My personal view is Shane should start and Sam should come off the bench if necessary. Despite playing some very quality opponents, Texas has yet to participate in a football contest in 2018 in which they were not at least competitive, so certainly the ballgame getting away from them is not a concern.
Between Ehlinger’s health, and Friday being Kansas’ Senior Day and the last game of the Beaty era, which means they’ll be playing with nothing to lose, how worried should Texas be about this Kansas team?
Cody: I think Kansas could keep things interesting for a quarter or two, but unless Texas is beating itself with penalties, turnovers, and blown assignments defensively, this game should worry Texas much less than any of its recent ones.
Gerald: The flip side of that is if Texas loses then these seniors will have lost to them twice. I don’t see that happening in any reality. I don’t think Beaty being a lame duck coach is a motivating factor, but a distraction in my book.
Wes: I don’t know if “worried” is the word I’d choose. I’d say Texas needs to play composed. Pound for Pound, the Longhorns are better in nearly every category. As long as the Horns stay disciplined and stay focused, they’ll leave Kansas with a win and prevent the Jayhawks from hanging 40 on them unlike Oklahoma, whose defense sucks. (See, I can say that. I’m allowed to say that).
Abram: Texas will have to expect sincere contact from the Jayhawks, who will be competing with pride and toughness. As Bo Schembechler used to say, “When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft.” That said, if Texas walks in prepared to compete sincerely, they’ll be fine.
If Texas does lose, it would largely be at the hand — or legs — of freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr. What will his stat line look like by the end of the afternoon?
Cody: Kansas will probably rely upon Williams pretty heavily. I’ll say 18 carries for 91 yards and one touchdown.
Gerald: Williams has been less effective at home than he has been on the road. He’s averaging 15 carries for 87.5 yards per game and Texas has only allowed two rushers to get more than 100 yards. All that to say, I think Texas holds him to about 13 carries, 80 yards and a TD.
Wes: 14 carries for 62 yards. Outside of his explosive 252-yard performance against the Sooners, that’s generally where he’s finished games in the Big 12.
Abram: The Texas defense announced its presence against the Cyclones and I expect they’ll compete hard and enjoy the opportunity to show they’ve turned a corner. Something in the range of Wes’ prediction.
For the first time since the USC game, Texas enjoyed a fairly dominant win over Iowa State. Will that continue against Kansas, or are we in for another nail-biter?
Cody: It might not necessarily be a blowout from start to finish, but I doubt the outcome will be in doubt entering the fourth quarter.
Gerald: The Texas offense is too good and the defense is the healthiest it has been in a month. I’ll probably kick myself for saying this, but I think it’s a boat race.
Wes: If Sam Ehlinger plays, Texas will dominate whether the scoreboard fully shows that or not. If Sam is not able to go, this may be a game where Texas grinds out a win.
Abram: Kansas will certainly play an, ah, effortful contest for the coach who has been disposed. If this game was essentially meaningless for Texas like the game in Lawrence two years ago I would be more concerned, but Texas has even more to play for than the Jayhawks. No excuse for being out-motivated this week.
Prediction time: Does Texas win and get in to the Big 12 title game?
Cody: Texas finishes 9-3 and heads to Arlington. Texas 38, Kansas 17.
Wes: Yes. The Longhorns will be Dallas-bound soon.
Abram: Yep. Longhorns by 17.