This Saturday, the Texas Longhorns host the #16 Kansas State Wildcats. The Longhorns are favored to win at home by seven, and their numbers look better on the tale of the tape. However, Texas has failed to do two things that the Wildcats have done this season…beat Oklahoma and beat TCU. Here is the Texas preview and what to expect from Kansas State.
The State of Texas
The Longhorns are coming off a bye week which capped off a loss to TCU and a near loss to Kansas. Many are quick to blame injuries, especially on the defense, for their recent slump. With six starters returning this Saturday, we should find out just how much the injuries have held the team back. For Texas, this game is considered a must-win by many. A loss to Kansas State or any of their remaining opponents (aside from Baylor who is #1 in the conference), could cap off an embarrassing third year for head coach Tom Herman.
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has 303 passes with 199 completions for a completion percentage of 66%. He has 2,378 total yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Texas ranks 19th in total offense. They are the #11 scoring offense in the FBS. The offense should add five-star true freshman running back Jordan Whittington this week after his being out for six weeks following sports hernia surgery.
The Longhorn defense has been successful at stopping a traditional Big XII offense. The trouble comes once the opponent figures out their defensive scheme. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is less dynamic and has not had much success at adapting when his approach is challenged. This is why Texas was able to hold Oklahoma State’s best running back in the nation Chuba Hubbard to 121 yards but then allowed Kansas’ Pooka Williams gain nearly 200 yards against them.
What to Expect from Kansas State
Coming off of three consecutive wins including one over fifth-ranked Oklahoma and another in-state rival Kansas, Kansas State is now ranked 16. They ranked at #24 for one week in September following a mostly unexpected victory over Mississippi State. A reappearance in the poll in late October shows that the Wildcats may have some staying power.
The Wildcat offensive numbers are not particularly impressive. They rank 83rd in the FBS and have the 113th best passing offense. Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson has 177 passes with 107 completions for a completion percentage of 60%. He has 1,336 total yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. Compare this to Ehlinger who reached the 1,300 yard mark by his fifth game this season. Head Coach Chris Klieman runs the option game but the Wildcats play a majority of their offense on the ground, running about twice as often as passing. Their top running back James Gilbert has 100 carries for 558 yards and eight touchdowns.
Kansas State’s entire roster has zero four- or five-star players. However, they were able to beat Kansas by three scores. In contrast, Kansas forced Texas to win with a walk-off field goal.
Texas has been riddled with injuries, especially on the defensive side. They expect several starters to return this week. Senior linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch (separated shoulder) is practicing and expected to play. Sophomore safety Demarvion Overshown (shoulder) has also been practicing and is expected to return. Sophomore safey B.J. Foster (shoulder) is probable for Saturday. Sophomore safety Caden Sterns (knee) is also probable for Saturday. After missing seven games, running back Jordan Whittington is probable for Saturday. He will be third behind Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson.
New injuries from the TCU game include tight end Cade Brewer who tore an ankle ligament while blocking on a bubble screen play for Devin Duvernay. Punter Ryan Bujcevski is out following surgery for a broken collarbone, and Chris Naggar will take over for him.
Keys to the Game
Kansas State should try to increase their time of possession and keep the Texas offense off the field as much as possible. Texas’ defense should put pressure on the run game, because Skylar Thompson is probably not a good enough quarterback to beat the Horns with his arm. The keys to wining this game come down to controlling the time of possession, converting on the third down, and winning the turnover battle.