One of the most intriguing matchups in the Big 12 takes place on Saturday afternoon in Austin where two teams meet to set the tone for the final games of the 2019 season. Kansas State has definitely caught hold of some momentum, winning three straight contests that included an upset over No. 9 Oklahoma and 38-10 rout of Kansas on the road. The Wildcats appear to be playing some of the best football in the Big 12 right now, and they’re a tough team to face for any team in the country.
Texas, meanwhile, is licking their wounds after having lost two of their last three football games. The Longhorns had a bye week to stew in their 37-27 loss to TCU in Fort Worth, and they enter Saturday’s contest looking to shift the direction of their season into a more positive direction. A win against Kansas State would give the Longhorns a victory over a Top 25 team and give them newly found momentum entering the last stretch of their season. Not to mention, a victory makes Texas bowl eligible for the third year in a row.
The team that wins this game will remain in the mix for the Big 12 championship as we head into the last three games of the the regular season. Any of hope of a berth in that game will be slim for whichever squad falls short, so expect both teams to come into this one ready for a fight.
- When: Sat, Nov 9, 2:30 PM CT
- Where: Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX
- Forecast: Mostly Sunny, High of 66°F
- Stream: WatchEPSN
- Betting Line: UT -7.0 O/U 57.5
No. 16 Kansas State Wildcats (6-2)
After struggling to move the ball at the start of Big 12 play, Kansas State’s offense has come alive, posting 425 total yards of offense in back-to-back games for the first time all season. Quarterback Skylar Thompson has been a major part of that success – the junior is has an impressive 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and is completing 60.5 percent of his passes. Thompson is also averaging 4.9 yards per rush to help the vaunted Kansas State running game.
That ground attack is powered by a veteran offensive line that has paved the way for the Wildcats to average 219.5 yards per game rushing this season. Kansas State spreads the ball out to multiple backs, and they like to run a mix of power and option concepts to set up the passing game. Establishing the play action component of their offense is a key part of the Wildcats’ success.
On defense, the Wildcats have done a great job of keeping opposing teams out of the endzone. They’re allowing a mere 20.4 points per game, which is the second best total in the Big 12. Overall, Kansas State has struggled more against the run, giving up 5.3 yards per carry, but they have had some of the best secondary play in the conference. Kansas State has allowed only four passing touchdowns all season. Their experienced secondary will have to work this week without defensive A.J. Parker, who will be out with a right foot injury.
Kansas State Keys to the Game
Avoid Turnovers: Kansas State has been the best team in the Big 12 this season when comes to not turning the ball over, but they will have to be sure to take care of the ball against a Texas defense that’s tallied 14 turnovers on the year. Taking care of the ball will be pivotal for the Wildcats to get this road win.
Keep Hitting Deep Shots: In order to win this game, the Wildcats will need to be able to hit a few deep passes against a struggling Texas secondary. That will help Kansas State move the ball and put them in position to get points on the board in a game where points could be more at a premium.
Contain The Running Game: Although Texas is more than capable of throwing the ball down the field, they’ve been prone to become a one dimensional offense this season. That’s usually led to worse results on the scoreboard, and if Kansas State can stop the run, they will have a very good shot at controlling the Texas offense. That will give them an opportunity to get some sacks in this game, which the Longhorns have given up.
Texas Longhorns (5-3)
Texas entered the season with high expectations, but they seem to have come back to earth a bit since then. The Longhorns are coming off a bye week after losing to TCU in Fort Worth in a game where quarterback Sam Ehlinger had one of the worst showings of his career, throwing four interceptions and completing only 45.8 percent of his passes.
The Longhorns have been productive on offense outside of that game, having the second best offense in the conference that’s scoring 39.1 points per game. Ehlinger relies on wide receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, and he will look to them to move the ball. Despite putting up points and yards, Texas has been prone to giving up sacks, as Ehlinger has been sacked 23 times in 2019.
Where the Longhorns have really struggled has been on the defensive side of the ball. Texas has the worst statistical pass defense in the Big 12, allowing opponents to throw for over 300 yards a contest this season. Injuries and youth have played a part in that poor performance, and Texas will get some players back this week. The Longhorns have held up better against the run, allowing 160.1 yards on the ground.
Texas Keys To The Game
Commit To The QB Run Game: Texas is going to need to run the ball successfully in order to win this game against the Wildcats. What they went away from against TCU, and what they seem to have gone away from this season is a commitment to using Ehlinger as a significant part of their running game. That will inevitably have to be part of the game plan today, when Texas will face a defense whose only real weakness may be against the run.
Stop The Run: No matter how poor the Texas pass defense may be, the Wildcats are going to try and establish the running game. Kansas State’s offense is powered by their ability to run the ball, and if Texas can contain them in that aspect, they’ll be in good position to make some stops.
Win Field Position: With this game likely to be close, Texas needs to be putting themselves in as great of field position as they can and putting the Wildcats in poor field position. They will give advantages to the Longhorns on both sides of the ball in a game that very well could be lower scoring.
One of the biggest factors to me in this game is which team will be able to run the ball like they want to, especially on first and second down. It may not be the case that whoever has the highest total of rushing yards will win, but if either team in this game can turn the other into a predominant passing team, that squad will win today.
If this team were in Manhattan, I’d probably be leaning more towards the Wildcats. With Texas coming off a loss and playing a ranked team at home, though, I will take the Longhorns to win this one in what should be a close game.