One more win and the Longhorns will make an appearance in the Big 12 Championship thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset over West Virginia. The Longhorns will face either Oklahoma or West Virginia should they defeat Kansas. While Texas boasts much more talent on its roster, the Longhorns have bad memories in Lawrence. Two years ago, the Longhorns lost in overtime on the road to Kansas, effectively ending the Charlie Strong Era. In order for Texas to not commit the sins of teams prior, it will need to do several things.
Here are your keys to the game:
Stop Pooka Williams Jr.
Kansas does not have very many talented players at skill positions. However, Pooka Williams Jr. has become a star for the Jayhawks, with his play being a huge reason for Kansas winning three games.
The Texas defense played rather shakily over a stretch of several weeks before their solid performance against Iowa State last Saturday in which they only allowed 10 points. But unlike the Cyclones, who lost running back David Montgomery for the first 30 minutes of play, Kansas will have access to its explosive runner right out of the gate.
If the Longhorns want to avoid the upset, they need to do everything they can to shore up the run defense and force the Jayhawks into a one-dimensional offense. If the team can do that, the Longhorns will be making a trip to Arlington.
Sit Sam Ehlinger
Over the course of the season, sophomore Sam Ehlinger has blossomed before fans’ eyes. After a freshman season filled with mistakes, Ehlinger has become an incredible centerpiece to the offense and has led the Longhorns on several game-winning drives.
However, after Ehlinger suffered an AC contusion after an especially vicious hit to his throwing shoulder, Tom Herman should consider starting backup Shane Buechele if Ehlinger is less than 100 percent by Friday. Buechele came into the Baylor game early on, and although he was initially rusty, he did just enough to lead the Longhorns to victory. Then, he entered the Iowa State game, finishing a perfect 10-for-10 in the passing game.
If given the opportunity to practice all week as the starter, and with a strong run game to lean on, Buechele should be more than ready to lead the team to a win over Kansas.
Improve play along the offensive line
Iowa State had its way with the Texas offensive line last week, picking up several tackles for loss and many inopportunesacks of both Ehlinger and Buechele. The members up front will have to do better to beat the Jayhawks on the Black Friday matchup in Lawrence. Despite the fact Kansas does not have an elite pass rush, the quarterback will still need time in the pocket, and the running backs will still need running lanes opened up.
The Longhorns play best when running backs Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram are playing well, with last week’s game against the Cyclones being a prime example. The key to their success was opening lanes up the middle. And while the line struggled with pass protection, Texas displayed a strong run game.
If the Longhorns want to take advantage of controlling their own destiny, the offensive line will need to improve, protecting whoever is behind the center and allowing the offense to move freely on the road.