With a win against Iowa State behind them, it’s easy for the Longhorns to look past Kansas and ahead to the Big 12 Championship game in Jerry’s World. But we also know what happened the last time Texas looked past Kansas.
Texas will return to the scene of the crime for the first time since its 21-24 defeat at the hands of the Jayhawks in 2016 in a game that will go down as one of the most embarrassing losses in program history. This year’s team has many players who were a part of that fateful game, but have been able turn it around and put together Texas’ best season in five years.
If the Longhorns want to play for the Big 12 title, here’s what needs to happen:
Texas wins if …
… it stays true to itself. Texas has taken on an identity that isn’t true to itself when it takes a significant lead. For the first time this season, Texas didn’t shy away from doing what they do best, especially after quarterback Sam Ehlinger went down with an injury. Having the same trust in quarterback Shane Buechele to make the plays Ehlinger has made all season loomed large, and Texas kept its identity in the 24-10 victory. Doing that against Kansas probably means a ticket to Arlington as well.
… it rides its defense. Saturday’s performance against Iowa State was the defense’s finest of the season. As the offense put up the numbers it needed and got timely scores, Texas’ defense made quarterback Brock Purdy look like a true freshman and halt an otherwise red-hot Cyclone offense. The most important part about it? Turnovers. A crucial strip-sack at the end of the game put a bowtie on the Longhorns’ victory. If Texas can lean on its defense as it did Saturday while providing the same offensive production, Friday’s showdown in Lawrence shouldn’t be too close.
Texas loses if …
… can’t stop the offense. While Kansas may be the doormat of the Big 12, it’s still in the Big 12. And in this conference, there’s always offense. The Jayhawks showed that by hanging 55 on Rutgers and 40 last week on Oklahoma. While these performances haven’t come against the best of defensive units, it should be a warning sign to a defense that has struggled to contain offenses this season. The Jayhawks are also bring a strong rushing unit, averaging nearly 160 yards on the ground per game.
… disaster occurs. It’s happened before, and it can definitely happen again. Kansas shocked TCU in Lawrence last month for its first conference win since well … beating Charlie Strong’s Longhorns two years ago. If Kansas was to get its second win against Texas in over 70 years, it’d require a calculated effort on the Longhorns’ end to drop this contest. And another intangible to add to the madness: the hiring of former LSU head coach Les Miles. The Jayhawks are playing to both impress Miles and send their seniors out with a win. Texas has been able to hold its own without its star quarterback and wide receiver, but if the stars do align, it could be a Black Friday for the Longhorns.